By Mark Staffieri
Jayna Hefford would be the only skater to log a point in every game during a three game set versus Alberta. As Brampton looked to reach the .500 level, home ice advantage against last place Alberta provided an opportunity for the black and red to make it happen.
With Alberta backup goaltender Jillian MacIsaac earning the start in all three games, she would be tested often. Her valiant performance was certainly the highlight of the series for Alberta.
During the first game, Brampton outshot Alberta in all three periods as Alberta?۪s offense sputtered. Emotions ran high in the dying seconds of the first period. With Brampton?۪s Lori Dupuis having been called for roughing at 17:47 and teammate Courtney Birchard called for cross checking at 19:17, an atmosphere of tension was evident. Merely 23 seconds later, Alberta?۪s Chelsea Purcell would be called for her second penalty of the period (head contact), along with a game misconduct.
Although there were only three penalties in the second stanza, MacIsaac was a key factor in keeping Alberta competitive as she had to fend off two Brampton power plays. With the score remaining 0-0 after two periods, Alberta?۪s stingy defense gave the squad a chance.
Tara French would open the scoring for Brampton at the 4:36 mark of the final frame. With assists going to Jayna Hefford and Laura McIntosh, Alberta was eager to try and tie the score.
Penalty problems would plague Alberta near the end of the game. Brampton?۪s Sarah Moe was called for roughing at 17:22 and tensions re-ignited. Eight seconds later, Alberta?۪s Meaghan Mikkelson was called for interference, while Murphy Shannon was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. The penalties deflated Alberta?۪s hopes for tying the game, as Jayna Hefford scored with one second remaining as Florence Schelling earned the shutout.
The February 24 rematch saw Schelling earn her second consecutive start, as MacIsaac was hoping for a win. Brampton outshoot Alberta in every period again, but Alberta managed to show some resiliency.
Jayna Hefford would open the scoring as Brampton logged its first power play goal of the series. With Maddy Haller (daughter of former NHLer Kevin Haller) in the penalty box, Hefford buried the puck past MacIsaac at the 9:59 mark as McIntosh and Gillian Apps earned assists for the 1-0 advantage.
Less than five minutes later, Hefford would score her second of the game (and third of the series) as Brampton enjoyed a 2-0 lead. Apps and Tara Gray earned the assists, as Alberta was outshot by a 12-4 margin in the first frame.
The second period saw Brampton kept off the scoreboard as MacIsaac gave Alberta an opportunity to remain competitive. Her hard work between the pipes would pay off as Tara Watchorn beat Schelling at the 14:17 mark. It was Alberta?۪s first goal of the series, as Watchorn reduced their deficit to a one goal differential.
With the black and red unable to add to their lead in the final frame, Alberta took advantage to tie the score. Jocelyne Larocque and Meaghan Mikkelson assisted on Tia Hanson?۪s goal at 10:19. In a third period where Brampton outshot Alberta by an 11-8 mark, MacIsaac was the difference as she forced overtime.
Alberta was outshot in the overtime frame by a 7-0 mark. With Larocque serving a penalty for hooking at the 1:09 mark of OT, Alberta shifted to a defensive mode, forcing the shootout. Although Hefford beat MacIsaac in the shootout, she denied McIntosh and Apps. Shootout markers by Watchorn and Mikkelson proved to be the difference as Alberta grabbed their third win of the season (and first road win of the season).
Sensational sophomore Liz Knox earned the start in the rubber match with Alberta. Less than two minutes into the start of the contest, Alberta encountered penalty trouble. Laura Dostaler was called for hooking as Brampton enjoyed an early power play.
While Brampton could not take advantage, they would manage to grab the lead later in the period as Sarah Moe beat MacIsaac at the 7:38 mark. In a period where the black and red would outshoot Alberta by a 14-5 mark, a second goal would follow before the period would expire.
As Alberta?۪s Olivia Sutter was called for head contact at 17:29 (along with a ten minute misconduct call), MacIsaac was unable to counter the Brampton power play. The titanic combination of Hefford and McIntosh assisted on Apps?۪ goal to provide Brampton with a 2-0 cushion heading into the second.
McIntosh would add her name to the score sheet at only 1:35 in the second stanza for a 3-0 advantage. Despite their best efforts, Alberta could not manage to solve Knox. She only had to make nine saves in the first two periods, while Brampton peppered MacIsaac with 22 shots.
The final frame erupted in a display of frustration as ten penalties were called. Only 45 seconds into the frame, Gillian Apps would score her second of the game as the lead grew to a 4-0 edge. Thirty seconds after the goal, Jocelyne Larocque was called for holding and the hostilities began to worsen.
Lori Dupuis and Erica Kromm (daughter of former NHLer Richard Kromm) were both called for roughing at the two minute mark. Tensions continued to brew to the surface as Alberta defender Kelsey Webster was called for hooking at 2:55. Like Sutter, she would also be called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
With Brampton?۪s rookie sensation Bailey Bram being called for a slashing penalty at the 3:45 mark, it resulted in a total of 20 penalty minutes called in a matter of only two minutes and 30 seconds. There was a very pugilistic feeling in the air as the period got off to a very rocky start.
While cooler heads would prevail, Brampton?۪s lead had become all but insurmountable. Despite the superlative play of MacIsaac, the two misconduct calls took the wind out of Alberta?۪s sails as the club was unable to chip away at the 4-0 setback.
With two minutes remaining, Brampton encountered penalty trouble again. McIntosh was called for cross checking at 18:05, followed by a tripping call on Vicki Bendus only 14 seconds later. Tara Watchorn managed to take advantage as she logged one of the few Alberta power play goals during the season. Knox would not allow another goal as Brampton claimed the 4-1 win.
A total of 45 penalties were handed out during the three game set as Brampton and Alberta lead the league in penalty minutes. Brampton leads the league with 280 penalty minutes while Alberta has 270. The pair of wins improves Brampton?۪s record to 8-8-2 as the club attempts to avoid a losing season.
Another positive for Brampton is that their 59 goals for ranks second in the league (behind Montreal with 83). In addition, Laura McIntosh is second overall in the CWHL with 17 assists. With her strong weekend showing, Jayna Hefford has climbed into a third place tie with Hilary Knight for the CWHL scoring race as both skaters boast 26 points. She continues to be the heartbeat of the Brampton offense as the club looks for a strong showing in their upcoming series with the Boston Blades.