Megan Jones’ magical season continued for the Red Deer College Queens over the weekend.
The fourth-year defenceman was named Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Women’s Hockey player of the year and then set up the winning goal in Game 2 of the league final on Saturday.
The 3-2 win over the NAIT Ooks tied the best-of-five series with Game 3 in Edmonton on Thursday and Game 4 back at the Red Deer Arena on Saturday at 3 p.m. Game 5, if needed, will go Sunday in Edmonton.
“I can’t speak enough about the girls in the room, they find a way to get it done,” said Queens head coach Bob Rutz, pointing to two critical power play goals and a dominating second period.
“If you want to get the job done against a good team like NAIT, that’s the way you’ve got to play … We just have to go after them hard and don’t give their skilled players any time or space. I think we match up well against them and I’m looking forward to Game 3.”
Casey Nicholson, Jena Holden and Cassidy Holt scored for RDC while Summer Roberts made 23 saves for the win.
The Ooks responded with goals from Karli Reeve and Sherri Bowles scored for NAIT while Jill Diachuk stopped 22 of 24 RDC shots.
The key goal came from Holt, 1:04 into the third period as Jones’ shot ricochetted in off her fellow blueliner to put the Queens up 3-1.
The Ooks cut the lead to one goal at 13:49 as Reeve’s snap shot eluded Roberts, one she would like to have back.
Still they managed to hang on and tie up the series with their arch nemesis.
“NAIT’s was always nipping at our heels and we knew they were going to fight back, so it was excellent to have that extra goal when they got their second one,” said Jones.
“I’d hate to see them win again, because they’ve always knocked us out of the playoffs … so definitely up against them it would be pretty sweet to beat them out.”
Jones, a Conquest, Sask., native, was as surprised as anyone to be named ACAC player of the year in her final year. She lead all defencemen in scoring with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 24 games and was the backbone of one of the better defensive units in the league that galvanized in the second half of the season.
“Megan’s a great kid and she’s been a real solid defenceman for us this year,” said Rutz. “She’s been one of the most improved players in our program the last two years that I’ve been here … and it’s nice to see good kids get rewarded for their hard work.”
It has been quite the send off for the fourth year nursing student, who beat out veteran teammates like defenceman Nikki Connor and Queens leading scorer Rachael Hoppins — both named ACAC first-team all conference.
“I wouldn’t have voted for myself even, but it was awesome for my confidence to get that,” said Jones, who is the first Queens player to receive the award.
“It’s just awesome, especially with all of the support from back home and from Bob and past coaches, it’s excellent. To have all of the support of the girls on the team, it’s lots of fun, a huge honour.”
There is one final award that Jones wants to win, and it’s the one that means the most, the ACAC championship. They still have a hard battle to come to knock off the Ooks twice more.
“They really bring it in their home rink, they’ve got a big rink with lots of support, so I expect nothing less of them than tonight,” said Jones. “They always come hard, it doesn’t matter where.”