POZNIKOFF WINS IT FOR THUNDER
by Wendy Graves
STONEY CREEK, Ont. – The math was simple, really: claim a point and claim a spot in the semifinals.
Alexandra Poznikoff (Edmonton, Alta.) scored 4:21 into overtime and the Edmonton Thunder defeated the Stoney Creek Sabres 4-3 on Thursday night in the final game of the preliminary round of the 2014 Esso Cup.
“Luckily, we got a good chip and I could just skate in,” said Poznikoff following the game. “Once I got a step on (the defenceman) I had to get the goalie sliding. Luckily I got it, and it just (went) in.”
The overtime winner was Poznikoff’s second goal of the night. Jessica Healey (Edmonton, Alta.) and Amy Boucher (Edmonton, Alta.) also scored for the Thunder.
Kayla Vespa (Stoney Creek, Ont.), Mallory Young (Caistor Centre, Ont.) and Claire Merrick (Oakville, Ont.) scored for the Sabres.
This week has been a struggle for the experienced Edmonton team, making its sixth straight appearance at the Esso Cup. After suffering losses in three of its first four games, Poznikoff said the mentality coming into the preliminary finale was different.
“Those other games we were there, but there was nothing that riled us up,” she said. “But six minutes before we went on for our warm-up everybody was just cheering. That really helped us.”
The first period was the best 20 minutes the Thunder had played all week. Several early rushes showed the team could match the Sabres’ speed.
And it would be the Thunder’s quickness that got the team the first goal of the game. Poznikoff brought the puck from the right corner behind the net and finished with a wraparound into the bottom left side of Hannah Miller’s (Georgetown, Ont.) cage.
For the first time at the tournament, Stoney Creek found itself trailing.
Less than three minutes later, Healey doubled the lead with a sharp-angle shot from the bottom of the face-off circle.
Those two quick strikes spelled an end to the evening for Miller, who was replaced by Serena D’Angelo (Stoney Creek, Ont.).
Whatever good feelings Edmonton had coming out of the first intermission disappeared 15 seconds after retaking the ice.
Down a player, Vespa put home the rebound on Emily Calligan’s (Hannon, Ont.) wraparound attempt.
Young pulled her team even five minutes later when she put home Summer Belanco’s (Brantford, Ont.) shot.
Merrick’s team-leading third goal of the tournament – in which she drove past and went high on the goalie, before sliding on her stomach to the side boards – at 4:12 of the third tied things up.
The teams meet again Friday night in the semifinals.