Semifinal 1: Western Mustangs vs. Saskatchewan Huskies
The Western Mustangs women’s hockey team defeated the University of Saskatchewan 2–1 in the U Sports National Championship semifinal at Thompson Arena on Saturday night.
Despite winning the opening power-play face off, a mishandled puck on the blue line led to a breakaway for the Huskies. Saskatchewan forward Danielle Nogier sped down the ice shorthanded and beat Western’s goaltender, Carmen Lasis, five-hole to take a 1–0 lead with just over two minutes to play in the first period.
Western didn’t let this get to them, though. The Mustangs came out strong to start the second, eventually drawing a penalty as Saskatchewan's Chloe Smith was given two minutes for tripping, just four minutes into the period. The Mustangs capitalized on their extra-player opportunity as April Clark, who was left open in the slot, ripped home the Mustangs' first goal of the game to tie the game at 1 apiece.
“Jess made an incredible pass and I had a wide open net," Clark said. “I just shot it and luckily it was able to squeeze through.”
Later in the period, the Mustangs were awarded another power-play after Saskatchewan forward Chloe Smith was called for hooking.
Facing the nation’s top goaltender, the Mustangs knew they had to capitalize on every chance they had in front of the net. And capitalize they did, as Mustangs forward Alyssa Chiarello banged home a loose puck in front of the net to give Western a 2–1 lead.
“The puck got up to Emma [Pearson] and she took a shot. The rebound was there and I took my backhand and popped it five-hole,” explained Chiarello.
The Mustangs were tasked with locking down the lead in the third period. And despite a great attack from Saskatchewan's offence, the Mustangs defended the lead. As the final horn sounded, the team mobbed goaltender Carmen Lasis and celebrated their hard-fought victory.
The Western crowd, who showed their support throughout the entire game, was overjoyed with the win, and the players were grateful for the home-ice advantage.
“The support of the fans has just been huge,” said Mustangs captain Emma Pearson. “I think that’s been helping us build momentum. You can hear them after every great play we make, after every goal, they’re just cheering us on and that’s a really big help for us."
With the win, the Mustangs advance to the gold medal game on Sunday at 4 p.m. The Mustangs are one win away from capping off a fairy tale season and being crowned national champions on home ice.
Semifinal 2: Concordia Stingers vs. Manitoba Bisons
The Concordia Stingers women's hockey team suffered a 2–1 shootout loss at the hands of the Manitoba Bisons Saturday night.
Despite both teams featuring a high-powered offence, the game was a defensive battle.
After a scoreless first period, the Stingers got on the board first with an unassisted goal by Sophie Gagnon, 30 seconds into the second.
Six minutes later, the Bisons responded with a goal of their own as Lauren Warkentin found the back of the net, tying the game at 1.
Following two quick goals in the second period, the third period and ensuing overtime saw no goals scored. A shootout would be needed to decide the winner.
Manitoba scored on each of their shoot-out opportunities while Concordia wasn't able to get one past Manitoba netminder Lauren Taraschuk. Jordyn Zacharias and Alanna Sharman scored for the Bisons in the shootout, giving the team a 2–1 victory.
Concordia will meet the Saskatchewan Huskies in the bronze medal game at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
The Bisons advance advance to the gold medal game where they will meet the host Mustangs on Sunday at 4 p.m.