Ooks 2 Queens 1 (SO)
The Red Deer College Queens hockey team secured perhaps their ugliest point of their season on Thursday.
The Queens (3-5-3) had their lowest shot total of the season and blew a one-goal third period lead to fall 2-1 in a shootout to the first place NAIT Ooks (9-1-1) on Thursday at the Red Deer Arena.
The single point moved the Queens, at least temporarily, into a tie for the final Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women’s hockey playoff spot with the MacEwan University Griffins (4-5-1).
“I thought it wasn’t a very pretty game on both ends — there wasn’t a lot of flow, there wasn’t a lot of tape-to-tape passes — we got our legs moving, but we’ve got to get way more pucks and way more bodies to the net,” said Queens head coach Bob Rutz. “We’ve got to play like we did in overtime, we’ve got to play with that level of urgency, five-on-five, for 60 minutes.”
Kaely McMurtry scored RDC’s lone goal while Moriah Andrews made 24 stops in net, before being beaten on both NAIT shootout attempts.
Breanna Frasca and Alyssa Shorts scored in the game-ending skills competition for the Ooks while Renata Mastna scored their lone regulation goal. Jill Diachuk made 13 saves for the win including stopping both Rachael Hoppins and Rikki Leonard in the shootout.
It was a frustrating effort for Rutz who spent most of their practices after the Christmas break emphasizing offensive creation.
“We struggled in our own zone breaking out and we couldn’t generate any speed in the neutral zone, and if you don’t have any speed coming into their zone, you’re not really a big threat,” said Rutz. “They are a good defensive team, we just didn’t generate enough opportunities to get pucks to the net.”
One big positive is that McMurtry played possibly her best game as a Queen.
She opened the scoring at 19:43 of the first period with beautiful goal, forcing a NAIT turnover at their blue-line, then deking an Ooks defenceman and then Diachuk. It was her second goal of the season and third point.
“It was pretty but I just did what Bob taught me, trust my instincts, do my dangles, get the puck on net and score some goals,” said McMurtry. “The first half (of the season) was a little bit rough for me, I usually get a few more points than I did, but I think I’m going to pick it up here and so is the team. We’re all going to band together and power through.”
She was also a standout defensively, almost single-handedly killing a late Queens penalty before getting one final opportunity down at the NAIT end.
If Rutz can get more efforts like this out of the freshman forward it will go a long way to fixing a lot of their offensive issues.
“Kaely was one of our best players during the pre-season, she lead our team in scoring,” said Rutz. “We’re trying to light a fire under her to play with that kind of grit and determination, because she dose have the kind of skill and compete level to do that. But it’s consistency.”
The Queens got another solid game out of Andrews.
The second-year goalie looked unbeatable for much of the game, and could not be faulted on NAIT’s tying goal at 10:55 of the third period, making a big kick save on an Ooks rush, before Mastna managed to pop the puck over her shoulder.
In the shootout, Frasca beat her to the glove side on the first shot, after coming in wide and then Shorts came down the middle, got her to open up and beat her five-hole.
“She was sharp,” said Rutz. “Ever since her fourth or fifth start, she’s given us a chance to win every night, she’s been solid. In the shootout, those were two really good shots. I’m not concerned about our goaltending.”
The Queens are back in action against the Ooks tonight in Edmonton at 7 p.m. and are just two points behind the second place SAIT Trojans (5-4-1). The top three teams in the league qualify for the playoffs.
“After we play NAIT, we’ve got six games that I think are winnable, but we’re just struggling with consistency in so many areas,” said Rutz. “We just want to focus on getting points every single game, and if we do that we’ll be right there in the end.”