Canada West champs come sixth at nationals

The last time the Manitoba Bisons played the Alberta Pandas, there was a little bit more on the line.

Three weeks ago these teams met to decide the Canada West champion, and the Bisons swept the series to head into nationals as the number three seed. On Sunday afternoon, the Pandas got revenge — well, sort of — downing the Bisons 5-2 in the national fifth-place game.

For Manitoba, this ends a forgettable CIS finals, which saw them go 0-3, surrendering 13 goals, while only scoring five. Despite the circumstances, head coach Jon Rempel was proud of the way his team came out in this fifth-place game after a draining 4-3 loss to St. F.X., less than 24 hours prior.

“We just had fun with it,” said Rempel. “It’s tough to play when you finish at 10 at night and then come back and play in a fifth-place game [at noon], but they handled it well.”

The ‘less-than-important’ nature of this game allowed some different Bisons to play in different positions, along with giving a start to rookie goaltender Leiette Klassen, who had six shut-outs in eight starts this season.

“She needed to play, she hasn’t played in a month,” said Rempel of Klassen. “She’s a good goaltender, she needed to get this kind of experience and she did a good job.”

While Klassen did show signs of her inexperience, allowing five goals, some of them a little soft, she stood tall against a barrage of Alberta shots, making 26 saves as the Pandas out-shot the Bisons 31-12.

Rookie Meagan Vestby had both goals for the Bisons.

While this result is obviously not what the Bisons wanted out of this year’s trip to nationals, Rempel thinks the experience will be good for his young team, which features seven first-years and five second-years.

“The core of this team is quite young, and you can’t replace this kind of experience,” he said. “It’s great for them to be here and compete and figure out what [playing at nationals] is all about.”

This game brought the careers of five Bisons to an end. Fifth-years Becca King, Kacey Funk, Amy Coates, Tammy Brade and Chelsea Braun have all played their last games of CIS hockey. Despite the somewhat disappointing finish at nationals, Rempel thinks this was a good season for them to go out on.

“We’ve had a tonne of milestones, we’ve achieved a lot as a team,” he said. “I told them at the beginning of the weekend that no matter what happens I was proud of them and things didn’t go our way, but we’ve achieved a lot this season.”