For hockey fans who enjoy a dramatic finish, this hockey series was a perfect one to follow. The Red Deer College Queens and MacEwan University Griffins split their games in Edmonton, both going beyond regulation time to determine the winner. Sunday, the 2 squads faced-off in the 3rd and last semi-final game at the ENMAX Centrium. The winner will go on to face the SAIT Trojans in the ACAC Women's Hockey finals. The Trojans defeated the NAIT Ooks 2 games to 1 to advance to the finals. In a close series, a single goal for MacEwan was the difference on Sunday.
Tracie Kikuchi started in goal for the Queens while Sandy Heim was in net for the Griffins. The RDC Queens had a good start on home ice and skated hard. Kaely McMurtry had a few scoring opportunities throughout the opening 20 minutes for the Queens but Heim was sharp. McMurtry was stopped on a hard wrist shot and deflected a point shot just wide of the post. But, Morgan Casson scored with 1:31 remaining in the 1st period to put MacEwan University up 1-0. The Queens outshot the Griffins 8-5 in the 1st period.
Early in the 2nd period, the Griffins seemed energized by their goal but momentum swung in favour of the Queens in the latter half. Morgan Fraser took a hard wrister from the right side and the puck bounced off the top of Heim's stick. The RDC Queens had many shot attempts but the Griffins blocked many of them in the defensive zone. With time winding down, Jade Petrie drove the net with Breanna Martin in front but Heim kept the puck out. In the 2nd period, RDC outshot MacEwan 14-9.
The Griffins were sound defensively. They blocked many shots, cleared rebounds and kept the Queens' offence to the perimeter. Emily Swier showed a lot of heart in the 3rd period. After Swier was assisted off the ice with an injury, moments later she returned and generated one of the best scoring chances in the final frame. Swier deked around the Griffins' defender and drove the net but Heim kept the puck out. On a late power play, the Queens pulled Kikuchi with under 2 minutes left to have a 2 skater advantage but they couldn't find the back of the net. The Griffins picked up the 1-0 victory and the series.
Graduating student-athlete, Ashley Graf was named the Queens player-of-the-game. Sandy Heim received the award for the Griffins.
In the 3rd period, RDC tested Heim 4 times. MacEwan University had 8 shots on Kikuchi. Over 60 minutes, the RDC Queens outshot the MacEwan University Griffins 26-22. Neither team could score on the power play.
Queens Hockey Head Coach Kelly Coulter credited MacEwan, especially their defensive play and goaltending. The Griffins had the best defensive record in the regular season and that carried over into this series.
"Hats off to MacEwan. They did a good job of keeping us to the outside," said Coulter. "Heim played extremely well in net. We knew that we'd have to generate offence and create traffic around her. Unfortunately, it was the wrong time to dry up on the offence."
The Queens showed a strong work ethic but were up against a tough opponent.
"I'm very happy with the 20 players in our room and the effort that they give on a nightly basis. I'm proud to say that hard work is something that defines our team," said Coulter. "When I ask the student-athletes what describes Queens Hockey, they tell me that it's relentless effort. It was a great series and I'm very proud of the effort."
While it will take some time to reflect on this season, some thoughts have shifted to next year.
"We have 4 graduates, and I know that the players we recruit will value what we value which is hard work, showing up at the rink every day, having fun and taking pride in wearing the Queens' logo," said Coulter. "Hopefully Jade Petrie, Emily Swier and Julia Murrell have the opportunity to play another year. I'd be very happy to have them back but I understand that life continues on."
The Queens' season is complete. The MacEwan University Griffins will face the SAIT Trojans in the ACAC Women's Hockey finals.