By: Carlos Verde
CALGARY, Alta. -- Were it not for a heroic 35-save performance from Swedish goaltender Sara Grahn, the CIS Universiade camp team would likely be 1-0 to begin the 2016 National Women's Development Tournament in Calgary, Alta.
Unfortunately for the CIS all-star squad, Grahn made a number of superb point-blank stops and almost singlehandedly steered Sweden to a 2-1 overtime victory against the college team at the Markin MacPhail Centre.
"It wasn't the result we wanted, but we can take a lot of positive out of that game," said Team CIS and Guelph Gryphons head coach Rachel Flanagan. "We felt like we had moments where we dominated them, moved our feet, and created chances around the net, but (Sweden's) a pretty opportunistic team."
The team, which features nine OUA players on its 22-man roster, dominated long stretches of Monday night's game and probably deserved a better fate.
Western's Brianna Iazzolino (Thunder Bay, Ont.) had the lone goal for Team CIS, while Guelph goaltender Valerie Lamenta (Montreal, Que.) made 14 of 16 saves in the loss.
Both teams began cagily in their tournament opener, with neither team creating quality scoring chances in the first period aside from a few half-chances for Team CIS through traffic. Sweden goaltender Sara Grahn proved up to the task and the game reached its first intermission scoreless.
The game opened up in the second period as Team CIS found its legs and chemistry against the cohesive Swedes, forcing Grahn into a number of quality stops early in the second period.
The Swedish goaltender could do nothing on Brianna Iazzolino's short-side shot at the 10:44 mark, which caromed off the post, off Grahn's back, and in for Team CIS's first goal of the tournament.
Conceding Iazzolino's goal seemed to awaken the Swedes, who found their speed-based transition game and began to gradually grow into the period.
An impressive solo effort on a wraparound by Lisa Johansson drew the European visitors level with just 58 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
The third period continued with the theme of a tight, defensive battle, as both Grahn and Lamenta came up with a number of good saves.
Sweden forward Hanna Olsson nearly ended things with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, clipping the crossbar with a wrist shot from the slot.
Despite some heavy pressure from Team CIS in the closing stages of regulation, Grahn and the Swedes were able to hold on for overtime.
Once in the 3-on-3 extra frame, the Swedes used their speed to create an opportunity on the break. Olivia Carlsson peeled off on a breakaway and beat Lamenta blocker-side with a wrist shot to claim an unlikely victory for Sweden.
The loss was a particularly stinging one for the CIS team after it outshot the Swedes 36-16.
"I don't know if we expected that (shot) gap, but we were effective in getting pucks to the net," said Coach Flanagan. "Our focus moving forward is getting there in a different manner and thinking a little bit more about our shot selection once we get there."
Team CIS will be back in action on Tuesday against National Development Red, which beat National Development White 4-3 in its opener.
Waterloo goaltender Stephanie Sluys is expected to get the start in net.