The 36th Annual Theresa Humes Tournament ended last weekend with a preview of what’s to come for the women’s hockey Nationals.
The number-one ranked Alberta Pandas met with the number-two ranked Concordia Stingers’ in an intense championship game. Both teams battled fiercely for the number-one spot in the tourney and in the country, but in the end the Pandas brought all the honours back home with a 4-1 win over the Lady Bees.
Both teams are ranked closely, which gave way to an explosive game. The Stingers had taken up the two first rounds of the tournament with a 2-1 win over the Wilfrid-Laurier Hawks and a 3-1 win over the Toronto Varsity Blues.
However, their final opponents proved to be harder to beat. The Pandas came out with a strong offence early in the first period, causing the Stingers to sharpen up in their own zone.
Swedish sensation Cecilia Anderson was a brick wall between the Stingers’ pipes. Anderson’s skills came in especially handy in a penalty shot situation. Alberta’s Danielle Bourgeois came in close enough but the crowd erupted in cheer when Anderson successfully tossed the puck away from the crease.
ConU’s Karine Bombardier got her own chance at a penalty shot a few minutes later, but a split-second hesitation in front of the net allowed goaltender Robyn Rittmaster to freeze the puck.
Both teams’ desperation to score intensified the pace of the game, resulting in a slew of penalties towards the end of the first period. A late-period penalty proved to be fatal for the Stingers: with only six seconds remaining on the clock, Alberta’s Kristen Hagg fired a zig-zagging puck that somehow found its way between Anderson’s pads. This unexpected power play goal ended the period with a 1-0 Panda advantage.
The Pandas took advantage of another Stinger penalty early in the second period when Hagg once again shot the puck right in between the pads of an unsuspecting Anderson for a 2-0 lead.
“They’re really good at power play, and we knew that,” Captain Janna Gillis said. “We knew to win this game we had to stay out of the (penalty) box, which didn’t happen, but that’s the breaks.”
The Stingers decided that enough was enough and they retaliated a few seconds later when Tanya Danis outplayed the Pandas’ defence and sank the puck past a sprawled Rittmaster. However, Concordia’s scoring ended there as Alberta took charge of the puck for most of the period.
The Pandas began penetrating into the Stingers’ zone on a regular basis, and found Anderson’s weak spot when Panda Taryn Barry slipped the puck past the crease for a 3-1 lead.
The game became increasingly physical but Alberta took it too far when Stacy Allen slammed Genevieve Dupuis into the boards late in the period, but only received a two-minute penalty for boarding. This infuriated the Stingers, but the Pandas still claimed this period with a 3-1 lead.
“This was a lot of bad luck, rebounds and bad balances,” Anderson said. “If it wasn’t for that, we easily could have had them. But this is a good experience, they’re (Alberta) a really good team so we can see where we went wrong.”
Minor defensive breakdowns by Concordia allowed Alberta to take control of the puck once again early in the third period.
Alberta’s Bourgeois hammered in the final nail in Concordia’s coffin following a scramble in front of the net. Spotting an opening, she snuck the puck past Anderson for a goal only five minutes into the final period.
“They’ve got more depth, physically they jump to the puck more quickly than we do,” Coach Les Lawton said. “They really shut us down and outshot us, but we still played pretty well, we just need to keep the puck low on them in the future.”
The Stingers obtained three penalties in as many minutes, but their penalty-killing unit tightened up and kept any Panda snipers away from their zone, especially in a 4-on-3 disadvantage.
The Stingers unsuccessfully kept trying to get into the Pandas’ zone, but had to settle for second place in the tournament by losing the game 4-1.
“We’re not used to playing them, it’s not like playing McGill or Ottawa, we know what their strong and weak points are. The ref really gave her show, I think we had a few penalties that were uncalled for,” forward Dominic Rancour said.
“The fact that we played in disadvantage, plus the fact that we had many line changes before this game, really caused us to be unbalanced. This game was a challenge, but they didn’t impress me.”