RDC Queens forward Mary Hirsch battles for a loose puck in Game 3 of the ACAC semifinal against the NAIT Ooks Sunday at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

NAIT Ooks knock off RDC Queens in double OT, advance to ACAC Final

With a spot in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women’s hockey final on the line, it was fitting that extra time was needed to decide a winner.

There was not much separating the RDC Queens and NAIT Ooks this season and things on got tighter as the games got bigger.

That was the case Sunday, in Game 3 of the best-of-three ACAC semifinal, which needed double overtime to find a winner.

Ooks forward Jordan McMillian was the hero at 8:52 of the second overtime period, wiring a wrist shot off the rush from the faceoff dot past Queens goalie Madison Fox, who played brilliantly for the home side.

“It was pretty good, pretty exciting. Definitely a favourite moment,” said McMillian of the game-winning goal that sent her team to the ACAC Final.

That goal meant heartbreak for the Queens, whose season came to a close with the 3-2 loss. After plenty of pressure in both overtime periods and not being able to get anything past NAIT goalie Kaitlyn Slator, it was one quick rush the other way that ended it all.

“One of the girls talked about, you have to believe to succeed,” said Queens head coach Kelly Coulter.

“I don’t think we ever had a time when our team didn’t believe in each other and that’s all you can ask for. You see the tears of sorrow but to me, that just tells me that they truly loved playing for each other and playing for the crown.”

The game might not have got to overtime had it not been for Queens fourth-year captain Kirsten Baumgardt, who scored with the goalie out and 1:09 left in regulation with a rocket from the point. Her goal tied the game at two and sent it to overtime.

Her play in the series, on Sunday and throughout her career as a Queen earned plenty of praise from the RDC coach postgame.

“We talked about sticking to the game plan and anything can happen in 60 minutes. It’s only fitting that our captain, who did an outstanding job leading our team this year. Couldn’t have asked for a better captain,” said Coulter.

“That’s a legacy that she’s going to leave. There’s not one teammate in that room that has anything negative to say about Kirsten and I’m going to miss her. She’s been a big part of my time here and one of the young ladies leaving that I’m truly going to miss.”

Megan Leblanc opened the scoring for the Ooks with the only goal in the second period, before RDC responded early in the third.

Second-year Queens forward Mary Hirsh tied the game at one on a two-on-one break, wiring a wrister high past Slator. Livia Lucova stole the lead back for NAIT when she banged in a rebound at 7:05 of the final frame. That tally set up the drama from Baumgardt to tie the game.

Coulter said the game could have just as easily gone the other way, regardless he was proud of the way his team fought and battled to stay in the game.

“I thought they battled right to the end,” he said.

“Had to pull the goalie and I think they believed in each other all year long. Overtime, anything can happen. One shot, that’s the difference. I thought they competed all season. Great series, kudos to NAIT for pulling it off.”

NAIT will play the MacEwan University Griffins in the best-of-five ACAC Final next week.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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