Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – On a team full of veteran role players, Karlie Bell consistently stands out for the MacEwan Griffins women's hockey team.
Her work on the penalty kill regularly drives the opposition up the wall as she has become a master at disrupting the powerplay breakout, often hemming her frustrated foes in their own zone.
"I take a lot of pride in that," said Bell, who is in her fourth season with the Griffins. "I love the PK. It's a good motivation booster for our team. You just work hard and hound them and pester them. It's just fun to play that way."
There's no doubt the rest of the team feeds off of that.
"We definitely take pride in being a team that is hard to play against," said the Swift Current, Sask. Product. "I think we do that because we have a lot of players, our second effort is really good. We never quit.
"We have our lapses just like any other team, but it's that work ethic. It makes it really tough for other teams to play us."
After edging the Olds College Broncos 2-1 in a shootout on Thursday night, the Griffins will aim for the sweep on Saturday when they host the rematch (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).
"Olds is a team we can never take lightly," said Griffins head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "They always come to the rink to play a 60-minute game.
"They are physical, clog up the middle of the rink, and have a few players that will capitalize when they have the puck in a dangerous spot."
If the Griffins hadn't already learned that from past seasons, Thursday's game reinforced that lesson. Olds leaned on tight checking and a hot goaltender to come within a shootout goal of handing the Griffins their first loss of the 2018-19 season.
MacEwan managed to score just once in 41 attempts as shades of their home opener against SAIT – when they scored once on 44 shots – came flooding back.
"That's a big thing we need to work on is getting the puck in the back of the net," said Bell. "Scoring five goals (against SAIT last weekend in the rematch) kind of proves that we can do it."
The elite defensive forward isn't leaned on as much for her scoring touch, but it isn't as if she isn't aiming to add that to her repertoire.
"You always want some more offence, but I try not to get too frustrated if it doesn't come because I know that's not my skill-set," she said. "I focus on my roles but take the defensive side until we get out of our zone. Once in the offensive zone, it's about getting pucks to the net. I've got to shoot a little bit more and create some offence off of our forecheck."
Successful teams lean on players with Bell's defensive prowess, though. And there's no doubt she prevents the opposition from scoring on a regular basis.
"Karlie is our most systematically sound player who embraces her role as a tenacious checker," said McAlpine. "She is a big body, who regularly puts herself into the right position making her very tough to play against.
"She is a workhorse, which transfers off the ice and into the classroom where she also boasts ones of our team's top GPAs. Karlie has had an outstanding preseason, and I look forward to her continuing this into regular season."