Mankota products leads Cougars to playoff upset in Winnipeg
Mankota’s Kylie Gavelin helped the University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team to an upset win in the opening round of the Canada West playoffs over the weekend.
The Cougars had placed fifth in the regular season with an 11-13-4 record, while the Manitoba Bisons placed fourth with a 17-7-4 record, 12 points ahead of the Cougars.
The Cougars opened the best-of-three series in Winnipeg with a 2-0 win over the host Bisons. Gavelin scored a powerplay goal midway through the first period and added a powerplay assist in the second period on a Stephanie Sawchuk marker.
The Cougars completed the sweep the next day with a 3-1 win as Gavelin scored an empty net goal to help seal the win.
“We work better as underdogs I think,” said Gavelin, who explained that the Cougars faced top ranked McGill at a tournament in Montreal recently and matched up pretty well. “Going in to play against any team where we are underdogs I find that we play better, we just mentally prep better.”
The Cougars had lost five straight and nine of the last 10 games heading in the playoffs.
“I don’t really know what happened for those five in a row,” she laughed. “We haven’t played like that since the beginning of the year and I think that everybody just wasn’t ready to be done.”
Gavelin finished her sophomore season fifth in team scoring with four goals and four assists in 24 games played as her numbers dipped slightly from a strong freshman campaign.
“I did expect better. I played with different lines every now and then too. It is as good as it gets I guess. But it is the end of the season and now it is like we are starting all over in the playoffs, so hopefully I can just sort of redeem myself there.”
With three points in the first two games of the post-season she is now tied for the playoff scoring lead among Canada West skaters.
“Well I haven’t really been feeling good for the past few weeks. This weekend I was 100 percent. Just like all the other girls I just wasn’t ready to be done and I really wanted to be win.”
The Cougars have earned a playoff date with the first-place University of Alberta Pandas.
“It will be tough,” admitted Gavelin. “We have played them before so we know kind of how they play, we know their goalie. Our goalies are really good at giving us tips on where to shoot and stuff like that. I think we will match up fairly well. It is all about the mental aspect going into it. We have to do our mental prep because if nobody is prepared then it is kind of a waste of time going into it.”
The Pandas led Canada West with a 20-5-3 record and enter the playoffs with an eight-game winning streak, but the Cougars did beat them once during the regular season when Swift Current’s Jill Kennedy scored the game winner in a 2-1 win at home.
The Pandas only allowed 31 goals in 28 games this season. Included in their outstanding goaltending duo is former Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcat Michala Jeffries, who boasts a 1.14 goals against average and a .940 save percentage.
Gavelin believes that scoring won’t be the Cougars biggest concern against the Pandas, who are the fifth ranked team in the CIS.
“For us we are offensive more than defensive I think, just because that’s how we ended up losing a lot of games is we would get our shots in and then forget that we would have to backcheck and stuff like that.”
The best-of-three Canada West semi-final series in Edmonton will begin Friday with game two scheduled for Saturday, and game three, if necessary, slated for Sunday. The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds and University of Saskatchewan Huskies will meet in the other semi-final series.