For the first time since 2013, the University of Alberta Pandas will host a best-of-three quarter-final series at Clare Drake Arena, as they host the Regina Cougars this weekend in Edmonton.
Game 1 of the series is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Friday night (Feb. 16), while both Game 2 and Game 3 (if necessary) will go at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday night, respectively.
The Pandas, the defending Canada West silver medalist and U SPORTS Champions, finished the conference season in fourth with a 13-5-6-4 record, two points behind UBC and three behind Saskatchewan. The Pandas did, however, finish 23 points ahead of the 8-14-2-4 Cougars, who finished fifth with 32 points.
The Pandas have never finished lower than third in Canada West, and have reached the semifinal in every season since 1998. A series win by Regina would push them into the semifinal series for the first time since 2016.
Two games were incredibly close, while two were quite lopsided in the season series between the two clubs during conference play. The Cougars opened the season series with a 3-2 shootout win in Edmonton, followed by a 3-2 Pandas OT win the following night. The series in Regina, however, heavily favoured Alberta, who swept the Cougars with 5-0 and 3-0 wins.
Top four vs bottom four
Unlike any season in recent Canada West women’s hockey, the gap between the top four teams and bottom four teams was abnormally large. The top four teams were separated by just nine points, while no teams in the bottom four, starting with the fifth-place Cougars, finished with a winning record. The Pandas led the conference with 67 goals scored, and finished second with a +24 goal differential. The Cougars finished well behind Alberta with just 44 goals scored in 28 games.
Two dynamic scorers
Aiming to power their respective teams into the second round is a pair of the conference’s best scorers in Alberta’s Autumn MacDougall and Regina’s Emma Waldenberger. MacDougall led Canada West with 12 goals and 30 points, including a conference-best +14 rating. Waldenberger led Regina with 18 points in 27 games, finishing her conference season with seven points in her last four games.
While the quarter-final matchup looks somewhat lopsided on paper, the most recent playoff meeting between the two longstanding programs favours the visiting Cougars. Regina defeated the Pandas in the 2014 Canada West Semifinal two games to one, beating Alberta 2-1 in Game 3 at Clare Drake Arena.