Griffins survive late rally to complete weekend sweep of Queens with 3-2 win

Shyla Kirwer and the Griffins held on for a 3-2 win over the Red Deer College Queens on Saturday night (Matthew Jacula photo).
Shyla Kirwer and the Griffins held on for a 3-2 win over the Red Deer College Queens on Saturday night (Matthew Jacula photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Playing a textbook second period to gain a 3-0 lead, the Griffins women's hockey team was forced to buckle their seatbelts and hang on for dear life as the Red Deer College Queens came roaring back to within a goal on Saturday night.

Lost in the horn sounding on a 3-2 MacEwan win was the sound of the team bench exhaling.

"We definitely made it far more tense than we needed to," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine.

Sandy Heim held the fort with 20 saves as the Griffins completed a weekend sweep of the Queens to improve to 12-3-1-0, atop the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference standings.

"We had a great second period – definitely our best of the two games," explained McAlpine. "The third period we took our foot off the gas, played very complacent, let Red Deer gain some momentum.

"When that first goal came for them, you could see it building. We gave them a prime scoring opportunity and they capitalized on it. It was (Kaely) McMurtry, who's one of the most dangerous goal scorers in our league.

"From there, we started to panic and didn't play the way we needed to. We held on and I was happy and proud the girls at the end were able to stay as composed as we needed to get the win."

Miranda Cook made 32 saves for the Queens in a defeat that drops their record to 5-8-1-0, tied with Olds College for third place.

Prior to the contest, McAlpine united Jessi Rampton and Jordyn Reimer on a line for the first time and it paid off in the game's first goal. Reimer took a shot off the rush and Rampton buried the rebound through the five hole less than six minutes into the affair.

Raven Beazer, who finished with a goal and an assist to complete a five-point weekend after three assists in Friday's win, made it 2-0 off a great individual effort less than a minute into the second period. The veteran forward cut wide around a defender and roofed one from in tight.

"Phenomenal weekend by Raven," said McAlpine. "You always like to see your fifth-year players in that second half go out with a bang. She's done exactly that to start 2019, for sure.

"Raven does tons for us offensively because she's such a smart hockey player. She wasn't rewarded tons in the first half and I think this weekend was an example of her being rewarded for the things she's always done."

Dominique Scheurer caught Cook cheating off the post on the short side with 4:46 left in the middle frame to put the Griffins into a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead.

Or so they thought.

McMurtry beat Heim with 9:52 left in the game before drawing an assist on Camryn Wallan's power-play goal with 5:01 remaining that had fans on pins and needles in the closing minutes.

Fortunately for the Griffins, they were able to stop the bleeding and get the win, but the takeaway, as it has been often this season, is playing a full 60 minutes.

"Unfortunately, that's exactly what we've been talking about," said McAlpine. "We should have been learning this from about Game 3 this year. We've lacked a little consistency playing that 60 minutes.

"It's definitely a work in progress – that learning curve. The girls know the expectations we have of them and they have of themselves. We're close, but we're not quite there."

The Griffins now head into a bye week before returning to action against SAIT on Jan. 25 (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).