Women's hockey keeps first round bye hopes alive

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SASKATOON –  The University of Saskatchewan Huskies kept hopes of a first round playoff bye alive with a 3-2 win over the No. 1 ranked University of Alberta Pandas Saturday night in Rutherford Rink.

Saskatchewan led by two until 5:03 in the third period when the Pandas were able to solve Huskie netminder Jessica Vance. Alberta tied the game late in the third, but just 20 seconds later at 18:11 defenceman Morgan Willoughby scored the game winning goal.

With the weekend split, the Huskies (17-7-2) and the Pandas (18-5-3) are tied for third place in the Canada West women's hockey standings, just one-point back of the UBC Thunderbirds (18-5-3).  The top two teams in the standings earn a bye into the semifinal best-of-three round. 

A night earlier, the Pandas won 2-1 in a shootout. 

Saskatchewan jumped on the board quickly scoring just 3:18 into the first period. Fifth-year forward Kori Herner was able to beat Dayna Owen from a pass from behind the net. Herner gave Saskatchewan another jump early in the period this time scoring on a partial breakaway just 46 seconds into the second period. Her shot beat Owen five-hole.

Alberta cut the lead in half at 5:03 in the third. M. Willoughby hauled down Alexandra Poznikoff in front of the net. The puck slid into the net when Poznikoff bumped into Vance on the play. Alberta tied the game at 17:51 after the Huskies were caught on a bad change and turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Deanna Morin's wrist shot beat Vance five-hole. 

But just 20 seconds later on the ensuing faceoff, the Huskies took the lead again. A turnover in the Pandas zone landed onto the stick of Kaitlin Willoughby, who fed her sister Morgan. The younger Willoughby's shot beat Owen glove side at 18:11. 

Vance made 35 saves in the win for the Huskies, while Owen stopped 19 for the Pandas at the other end of the ice.

The Huskies travel to Calgary to meet the Mount Royal Cougars for the final weekend of the regular season, while the Pandas return home to host the UBC Thunderbirds.