Queens open playoffs with a victory
There’s just no time to take it easy when it comes to a best-of-three playoff series, especially when you open at home.
The RDC Queens knew that and turned in a solid effort in downing the Grant MacEwan University Griffins 4-1 in the opening game of the Alberta Colleges Women’s Hockey League semifinal series at the Arena Thursday.
“You can’t mess around in a short series, you need that first one,” said Queens veteran captain Rachael Hoppins, who was named the RDC player of the game. “We were a little nervous in the first period, but we showed our true character tonight with the win. That’s the team we are.”
Hoppins helped get rid of some of the nerves when she beat Griffins netminder Morgan Glover at 4:28 of the first period. She took a nice feed from Jade Petrie on a two-on-one, deked Glover and tucked the puck into the open net.
“It was a nice pass, in fact my linemates really helped me tonight,” she said.
Queens head coach Trevor Keeper knew that first goal was important for their confidence.
“That was huge for us, especially coming from the captain,” he said. “But she’s been playing well. She was in a bit of a slump at the end of the first semester and I just told her to stick with what she’s doing and the chances will come and she’ll score. I believe this was her fifth game in a row with a goal.”
The score remained 1-0 until the third period as both teams were a bit scrambly, especially in the second period.
“They (Griffins) work hard . . . they’re not what you call a finesse team, but they put pressure on you and in the second we started to break down a little and it was scrambly, but we settled down in the third when we needed it,” said Hoppins.
Regular season team scoring leader Gillian Altheim scored what could have been the biggest goal of the game at 2:37 of the third period when she took the puck down the right side, cut in on Glover and roofed a perfect shot to make it 2-0 while on the power play.
“When Jill is playing well, she’s using her speed,” said Keeper. “She’s one of the fastest skaters in the league and tonight she was using that. She was keeping her shifts short, so that she had enough energy and when she does that she’ll get rewarded, like she did.”
“She’s been struggling a bit of late, but she’s our leading scorer and that was a big goal,” said Hoppins. “That’s what she does for us.”
Hoppins set up the Queens third goal at 4:20 by winning a faceoff over to Petrie, who whipped a quick shot high to Glover’s glove side. Kyla Lorenz gave the Griffins a little life at 8:28, beating Camille Trautman on the power play.
To make matters worse Emily Lougheed took a penalty 35 seconds after the Griffins scored. However, Jena Holden turned the shorthanded situation into RDC’s favour when she darted into the MacEwan zone, out-fought the Griffins for the puck in front and scored shorthanded.
“She scored all because of her forechecking pressure,” said Keeper. “She always puts a lot of pressure on the puck. She’s a fast skater, wins faceoffs and is a strong penalty killer. That’s what she gives us and tonight she used her speed and created the shorthanded goal.”
Overall the Queens did exactly what the coaching staff set up for them, although Keeper said he was a bit nervous.
“No matter how good your team is you’re always nervous,” he said. “When the playoffs start what you’ve accomplished to that point doesn’t matter. A team can come in, out-work you, get a couple of bounces and beat you.
“But we prepared by breaking each period down into seven minute segments and focused on little things for each seven minutes. We told the girls if they do that they’ll likely win.”
The Queens finished with 38 shots on Glover while Trautman faced 25 . . .The teams meet Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at Confederation Park in Edmonton with the third game, if necessary, Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the Arena . . . The winner of the series meets the NAIT Ooks in a best-of-five final.
• In other news, basketball Kings first-year guard Ashaunti Hogan was named the ACAC’s male athlete of the week.