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No NHL? No Problem – Support your Local CIS Team! Go Stangs Go!

September 17, 2012

*Updated – earlier post had scoring error: revised to note 2-0 Dinos after 1st period*

With the NHL Lockout merely hours old, Twitter was filled with queries of “where will you get your hockey fix?”  Fortunately for most Canadians, they need look no further than their own backyards.  Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) leagues are in exhibition mode, readying themselves for the new season starting in late September for Men’s hockey and early October for Women’s hockey. Most notably, the Calgary Dinos, defending CIS Women’s Hockey Champions, traveled across the provinces to take on my Western Mustangs.

After a run to the OUA finals last year, the Dinos were brought in to test the Mustangs, in order to show them what was required to be the best. The Dinos not only brought their title, but a few well-known names as well.  Former Canadian national team members include head coach Danielle Goyette, and assistant coach Kelly Bechard; while current Canadian team captain, Hayley Wickenheiser, headlines the current Dinos’ roster. They are joined by Russian team member, Iya Gavrilova, as Dinos’ with international experience.

I took in the game with a my girlfriend (a U of C Dinos fan, as shown by her U of C hoodie), and my friend, a Team Canada fan.  I felt a bit abandoned in my purple Mustangs sweatshirt!  As a former Mustang myself, its not hard to warm to any team wearing the purple and white and hearing our school song before the beginning of each period didn’t hurt either.

Thompson Arena was filled with several local girls teams (Lucan, Ingersoll, London were seen) as well as Team Canada fans and the usual Mustang fans, eager to see a genuine Canadian hockey hero take the ice. Making things a bit difficult, it appeared that even the Mustangs were affected by the aspect of taking on one of the most well-known names in women’s hockey.  The difference in skill, speed and depth were quite evident in the first period, as the Dinos seemed to have the puck on their sticks all the time and the Mustangs were reduced to chasing.

After a particularly exhausting shift for the ‘Stangs, Wickenheiser was able to skate in alone to open the scoring.  No shame in that for Kelly Campbell, however, as Wicks went freely down the wing from just over centre, cut into the middle and roofed the puck into the top corner. As the pros would say, ‘a goalscorer’s goal.’

It may not have felt entirely like a home game at that point for the Mustangs, as the crowd loudly cheered the goal.  Outskated, but not without heart, the ‘Stangs found themselves pinned in their own zone for minutes at a time before a great chance of their own that plinked off the crossbar and post.  Kudos should be given to goalie, Campbell, as she was swamped with Dinos on her doorstep yet made some terrific saves to keep the score down, but the Dinos’ Stephanie Ramsay would score near the end of the period to put Calgary up 2-0. I have to confess that I had a hard time figuring out who was who, having never seen any of these players, with the exception of Wickenheiser and Gavrilova.

Entering the second period down 2-0, the Mustangs began to get caught in penalty trouble.  As usual, this is typically due to being outskated and there were a number of tripping and other similar obstruction calls made against Western. After struggling through multiple penalties, the ‘Stangs managed to escape the period without another goal against. Again, lots of hard work by Campbell and her penalty-killers.

Western started the third period with a lot of confidence and pressure, aided by the Dinos’ march to the penalty box, but were unable to capitalize, although they stormed Amanda Tapp’s crease. After a stellar glove stop by Campbell on a point blank Wickenheiser blast, the ‘Stangs would concede just one more goal, this time to Gavrilova in a bit of a scrum in front to close out the scoring.  The 3-0 decision went to Calgary, but Western deserves full marks for effort in this one.

A Dino I hope to see more of (aside from Hayley and Iya, of course), is #23, Ramsay.  Both of my friends and I were impressed by her ability to control both the puck and the play.  She has good vision and goes to where the puck is going to be, whereas the problem Western seemed to have was directly related to their footspeed – they were often passing to where the person was or had been, versus where they were going. This resulted in a lot of intercepted passes, especially when they were trying to break out of the zone.

Overall, the Mustangs will be able to use the experience to show where they need growth.  Goaltending does not appear to be a problem; Campbell stood tall in net and made key stops and covered the puck when necessary, despite dealing with a lot of red jerseys. The forward corps appeared to be overmatched, but there were some streaks of energy from Kryshanda Green and Marlowe Pecora as well as Carly Rolph that showed the ‘Stangs have some skill of their own.  I’d like to see more from big #68, Brittany Clapham, who fell victim to the ‘sorry you ran into me,’ penalty when a 5’6 Dino bounced off of the 5’11 Mustang.

One of the things to note about the CIS game, was the 4-minute head contact penalty and a strange body contact penalty as opposed to body checking, which appears to be different.  I’m going to have to watch more and do some more research in order to keep up with the slightly different rules. At the end of the day, a thoroughly enjoyable match. Enjoyable for my girlfriend, since her Dinos won, but just as enjoyable for me, because I got my Team Canada jersey signed by both Hayley and Danielle. Adults have their hockey heroes as well!

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