The Red Deer College Queens finally were rewarded for out-playing their competition.
The theme all Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women’s hockey season has been to dominate on the ice but come up short where it mattered most: On the scoreboard.
On Thursday night at the Red Deer Arena, the Queens once again appeared destined for a frustrating loss, but rallied from two goals down to beat the first place Ooks 3-2 in a shootout with captain Rachael Hoppins scoring the winner.
“In two years, that’s the hardest I’ve seen this team play consistently and never give up,” said Hoppins. “We were down 2-0 when a lot of teams might fold, there wasn’t an ounce of doubt on that bench. We kept pushing through and we knew we could do it.”
Jessica Anderson and Ashley Graf scored for RDC (2-4-1) while Moriah Andrews made 16 saves through over time and stopped all three shots she faced in the shootout.
Breanna Frasca and Jordyn Tibbatts replied for NAIT (5-1-1) while veteran goalie Jill Diachuk stopped 28 shots in the loss.
For head coach Bob Rutz it was a validating win, after preaching the same thing all season despite falling to the bottom of the ACAC standings. But the Queens finally managed to get to the net and start shovelling rebounds home.
“They’ve been doing that consistently and getting bodies to the net consistently, but we just haven’t finished, and we did that tonight,” he said. “Sometimes when you struggle you got to keep repeating the same message. But all of them have bought in from Day 1.”
The Ooks jumped out to a 2-0 lead at 17:06 of the first period, but the Queens did not shrink away.
Anderson got RDC on the scoreboard at 5:57 of the second period, pouncing on a rebound off of Casey Nicholson’s deflected point shot.
Graf tied it up at 10:44 of the third period on the power play as she buried another rebound, this time off a Megan Jones point shot.
Neither team managed to score in the five minute, four-on-four overtime, sending the game to a shootout for the second time in a week for the Queens. Last week against the MacEwan University Griffins they were caught unaware regarding the implementation of the skills competition to decide games, but this week they were prepared.
RDC’s Rikki Leonard was stopped on the Queens’ first attempt but Hoppins scored on their next shot, getting Diachuk to go down with a fake and then roofing the puck with a back hand.
“That’s my go-to (move) and it paid off tonight,” said Hoppins.
“I watched Rikki and she had the right idea, she had her moving, but didn’t quite get it high enough. I thought I would try and get it to go a little higher.”
Andrews’ effort was key after a shaky first period, she was unbeatable the rest of the way and stopped all three NAIT shooters, including 2012-13 scoring champ Sheri Bowles, in the shootout.
“I know she struggled early on in the year and would like a lot of those goals back … but we got down 2-0 and she just shut the door and made all of the saves she needed too and was outstanding in the shootout, she didn’t give their shooters much room,” said Rutz.
The two teams have a rematch tonight in Edmonton at 7 p.m. It’s still early enough in the season where the Queens can make a run; the win ties them with the SAIT Trojans (2-3-1) for the third and final playoff spot with five points.
“Every game we’ve got to treat it like a playoff game with lots of urgency” said Rutz. “They’re handling the pressure really well, they’re cutting down on the mistakes, we just got to keep going to the net and burying our chances. I believe in this team and I think in February we’ll be playing our best hockey and we’ll be tough to compete against.”