Friday, February 18, 2011

Huskies open playoffs in Edmonton

Edmonton, AB -- The University of Saskatchewan Huskies women's hockey team is on the road today to open their Canada West semi-final playoff series with the Alberta Pandas. There is more on the line in this series than a trip to the Canada West championship series as the winner of the series will automatically receive a birth into the CIS national tournament as Canada West will have two representatives.

The Huskies finished the regular season with a 15-8-1 record which was good for fourth place in the conference and the final playoff position. They'll play the top seeded Pandas who went 17-4-3 during the season to clinch home ice advantage.

The two teams met a total of five times during the season, including once over the Christmas break at a tournament in Manitoba in which the Pandas won 4-1. The Pandas also won the first three meetings - all one goal games - with scores of 2-1, 3-2, and, most recently, 3-2 on Feb. 11. One night later the Huskies came out on top on Feb. 12 winning 1-0 in the final game of the regular season. The win snapped the Pandas nine-game winning streak as the two teams head to playoffs.

This series may come down to goaltending and the Huskies and Pandas sport some of the best goalies in Canada West.

Netminders Michala Jeffries and Kanesa Shwetz split time between the pipes for Alberta and, statistically speaking, are the top two goaltenders in Canada West. Jeffries went 8-2 with a 1.11 GAA, a sparkling .941 sv %, and a conference leading five shutouts while Shwetz went 8-5 with a 1.44 GAA, a .924 sv % and two shutouts.

Mackenzie Rizos handled the bulk of the workload for Saskatchewan this season going 13-8 with a 1.98 GAA, a .930 sv % and two shutouts.

Offensively, the Huskies have plenty of fire power and they'll need it all if they want to advance beyond Alberta. The Huskies boast two of the top three scorers in Canada West in Breanne George and Cara Wooster. Wooster finished tied for the league lead in points with 40 (14 g, 26 a) while George finished third with 30 points (15 g, 15 a). Third on the Huskies and eighth in Canada West scoring is Julie Paetsch who finished with 23 points (9 g, 14 a).

The Pandas offensive production was spread out a little more than Saskatchewan's with five players in the top 20 in Canada West lead by Sarah Hilworth who was fourth with 26 points (13 g, 13 a). Leah Copeland (7th with 24 points (11 g, 13 a)), Melody Howard (11th with 19 points (9 g, 10 a)), Karla Bourke (13th with 18 points (10 g, 8 a)), and Katie Stewart (20th with 16 points (6 g, 10 a)) round out the leading offensive weapons for the Pandas.

The series is a best of three beginning today in Edmonton with games two and three (if necessary) on Saturday and Sunday respectively. All three games will be played in Alberta and are scheduled to start at 3:00pm Saskatchewan time.

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