Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
RED DEER – Raven Beazer pickpocketed a Red Deer Queens player on the forecheck, walked in alone and casually tucked a backhand top shelf for what would prove to be the game-winning goal in a 2-1 MacEwan Griffins victory in ACAC women's hockey action Friday night.
The Griffins made the second period tally stand up in a tight game on the scoreboard, even if it really wasn't in the run of play. MacEwan outshot RDC 31-20 and dominated possession.
"I don't know if it was necessarily as tight of a game as the score showed," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "It was probably 31-15 (in shots) and then they pulled the goalie and had some sustained pressure in our end – really threatening, point blank chances for two and a half minutes. We were able to hold them off and seal the 2-1 win."
The Griffins improve to 14-4-2-0 with the win, which was their game in hand on idle NAIT. They sit four points behind the Ooks are likely to finish second in the ACAC standings, which will almost certainly lock them into a first-round playoff match against third-place RDC (8-9-4-0).
So, after Chantal Ricker opened the scoring for the visitors, RDC hit back with a Keinyn Nordell tally and Beazer put MacEwan back in front 2-1, the Griffins spent the third period practicing playoff scenarios.
"I thought our girls did a good job managing the last period being up 2-1 going into the third," said McAlpine. "We're already playing out different playoff scenarios and game management, focusing on critical moments – what if we're in a playoff game and it's Game 3 and it's 2-1? It was a good learning game for us."
Natalie Bender made 19 saves for the Griffins to pick up her fourth win of the season. Miranda Cook and Karlee Fetch split duties in the Queens' cage.
"Bender made the saves when we needed her to," said McAlpine. "She had a couple of minutes on the penalty kill – you always talk about how your goalie needs to be your best penalty killer. She made a couple key saves for us in those situations."
McAlpine also singled out the contributions of rookie defenceman Alexandra Thomson, who was seeing action for just the seventh time this season.
"Alex Thomson hasn't played much this season and she's stepped into a role late in the year and teams have their feet underneath them and are rolling," said McAlpine. "She's played exactly as we needed her to."
The teams will meet again on Saturday (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).