There might not be a better way to start the second half of the Canada West women’s hockey season. It’s a weekend series that will feature two of the top teams in Canada West
, the top two teams in the U SPORTS Top 10 rankings, recent playoff history, and seven of the league’s top nine scorers.
The 7-3-3-3 University of Alberta Pandas
will begin the 2018 portion of their Canada West season with two-game series this weekend against the 10-4-2-0 Manitoba Bisons
. The two conference powers will open the series at 7:00 p.m. on Friday in Edmonton, will the rubber match scheduled for 2:00 p.m. the following afternoon.
The Bisons 34 points this season puts them atop of the Canada West rankings after the first half, three points clear of No. 2 UBC (9-4-1-2), and a full four points ahead of the Alberta Pandas. Manitoba also ended the first half on quite a run, winning nine of their last ten games before the winter break.
The Pandas have also put forth a strong start; leaving little doubt as to if they will make the postseason, with both the Bisons and Pandas now eyeing top two seeds, and first round playoff ‘byes’.
Battle for a top two seed
The top two teams in the conference standings not only get the ‘bye’ through the quarter-final round, but will also host a Canada West best-of-three semifinal series in February. The Pandas have earned that right for four-straight seasons; 2012-13 was the last time they finished below second in the standings. Manitoba, meanwhile, last finished in first or second in 2010-11, before the implementation of the first round bye.
No shortage of offence
What might make this weekend’s set of games some of the more exciting matchups this season is the amount of offensive talent on display. Seven of the league’s top nine scorers
will lace up in the series, including each of the top four point-getters in the conference. What should also come as no surprise is that the Bisons (39 GF) and the Pandas (37 GF) are the two highest scoring teams in the conference this season.
Early season series
This weekend will mark the second and final series between these two programs during conference play. Each team earned a win during their first set of games in Winnipeg in October (4-3 ALB; 4-2 MAN).
While this may be the final series during the regular season between the Pandas and Bisons, if recent history is any indicator, there is a good chance they will meet again in the conference playoffs. Alberta and Manitoba have met in three-straight post-season series’ at Clare Drake Arena. The Pandas have won two of those series (2015 CW Final, 2017 CW seminal), while the Bisons earned a three-game series win over Alberta in the 2016 conference semifinal.