CALGARY -- Perennial powerhouses Ontario and Quebec both received opening playoff round byes Friday after posting spotless 4-0 won-lost records to finish first in their respective pools in the 1998 Esso Women's Nationals Hockey Championship.
Quebec defeated BC by 5-1 on Friday morning and then edged New Brunswick 3-2 in an early evening matchup to finish atop Group B, ahead of the Host team, the Edmonton Chimos (which finished with a 3-1 won-lost mark), and New Brunswick (2-2).
Annick Bouchard scored the game winner for Team Quebec in their tight contest against New Brunswick, at 9:25 of the third period. In winning its four games, Team Quebec outscored its opponents 34-4, while Ontario scored 29 goals and allowed the opponents just 2.
Ontario, represented by the Beatrice Aeros, defeated a pesky Saskatchewan team 3-1 and bested the Alberta champion, the Calgary Oval X-Treme 4-1 in the final game of the day. That left Ontario atop Group A, ahead of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Canadian Olympian Cassie Campbell gave Ontario a 1-0 lead early in the first period, but Team Canada teammate Jennifer Botterill tied the score for Alberta minutes later. Ontario team captain Erin Rourke scored what proved to be the game winner on a power play late in the middle period and Angela James provided the clincher into an empty net with seconds remaining in the third period.
Today's playoff matchups will see the Host (Chimos) team playing Saskatchewan, with Alberta playing New Brunswick in the first round. Ontario will play the winner of the Chimos vs. Saskatchewan game, while Quebec awaits the winner of the Alberta vs. New Brunswick matchup.
The 1998 Esso Women's National Championship game will be played at 6 p.m. (8:00 p.m. EST), and will be televised live on TSN, and its Quebec-based sister network, Le Réseau des Sports (RDS).
Other non-medal round games on Saturday have PEI playing Nova Scotia, which won its first-ever game in National Championship competition, a 4-3 victory over winless Manitoba. Manitoba will play BC, which finished round-robin play with a 1-3 mark on the strength of its 7-3 victory on Friday over PEI.
Those teams will play to determine the placings from seventh through 10th in the National Championship.
Earlier on Friday, BC was deprived of the services of Natalie Christensen for the balance of the tournament, after she was diagnosed with a concussion. The 26-year-old Christensen suffered the injury in a collision with an opponent from the Host team on Thursday.
Tournament medical staff advised Christensen to stay off skates for one week and then be re- examined.