Karly Hefferenan’s goal midway through the first period gave Alberta the jump they needed as they rolled to a 4-1 win over Manitoba to kick off the 2012 U-18 National Championships.
Heffernan capitalized on a breakaway chance beating Manitoba goaltender Brittni Mowat short-side.
“Awesome to get a goal early in the period and get that lead first, and I couldn’t of done it without an amazing chip from Holt,” said Heffernan, who finished the game with a goal and an assist.
Heffernan broke loose after forward Jessyka Holt chipped the puck clear from Alberta’s zone right on to Heffernan’s stick.
Alberta added to their lead scoring twice in the second period with goals from Cassandra Vilgrain and Samantha Sutherland, giving Alberta the start they were looking for against a tough Manitoba team that is considered a favourite to advance to the semi-finals out of Pool B.
“It’s definitely huge to win the first game, that was our problem last year I think we came out flat,” said Heffernan. “This year winning the first game is going to be huge for our confidence the rest of the way.”
Manitoba got on the board to start the third period when forward Ashleigh Brykaliuk scored, but Alberta answered right back when defence Madison Haller beat Manitoba’s Brittni Mowat with a power play marker for Alberta’s fourth goal.
Alberta head coach Wade Borynec said the line of Vilgrain, Sutherland, and Holt clicked immediately, creating problems for Manitoba on the defensive end. Sutherland assisted on Alberta’s first three goals.
He said the team’s speed was key to the Alberta’s fore-check and in attacking Manitoba’s net.
Manitoba’s head coach Ashley van Aggelen said her squad came out flat and will have to come out ready to play a full 60 minutes versus other Pool-B oppponents Ontario-Blue and Quebec.
“The girls prepared as best they could but came out slow in the first period, we played better in the second and third periods, but I think the nerves got the best of them early,” said van Aggelen. “We thought we ended where we wanted to end.”
Manitoba outshot Alberta 33-24 but struggled to get any quality chances on Alberta goaltender Robyn Chemago.
Borynec said the win puts Alberta in good position the rest of the way.
“It’s nice to get a win at the start of the tournament then you don’t dig yourself a hole.”
Manitoba faces Ontario-Blue today at 1:00 p.m., and finishes round-robin play versus Québec Friday morning.
Alberta looks to go 2-0 as they meet Québec at 10:00 a.m. today, and wrap up Pool-B action Friday versus Ontario-Blue.