Jason Hills, Bears and Pandas Athletics
EDMONTON — Amy Boucher has always been a big playoff performer over her Alberta Pandas career, but the fifth-year forward will certainly remember her final home game as Panda.
Boucher scored one goal and two assists to help lead the No.1 ranked Pandas to a 4-1 win over the defending national champion and No.3 ranked Manitoba Bisons, Saturday night to sweep their Canada West championship series at Clare Drake Arena.
Fourth-year forward Alex Poznikoff and third-year forwards Kennedy Ganser and Lisa Lloyd rounded out the scoring for the Pandas who claimed their 13th Canada West title and first since 2015.
"It's such an incredible feeling," said Boucher, who tallied two goals and four assists in the playoffs.
"We set a gaol at the beginning of the year to be first in the league during the regular season and we wanted to sweep each playoff series, we just had to put in the work. I'm so proud of our team."
Third-year Pandas goaltender Kirsten Chamberlin made 16 saves in the win to wrap up a perfect season between the pipes for Alberta, posting a 15-0 record, including a 4-0 record in the playoffs.
In a battle against two of the best goaltenders in the conference, Chamberlin clearly outplayed Bisons goaltender Lauren Taraschuk, who made 21 saves in the loss on Saturday.
Against the highest scoring team in the conference, Chamberlin and the Pandas surrendered just one goal in the series, a power play marker in Game 2 to third-year defenceman Megan Neduzak who broke Chamberlin's playoff shutout streak of 131:21 with a power play goal at the 7:36 mark of the third period.
"She's a big game player (Chamberlin) and she's been big for us all year. It's not a surprise she would do the same today. I felt everybody stepped up. We all felt that everybody needed to be a little better," said Pandas head coach Howie Draper.
"This is probably the strongest two games we've put together over six periods all season long and it couldn't have come at a better time. I was really happy with our performance."
Despite a scoreless opening frame, the Pandas were dominating the play, outshooting the Manitoba 11-2 after 20 minutes.
The Bisons had a great chance to open the scoring when fifth-year forward Courtlyn Owald let a one-timer blast from the slot, but Chamberlin came through with a big pad save.
Moments later, the Pandas struck as fourth-year forward and Canada West MVP Alex Poznikoff scored her second goal of the series and third of the playoffs when she buried a feed from Boucher over the right pad of Taraschuk.
Just 2:33 later Ganser jumped all over a rebound to make it 2-0 and in the late stages of the second period, Boucher would put this game out of reach.
"I just saw the D go one way and the other D go the other direction so I cut between them. She (Taraschuk) left a spot open and I took it," said Boucher.
"The first goal was super important and we just had to build off of it and not let our foot off the gas pedal. We weren't just going to settle for one or two goals, we weren't going to stop putting up the pressure."
Alberta would add another goal at the 4:30 mark of the third period by Lloyd, just for good measure. Neduzak spoiled the Pandas shutout bid in the third, but this series win and Canada West championship was all Alberta as they dominated the Bisons, who struggled to generate anything offensively and when they did, Chamberlin was there to shut the door.
After being bounced by the Bisons in dramatic quadruple OT fashion in the Canada West semifinal last year, this championship series win was extra special.
"It was our objective to try and pressure them as much as we could so they couldn't get as many opportunities and I think we executed that really well," said Draper.
"You can't win a championship with one line, and we're getting contributions from everybody and we're getting great goaltending and all of our cylinders are firing right now."
Both Alberta and Manitoba will now represent the Canada West at the U SPORTS National Championship in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on March 15-17.