Coming into Thursday's game at the ENMAX Centrium, the MacEwan Griffins trailed the Red Deer College Queens Hockey team by 3 points in the ACAC standings. The NAIT Ooks and RDC Queens shared top spot with 25 points while the Griffins sat alone in 2nd place with 22 points. Jen West started in net for the Queens while Sandy Heim was between the pipes for the MacEwan Griffins.
It wasn't the start that the Queens had hoped for. After getting down a pair of goals, RDC battled back to tie the contest but the Griffins eventually pulled ahead for a 6-3 road victory.
Shanya Shwetz opened the scoring 3:29 into the 1st period to give the Griffins a 1-0 lead. Shwetz skated across the slot and beat West on the glove side. Moments later, Jessica Dyck gave the Griffins a 2-0 lead on a rebound 5:00 minutes into the opening frame. Tracie Kikuchi took over in the Queens net.
On the power play, Emily Swier got the Queens on the board with 7:27 remaining in the 1st period. After a shot from the point went wide, Swier gathered the puck behind the net and scored on a wrap around to make it a 2-1 game.
Each team had 5 shots on goal in the opening period.
At 18:21 of the 2nd period, Emily Swier connected again on the power play to tie the game 2-2. Ashley Graf and Landry Derdall picked up the assists. Graf made a nice pass to find Swier in the slot and the forward from Spruce View redirected it past Heim's blocker. About 7 minutes later, Morgan Casson fired a wrist shot just inside the left post and put the Griffins up 3-2. Kikuchi made some key saves in the 2nd period to keep the Queens within a goal. With about 1 minute remaining in the 2nd period, Julia Wing made a nice defensive play and broke up a Griffins 3-on-1 opportunity.
In the middle frame, the Griffins outshot the Queens 14-10.
Raven Beazer scored on a backhand 43 seconds into the 3rd period to put MacEwan University up 4-2. On the power play, Shyla Jans of the Griffins increased their lead by 3 goals (5-2) 8:22 into the final frame. At 9:05 Courtney Zajac scored on a breakaway to give MacEwan University a 6-2 lead. With 7:58 remaining, Kaci Jones scored low on Heim's blocker side to bring the Queens within 3. Time expired and the Griffins picked up the 6-3 win.
The Queens had 2 shots in the final period while the Griffins tested Kikuchi 13 times. After 60 minutes, MacEwan University outshot RDC 32-17. The Red Deer College Queens connected on 2-of-5 power play opportunities and successfully killed off 3-of-4 penalties. With the win, the Griffins move within a point of the Queens and Ooks. Only 5 games remain for the Queens, and with every game looming large it should be an exciting race to the finish of the regular season.
Emily Swier was chosen as the Queens player-of-the-game while Morgan Casson received the honour for the Griffins.
Queens Head Coach Kelly Coulter was disappointed with the preparation and effort.
"I start to question at times our game preparation at home, if we are focused and ready to play hockey. The last couple of games we've come out flat and let teams come in here, not being intimidated coming into our barn," said Coulter. "Unfortunately, the Griffins dictated the pace and play. If you get down 2 goals to a good team like MacEwan, it is a hard hole to get out of. Our preparation at home is something that we need to address."
The loss can be used as a teachable moment.
"MacEwan is a good team," said Coulter. "There are good teams in this league and if you aren't ready to play you will get behind the 8 ball very quickly and it was a lesson learned tonight."
The RDC Queens will look to rebound Saturday, Jan. 28 in Edmonton when they face the MacEwan Griffins at 6:00 p.m.