Two of the top three teams in the Prairie Division battle for first-place supremacy this weekend in a home-and-home series.
The 5-1-2 Pandas, currently in first, will host the 4-2-2 Mount Royal Cougars, currently tied for second with the Saskatchewan Huskies, on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. at Foote Field, before both teams head south to play the rematch in Calgary at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.
With three weeks left to go in the regular season, both Alberta-based squads will need to grab as many points as they can to clinch one of six playoff spots in the Prairie Division of the Canada West conference. The Pandas can claim one as early as Sunday if they win both games this weekend, whereas the Cougars have a bit more work cut out for them to make the post-season.
Both teams are coming off a 1-1 tie in their last game - with Mount Royal able to extend to a three-game undefeated streak after losing two straight - yet Alberta is bringing in a five-game undefeated streak and has only lost one game so far this season.
The success mainly stems from a conference-best defence, tying with the Calgary Dinos with only three goals against in eight games.
At the forefront of the back-end, third-year netminder Cassie Bazzarelli is tied for second in Canada West with four clean sheets this season and ranks in the top five in both save percentage (.870) and goals against average (0.43).
On the offensive side, the Pandas may only rank fifth in the conference with 13 goals, but they pepper their opponents with shots, ranking second with 16.9 shots per game.
Leading the way on offence is fourth-year forwards Sydney Daines (four goals, 28 shots) and Karissa McNutt (three goals, 16 shots)
The Mount Royal Cougars sit middle of the pack in most statistical categories, likely due to not scoring a goal in three of eight games, but then posting shutouts in four others.
Sophomore goaltender Cailyn Leeson is one of many goalies (five in total) with four shutouts so far this season and she holds her opposition to less than a goal per game with a 0.82 goals against average.
The offence is fairly spread out, however, rookie forward Jullien Ramirez leading the team in scoring with only three points as Mount Royal has ten different players with at least one point.
Mount Royal defeated Alberta by a 2-1 result in their only meeting in 2016, which came in Calgary last October.
Stat of the Match:
Head coach Liz Jepsen is nearing an important record in team history, coming into the weekend only four wins behind former women’s soccer coach Tracy David (142) for most overall wins. Jepsen is also one win away from claiming her milestone 100th conference victory behind the bench with Alberta.