The Red Deer College Queens simultaneously slew their biggest dragon of the season and further cemented a playoff spot on Thursday night.
For most teams beating the last place MacEwan University Griffins (5-10-2) is not a huge deal, but RDC (8-5-4) had lost five of six Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women’s hockey contests to the Edmonton school this season. The Griffins have five wins all year.
On Thursday, however, it was the Queens who came out on top 2-1, giving them an eight-point lead over MacEwan with seven games to go.
“The message before the game was ‘Let’s burry them, we’ve got our foot on their neck,’” said Queens head coach Bob Rutz.
Casey Nicholson and Cassidy Holt scored for RDC while Moriah Andrews stopped 13 of 15 shots to pick up the win.
Tori Spencer had MacEwan’s only goal while Morgan Glover stopped 23 of the 25 shots she faced.
The Queens got the win, but it was a struggle through the first 30 minutes, as it always appears to be against the Griffins.
The game was scoreless through 20 minutes and took until 11:31 of the second period for someone to finally break through on the scoresheet, as Spencer picked a corner over Andrews’ shoulder.
But the goal appeared to galvanize the Queens.
RDC came right back down the ice, drew a penalty and Nicholson somehow managed to get a wrist shot from the point to find it’s way through the screen at 11:52.
At 17:09, Holt deflected a point-shot from Megan Jones that dove under Glover’s glove to give RDC a 2-1 lead at the intermission.
In the third period, the Queens buckled down defensively, allowing only one shot the entire frame to close out the victory.
“I really like how this team has grown, in the sense that we get down a goal and there’s not really any panic,” said Rutz. “At the beginning of the year it was ‘we’re down one goal, it’s over.’ I don’t see that anymore. It’s a good sign.”
Key to the win was their ability to get shots through from the point, something they have struggled with all season, but have been working on since October. The last few games it has worked and pucks are finally going in.
“That’s how goals are scored at any high level — get traffic and the goalie can’t stop what she can’t see,” said Rutz.
The Queens are now seven points behind the NAIT Ooks (13-2-1) for first place in the ACAC, but they will need some help from the SAIT Trojans (7-8-1) if they are to catch them.
The Queens do have a chance to close ranks with the Ooks with four games remaining between the two teams.
But tracking down NAIT and a first round bye in the playoffs is far from Rutz’s mind.
“NAIT’s a good hockey team, we would probably have to win out and they would have to lose the last six,” he said. “We’re not focused on that too much, we’re just focusing on making sure our game is solid for 60 minutes and if we end up in second, great, we’ll prepare for whoever we have to face.”
RDC plays MacEwan again on Saturday in Edmonton at 8 p.m.