EDMONTON — The University of Alberta Pandas clearly weren’t messing around against the Manitoba Bisons. It’s been an uncharacteristic tough first half of the Canada West season for Alberta, but they looked dominant and looked like they got their mojo back in a 6-1 victory over Manitoba, Friday night at Clare Drake Arena.
Danielle Hardy recorded her first career hat trick, while Chelsea Dearsley, Kennedy Ganser, and Alex Poznikoff added second-period markers to break the game wide open.
Manitoba’s Mekeala Fisher scored the lone marker for the Bisons in the loss.
Alberta’s won two straight for the first time since they opened the season with two straight wins over the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on October 4-5.
“One of the things we’ve talked about doing better is battling. We’ve got a small team, and our opponents key on that and they push us around,” said Pandas head coach Howie Draper. “We talked about playing bigger than we are. Have that net-front presence, play a tougher game, and don’t give in to the physicality and we’ve been doing a better job of that.”
Draper has stressed all season long about having better starts to games and Alberta certainly came out strong. Hardy opened the scoring just 1:16 into the contest. The third-year forward positioned herself in front of the net and jammed home a loose puck past Bisons goaltender Amanda Schubert for the early 1-0 lead.
The Pandas continued to pour it on and were rewarded in the dying seconds as Hardy scored a power-play marker with just 10 seconds left in the frame to give Alberta a 2-0 lead in a period where the Pandas outshot Manitoba 14-2.
Dearsley’s second goal of the season came just 2:58 into the second period and then Alberta continued to bring the heat as Ganser and Poznikoff would score less than two minutes apart to give Alberta a commanding 5-0 lead midway through the contest.
Hardy rounded out the scoring by ripping a hard blast past a sprawling Schubert midway through the third period.
“She’s (Hardy) got a big time shot,” said Draper. “It’s really heavy and it’s one of the harder shots in the conference and she needs to get it away more. She’s covering more distance now and she’s keeping her feet moving and it’s creating more opportunities for her and she’s taking advantage of it.”
Halle Oswald made 14 saves for her fourth win of the season as Alberta improves to 7-6, while Schubert made 35 saves in the loss as Alberta forced the veteran goaltender into making many tough saves in the 41 shots she faced.
The win improves Alberta’s record to 7-6, while Manitoba drops to 3-9-1 and sit last in the Canada West conference.
“I think they (Alberta) have switched their mindset. The girls aren’t worrying about what’s happened (in the first half). They’re just focusing on playing hard and playing Pandas hockey and it’s working,” said Draper.
Switching up his lines has also worked for Draper and the Pandas. The veteran coach split up his dynamic trio of Poznikoff, Autumn MacDougall, and Ganser, Poznikoff now playing with Hardy and Gowie, while MacDougall and Ganser are playing with rookie Madison Willan. Since the line shuffle, the Pandas have had more balanced scoring.
“It’s been good that we moved (Poznikoff) to that line,” said Draper. “I don’t know if we’ve had the kind of double threat before and we have two lines now that can really hurt you.”
Alberta will look for the series sweep against Manitoba when the two teams clash tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. MT.