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Wpg. Free Press: Herd wins quadruple OT thriller

February 26, 2018 — 

As the Winnipeg Free Press reports

Venla Hovi could have stayed behind in Pyeongchang to soak up the Olympic closing ceremonies with the other members of the Finnish women’s hockey team.

Instead, the bronze medalist spent more than 24 gruelling hours travelling back to Canada in time to suit up for a pair of do-or-die games with her other teammates on the University of Manitoba Bisons.

And what a decision that proved to be. Hovi, 30, set up an epic, series-winning goal in quadruple overtime Sunday night as the No. 1 ranked Bisons beat the No. 2 ranked Alberta Pandas 1-0 to advance to the Canada West women’s hockey finals.

“I didn’t doubt it for one second. I was coming back,” Hovi told the Free Press just moments after Jordyn Zacharias’s perfect deflection of her pass ended the marathon game with 6:30 left in the seventh period of hockey. The game, clocking in at 123:30 (the first overtime period was just 10 minutes), is the second longest in Canada West conference playoff history.

Manitoba will host the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the best-of-three Canada West championship series next weekend. All three games, beginning Friday, will be played at Wayne Fleming Arena. Both teams also get an automatic berth in the USPORTS National Championships at Western University in London, Ontario in mid-March.

The Pandas won Friday night’s opener 4-1, but the Bisons stayed alive with a 2-1 overtime victory Saturday night which saw Hovi’s hockey bag arrive about two hours before the game. She recorded an assist on their first goal. That victory, with blue liner Alexandra Anderson getting the big goal, forced a winner-take-all game three which seemed like it would never end.

“It felt a little bit rougher than I thought it would, but I didn’t doubt for one second that we couldn’t do it,” said Hovi, the fourth-year student who was the most dangerous player on the ice with numerous chances to win it. “Everybody keeps talking to me about the Olympic medal, but this is the team that I’m with every day, so it really matters.”

First-year Bisons goalie Lauren Taraschuk stood tall, stopping all 31 shots she faced for a huge shutout on a grand stage. That included all 12 shots in the opening period when Alberta really carried the play.

“We knew what we wanted this outcome to be. I just had to stay in there for my team,” Taraschuk said following the game. She admitted there were plenty of nerves — especially when the Pandas rattled one off the crossbar late in the third period with their season on the line.

“My adrenaline just took over. It was like, just get it done, we worked for this, we deserve this,” she said.

Zacharias, a first-team Canada West Al-Star, couldn’t stop smiling after scoring the biggest goal of her hockey career. She credited Hovi with making the perfect feed.

Read the full story here.

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