The University of Alberta Pandas needed only five goals this past weekend to take the Canada West women's hockey championship back to Edmonton.
With a 2-1 overtime shoot-out victory over the University of Manitoba Bisons in the semi-final and a 3-2 gold medal win over the University of Calgary Dinos the Pandas have proven once again that they will be a force to contend with at the CIAU championships in Montreal.
Outstanding goaltending from Canada West first team all star Stacey McCullough was the fuel that propelled the Pandas to a third straight conference title.
"Stacey has been the linchpin for the last three years. Every playoff she's consistently outstanding and this weekend was no exception," said Panda head coach and CWUAA Coach of the Year Howie Draper.
The gold medal game was a see-saw battle right from the start. The Pandas got on the board first with a power play goal from Lori Shupak late in the opening frame.
The Dinos didn't answer back until the third period with two goals, one coming on the power play from Dana Anatal. But with 2:26 left on the clock in the third and the game tied, Panda captain Susan Huculak put the game away by scoring her second goal of the tournament.
Dino head coach Wally Kozak knew his team was in tough, but expected a better result.
"I'm disappointed. I thought we played well enough to win and it was a surprise because coming in I thought we'd be too short staffed to compete at this level," said Kozak.
"The girls really played well and probably their best hockey of the year. It's the best they played the Pandas, they out shot them and did a great job at every part of the play so that was really a positive."
For the Pandas it's time for a little unfinished business. Last year they lost in the championship game to the Concordia Stingers.
"There are some awesome competition in the east and we certainly want to take another crack at it and I'm very happy that we're going to have the opportunity," said Draper.
For the Pandas it's now time to work on the fundamentals and sharpen up for their third attempt at a national title.
"I think we want to continue to sharpen up even though we obviously found some success this weekend I don't think we played our best hockey," said Draper.
"Hopefully we get down to business and we'll be peaking by the 24th."