The eighth-seeded Toronto Varsity Blues gave the top-seeded Alberta Pandas a run for their money, but ultimately came up short as the Canada West champions moved on to the semifinals following a 3-2 win.
U SPORTS Player of the Year, Alex Poznikoff put on an MVP performance in front of the MacLauchlan Arena crowd with two goals. Teammate Taylor Kezama also scored in the win.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Poznikoff said. “Teams talk and they say (the Varsity Blues are) aggressive and play the body and we were expecting that. We just gritted it out and it wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done.”
It was a slow start to the contest with the two interconference teams getting familiar with each other for the first time. Alberta had a chance to get on the board four minutes into the period while on a power play, but the gritty Varsity Blues kept the high-powered Pandas at bay to keep it scoreless.
Toronto was also denied on a power play before the end of the first, as both teams went into the intermission in a scoreless stalemate, with Alberta leading in the shot department 8-3.
The Pandas came out strong in the next frame and at 3:14 they found the back of the net. Jaslin Sawatzky created space behind the net and fed a pass in front to Kezama, who rifled a shot from the left circle past goaltender Erika Fryer.
Alberta added another goal late in the period to extend the lead 2-0. After taking a long pass from Cayle Dillon, Kennedy Ganser fed a cross ice pass to Poznikoff, who drove to the net and deked out Fryer for the beautiful goal. At the end of two, they carried a 2-0 advantage.
Despite being down a pair of goals, the Varsity Blues put up a fight in the third. Midway through the stanza, Jana Headrick fired a shot on net, where Lauren Straatman – who returned to the lineup after winning a silver medal at the FISU Winter Universiade – jabbed home the rebound to cut the deficit in half.
However, that little window of hope was closed shut at 17:29 when Poznikoff redirected a shot from the point for the power play marker.
“I was just trying to work hard the whole game,” the fourth-year forward said. “Our lines have a lot of speed so we’re trying to utilize that and get pucks on the net.”
Taylor Trussler added a goal in the final seconds for Toronto, but the team simply ran out of time to mount a comeback, as Alberta escaped with the 3-2 win.
“We’re taking a lot of positives out of this game, but we need to clean our D-zone because it was a little stressful in the end.”
Players of the Game
- Alberta: Alex Poznikoff
- Toronto: Cristine Chao