Queens downed in ACAC final
It was a disappointing loss for the RDC Queens in more ways than one.
Not only did the 4-1 loss to the NAIT Ooks before over 200 fans at the Arena Saturday afternoon eliminate the Queens from the best-of-five Alberta Colleges Women’s Hockey League final 3-1, but it was the final game for head coach Trevor Keeper.
Keeper moves on to the RDC Kings program next season, but in his two years with the Queens he made a positive impression.
“He did a lot for us in the two years,” said Queens captain and third-year centre Rachael Hoppins. “He did an awesome job recruiting and building the team. But we’re excited to see who comes in and hopefully they do just as good a job.”
Keeper felt good about how far the Queens came in two seasons. Last year, as mainly a rookie team, they turned in an outstanding second half to make the playoffs before losing to eventual champion Mount Royal. This year they finished the second place one point back of NAIT and then beating Grant MacEwan in the semifinals before falling to the Ooks.
“The staff, which includes myself, are proud of what we accomplished,” Keeper said. “Today is kind of bitter sweet in that I’m moving on to the men’s program. We’ll look back next year and I’m sure will be a bit jealous as we’ll be just starting out and they’ll be strong. But I’ll still feel part of this program as I’m part of RDC and I’m excited how well we’ve done.”
Keeper was naturally disappointed after Saturday’s loss.
“Anytime you finish anywhere but first you’re disappointed,” he said. “But as a coach the important thing is how well you played and did you over achieve from what the group is capable of and we did that this year.”
He liked the fact the team took a step up this year and with a solid nucleus returning he expects them to continue to improve.
“Hopefully they build on this year,” he said. “Once they’ve been there they know what to do to get back and win the final. This was a great series and the girls who have been here this year can take that experience and take it a step farther.”
Ooks head coach Deanna Iwanicka had a veteran team with 12 players in at least their third season and felt a loss in last year’s semifinals was a stepping stone for them.
“We felt we shouldn’t have lost and that motivated us,” she said.
But for the first period Saturday it looked as if the Queens had all the motivation as they held an 18-7 edge in shots and grabbed a 1-0 lead on Jade Petrie’s power play goal.
However, things changed drastically in the second period with the Ooks outshooting the Queens 23-2 and scoring three times.
“They forechecked a lot harder in the second and hemmed us in,” said Keeper. ‘They’re an opportunistic team and have several key players who can score, which showed. In the third we came back and outshot them, but the second period was the turning point.”
Danielle Brown tied the game at 7:37 of the middle stanza with Michelle Pochapsky adding goals at 14:39 and 16:23. Pochapsky completed the scoring in the third period.
“The first period we played like we were afraid to lose,” said Iwanicka. “Individually we wanted it, but we weren’t playing as a team. We talked after the first period to do what made us successful and we came out, played a strong second period and made a statement.”
“NAIT’s a great team with a lot of offensive talent, but we battled hard,” said Hoppins. “We overcame a lot of adversity last night (Friday’s 3-2 win at NAIT) and take away the second period today and we’re right there.
“It’s disappointing, but we came a long way this season. When you look back it’s amazing how much we accomplished and as the coaches tell us 20 years from now we won’t remember the wins or losses, but we’ll remember everyone in that room and that’s what matters.”
Hoppins will be back next season as will many of her teammates.
Keeper has already done most of the recruiting.
“We’re set with recruits, although a couple of them are still on the fence,” he said. “We could use those one or two more, but the new coach may know of a couple of girls as well.”
The new coach should be in place shortly.
As for the men Keeper has 12 commitments for next season and will need 10 or 11 more.
‘It’ll come down toward the end of the season before some guys make a commitment,” he said.
l Queens rookie centre Ashley Graf injured he leg in the first period and was helped off, but return in the second despite possibly having a broken leg . . . “She’ was hobbling, but she’s the type of player who’ll be out there if the medical staff says she can play,” said Keeper . . . Camille Trautman finished with 31 saves while Jill Diachuk had 26.