EDMONTON — On an afternoon when the University of Alberta Pandas honoured their graduating players, the team got a little glimpse into their future.
Freshman forward Madison Willan has had a knack for scoring big goals for Alberta in her rookie season, and she scored another in a hard-fought 2-0 victory over the Regina Cougars at Clare Drake Arena.
Willan’s 10th goal of the season was her sixth game-winning goal of the season. Willan added an assist on senior forward Autumn MacDougall’s team-leading 16th goal of the year in the third period to round out the scoring for the Pandas.
Sophomore goaltender Hallie Oswald (9-4) made 17 saves for her fourth shutout of the season to help Alberta improve to 18-7-1-0 and remain in top spot in the conference.
“Our line does a great job creating offence and we work well together,” said Willan.
“We take it upon ourselves to be the ones to score the important goals and for us, it doesn’t matter who scores the goal, we work hard and it’s really special.”
Willan was inserted back on the top line when veteran forward Alex Poznikoff suffered a season-ending injury and she’s been given a chance to play a big role in her first season with the Pandas.
It was a really tight defensive battle in the opening frame against the Cougars, but Willan’s goal gave Alberta the shot in the arm they needed against Regina.
“Regina is very physical and we had to make sure we brought the same level of physicality to the game today and continue to put pressure on them,” said Willan.
“We knew it was going to have to be a gritty goal to get us going and that’s what we did.”
Midway through the second period, Willan took all kinds of punishment in front of the net on the power play and batted the puck out of the air to beat Cougars goaltender Jane Kish to give Alberta a 1-0 lead.
Willan has played for Canada’s women’s national baseball team in the past, and that goal showed off her great hand-eye coordination.
“I’ve used that to my advantage before, said Willan.
“The goalie was bit out of her crease, and the defence was coming in tight and I knew that my only option was to wait for it to come down and swing at it.”
The Pandas top line gave Alberta some breathing room when MacDougall beat Kish with a perfect shot over the glove just 3:14 into the third period to give Alberta a 2-0 lead.
The victory keeps Alberta in top spot in the ultra tight Canada West standings as the Pandas look to clinch home ice for the playoffs in just a couple weeks time.
“It was huge to get six points this weekend against a really tough team,” said Willan
“We’re that much closer to reaching our first goal of finishing first. We want that home-ice advantage in the playoffs.”
Alberta will close out the Canada West season when they travel to Winnipeg next weekend to take on the University of Manitoba Bisons, while Regina returns home to battle their provincial rivals, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in a home-and-home series.
HONOURING GRADUATES: Alberta recognized eight of their graduating players in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday afternoon.
Captain Cayle Dillon, Autumn MacDougall, Alex Poznikoff (injured), Regan Wright, Chelsea Dearsley, Abby Benning, Danielle Hardy and Alex Gowie all played their final conference regular season home game.