Big moments are meant for big-time players and there may not be a more important player to the Red Deer College Queens than Rachael Hoppins.
The fifth year captain, who was honoured before Thursday’s Game 1 of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women’s hockey semifinal, scored once and added an assist to spark RDC to a 4-2 win over the SAIT Trojans at the Red Deer Arena.
“It’s huge to win that first one, because if you lose, you’re facing elimination in their barn, right off the hop,” said Queens head coach Bob Rutz.
“If we can play that same pace and same intensity that we did in the third, then I like how we match up against them.”
Kaley McMurtry, Micaela Smith and Ashley Graf also scored for RDC while Moriah Andrews made 14 saves for the win.
Aly Pearsall and Cara Daudlin replied for SAIT while Laticia Castillo made 28 saves in the loss.
Hoppins made her impact in the second period.
With the Trojans up 1-0, she chipped home a pass from McMurtry to tie the game at 6:15. Then late in the in the frame with SAIT up 2-1, she set up McMurtry to tie the game once again.
“We were playing tense in the first, so to get that goal to tie it up, I think we were a lot more relaxed heading into the third and we just found that extra level and cranked it up in the third to finish it off,” said Hoppins.
Playing from behind is a skill the Queens have mastered in the second semester this season, having come back a number of times to win games.
“We get down, we’re confident, we know we can score, we know we can come back,” said Rutz. “We’re just believing in each other and believing in the process and it seems to be working for us.”
The captain has played a major role in the club’s reassurance this year, centring the first line, she finished third in the league in scoring and first on the Queens with 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 24 games. The 18 points is a career high, topping the 14 she scored last year.
She finished with 60 points in 108 games, placing her 24th on the ACAC’s all-time scoring list.
But she, along with the rest of her teammates, are not done yet. This was just the first game of the playoffs. Game 2 of the best-of-three semifinal goes Saturday at SAIT Arena in Calgary with Game 3, if needed, set for Sunday at 3:15 p.m. back at the Red Deer Arena.
“We don’t want to come back here, we just want to go down there and get it done,” said Hoppins.
NOTES — The Queens won six of the eight games the two teams played during the regular season … The first place NAIT Ooks await the winner of the series … The Queens were 0-for-1 on the power play, the Trojans were 1-for-3 with the man-advantage … Look for Summer Roberts to get the start in net on Saturday for RDC.