Connor Hood, Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON – Late goals in each the first and second period propelled the Pandas to a 2-1 Game 2 win over the Saskatchewan Huskies, as they earned the 2-0 semifinal series win.
With the win, the Pandas will host the 2019 Canada West Final next weekend at Clare Drake Arena. They have also secured their spot at the 2019 U SPORTS Championship, which will run March 15-17 at the University of Prince Edward Island.
It will be the first time since 2015 the Pandas have hosted the conference final, which was their last Canada West Championship. It will also be the third time in five seasons the Pandas advance to the national tournament, winning their record 8th title in 2017.
Regan Wright and Cayle Dillon scored for the Pandas, while third-year goalie Kirsten Chamberlin made 24 stops for her fifth career playoff win.
Jessica Vance had another tremendous performance for Saskatchewan, as she stopped 22 of the 24 shots she faced from the Pandas. Shyan Elias scored the lone for Saskatchewan, who are bounced in the semifinal for the second time in three years. It was the only goal scored by Saskatchewan all weekend.
Coming off a 2-0 loss the previous night, Saskatchewan opened Game 2 incredibly well, peppering Chamberlin with shots early. Bailee Bourassa led the Huskies with three shots in the opening frame, as Saskatchewan had the first great scoring chances.
Chamberlin, however, was sensational in the first, making some key saves off Huskie scoring chances, displaying great rebound control.
Wright broke the deadlock with almost no time left on the clock in the first, as she took a feed from Alex Gowie in the slot, and ripped a shot past Vance with 0.5 seconds left.
Both teams struggled to stay out of the box early, with the Pandas and Huskies combining for six penalties through two periods. Neither team, however, could muster anything on the powerplay, with each going 0-2 through 40.
The Huskies, thanks to a relentless forecheck, finally tied the game at 1-1 late in the second. Chloe Smith's point shot was tipped in by Elias in the slot, which found it's way over Chamberlin's shoulder.
Just like the first, however, the Pandas would get a lead thanks to a goal in the final minute. Dillon's rocket point shot beat a screened Vance, giving Alberta a 2-1 lead after 40.
Smith had another good look early in the third, but her poke at the puck sent it wide of the open net. Facing elimination, the Huskies controlled the puck for a majority of the third, but managed just six shots in the final period.
None of their remaining shots challenged Chamberlin, who earned the game's first star.
The Pandas will open the conference final on Friday night at Clare Drake Arena, as they host either Manitoba or UBC.