MacWilliam, Bender lead Griffins to dominant 2-0 win over visiting Queens

Natalie Bender, left, and Karlie Bell celebrate the Griffins' 2-0 win over Red Deer College on Friday night (Matthew Jacula photo).
Natalie Bender, left, and Karlie Bell celebrate the Griffins' 2-0 win over Red Deer College on Friday night (Matthew Jacula photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – From swarming defensive formations to tenacious forechecking to perfect goaltending, the MacEwan Griffins had it all working in a 2-0 victory over the visiting Red Deer College Queens in ACAC women's hockey action on Friday night.

Especially on the defensive end, the effort was clinical as the Griffins remained undefeated in regulation this season, improving to a league-best 5-0-1 in completing a weekend sweep of RDC.

"We were speaking as a staff and I can't pick out one player who struggled tonight," said Griffins head coach Lindsay McAlpine, whose team dominated from start to finish at the Downtown Community Arena, outshooting the Queens 36-21. "I thought everyone played a solid 60 -minute game, which was nice to see."

Jill MacWilliam opened the scoring for the Griffins just 17 seconds into the contest when she won a draw and flipped it over RDC goalie Tracie Kikuchi.

Despite plenty of offensive pressure, it would take the Griffins until the third period to score again. And it was MacWilliam again who engineering the tally by chipping it down the boards, catching up with the puck to create a 2-on-1 and dishing off to Shyla Jans, who went upstairs at 15:55 for an insurance marker.

"We had our last game last night and it didn't go as well," she explained of a contest in Red Deer that the Griffins won 3-2 in a shootout. "I felt our feet weren't moving as fast. Our line talked at the beginning of this game and I said to them 'we should just focus on moving our feet and working hard and everything else will come after that.' "

MacWilliam was named player of the game for the Griffins, while Kikuchi earned the honour for RDC.

"Jill's just the definition of 100 per cent," said McAlpine. "You throw Jill out and you know exactly what you're getting from her. Her effort's always the same.

"I think that's the strength of her game. She's a skilled forward, but she's got that flip side of being a hard worker, as well, which makes her the complete package. She played well tonight."

Griffins' rookie goaltender Natalie Bender has yet to allow a goal in her ACAC career, picking up her second shutout in as many games this season. While RDC counterpart Kikuchi was far busier, the freshman still stood tall in her fair share of pressure situations.

"I think she's really earning her spot," said MacWilliam. "She stood on her head and kept us in the game. It could have easily been 2-1 or 2-2, but she really kept us in there. It's definitely noted. She's played the two games now and got two shutouts, so we can definitely trust her back there."

If there was anything to nit-pick the Griffins about, it would be not scoring more than twice in a game where they could have had four or five.

"I know Kooch is an excellent goalie, but we need to be more opportunistic and capitalize on chances that are there," said McAlpine. "It's coming. We're starting to get into those dirtier areas of the ice that we have kind of shied away from. So, I think it will build as we move forward."

Next up for the Griffins is a rematch of the 2016-17 ACAC final when they welcome the SAIT Trojans on Nov. 3 (7 p.m., DCA) before travelling to Calgary on Nov. 4 (7 p.m., SAIT Arena).