In what is setting up to be a race to the finish, with as many as four teams competing for a top-two seed, and all eight teams in contention for a playoff spot, the University of Alberta Pandas will take on the Calgary Dinos in a critical weekend in Canada West Women’s Hockey.
The Dinos will host the first half of the home-and-home series in Calgary on Friday night, with the second half slated for a 5:00 p.m. start time on Saturday at Clare Drake Arena.
The No. 2 ranked Pandas, fresh off a series split at home against the No. 1 ranked Manitoba Bisons, occupy the fourth spot in Canada West with a 7-4-4-3 record and 32 points. Calgary (6-10-0-2) owns the sixth and final playoff spot in Canada West, but sit just two points above Mount Royal.
The Pandas sit just five points behind UBC for second in the conference, and six points behind Manitoba after their split last weekend.
Front-runner for MVP?
Quietly putting together one of the best seasons of her young Panda career, third-year forward Autumn MacDougall has also thrown her name into the Canada West MVP race. After four points in two games against Manitoba last weekend, MacDougall now leads the conference with 16 points in 18 games. With 10 conference games left, she is also well on her way to set a new career high in points, previously set last year with 21.
Discrepancy on offence
While the Pandas have had MacDougall and others to lead a potent offence all season long, the Dinos have consistently struggled to find the back of the net this season. The Pandas rank second in Canada West with 41 goals scored, while the Dinos rank last with just 17 goals in 18 games. Alberta also has seven scorers inside the top 20 in individual scoring, while the Dinos don’t have a single player inside the top 40.
Goalie of the Year?
What has kept Calgary afloat this season, however, is the absolutely stellar play of starting goalie Kelsey Roberts. Roberts sits inside the top five in Canada West in both goals against average (1.55) and save percentage (0.958), while regularly receiving little to no goal support. Roberts has also established herself as a workhorse starter, ranking second in the league in games played (16) and minutes played (942:40), and also leads in shutouts (5).
This weekend will mark the second and final home-and-home series between these two programs in conference play this season. Alberta earned a pair of wins over Calgary in early October (2-1, 2-0), and will now have their sights set on a season sweep of their provincial rivals. The Pandas swept Calgary last season, and ride a seven-game conference winning streak over Calgary into this weekend. Alberta has also outscored Calgary 27-5 during their current streak.