Women's Hockey Splits Season Opener On Road

Photo Credit: Josh Schaefer Photography
Photo Credit: Josh Schaefer Photography

The University of Saskatchewan Huskies salvaged a weekend split with the reigning Canada West champion UBC Thunderbirds with a 5-3 win Saturday afternoon at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver. 

It was the first weekend series in Canada West women's hockey. A night earlier, UBC won 4-0. 

Despite outshooting Saskatchewan 27-23 and a pair of goals from Cassandra Vilgrain, the 'Birds weren't able to recover from a weak first period performance. UBC had trouble staying out of the box in the opening frame, allowing veteran Huskies forward Kaitlin Willoughby to find the back of the Thunderbirds' net twice. 

"It was a good weekend for us," said interim head coach Robin Ulrich. "Anytime you can come to Vancouver and get a clean split, that's good. It's the first trip of the year and a good win for us tonight. 

"[Strong starts] are something we have been working on all pre-season. That's key, when you can come out ready to go at the start of the game it's a good thing. It's really nice to see our second year players stepping up and playing a big role. It was a full team win [and] we [utilized] all four lines. It was a good night for us." 

Both of Willoughby's first period power-play goals were unassisted, with the second coming off a wrister that beat Boughn far side during a Huskies five-on-three.  

A pair of late-period Huskies penalties gave the T-Birds a brief five-on-three opportunity to start off the second, but sturdy Saskatchewan defence stopped them from generating any scoring chances. Two minutes after returning to even strength, Alexa Ranahan fed the puck to Vilgrain who took off on a breakaway and roofed UBC's first of the game. Nicole Saxvik picked up an assist on the play, her third in two games. 

A fortunate deflection off a UBC defender helped Brooke Patron catch Boughn off guard and net the Huskies' third less than a minute later. Vilgrain responded midway through the second when, sliding across the blue paint, she tucked the puck past Hendricks. 

Huskies forward Rachel Johnson was awarded a penalty shot at 15:10 in the second. Her quick hands helped her slip the puck five-hole, giving Saskatchewan the 4-2 lead. Four minutes later, Kenzie Robinson dangled her way past a pair of Huskies defenders to bring UBC within one heading into the third. 

Saskatchewan secured the lone goal of the final period when an awkward bounce landed on the tape of Elizabeth Salyn, who put in her team's fifth.  

UBC hosts the Calgary Dinos next weekend, while Saskatchewan host the Alberta Pandas at Rutherford Rink.