The RDC Queens have the experience and talent not to let a little thing like a hot goaltender bother them.
Instead of folding when they trailed 2-0 after two periods and were being stoned by NAIT Ooks netminder Tehnille Gard, the Queens rallied with a pair of goals in the third period before pulling out a 3-2 overtime victory in Alberta College Women’s Hockey League play at the Arena Thursday.
Ashley Graf shovelled home a loose puck during a scramble at 3:06 of the five-minute overtime period to give the Queens the victory.
“It was a team effort,” said Graf, a fourth-year centre from Red Deer. “We continued to do the little things and got a strong effort from the first through the fourth lines. Our experience helped a lot.”
Gard was the story of the game, finishing with 43 saves, including 13 in the first period and 17 in the second. She stopped Jade Petrie and newcomer Chanelle Petrie on breakaways in the first period and Chanelle Petrie again in the second. Her best save was a brilliant stop off Rikki Leonard, who one-timed a cross-crease pass from Graf while killing a penalty.
“She stood on her head,” said Graf, who missed the end of the first half of the season with a concussion.
“But instead of getting down we continued to do the little things and battled hard on the penalty kill, power play and five-on-five. Perseverance was the key.”
Queens head coach Kelly Coulter agreed.
“Our girls stuck with the game plan,” he said. “We wanted to skate with them and forecheck as hard as we could and force them to turn over the puck. We did that with 46 shots, but kudos to their goalie, she kept them in it. But we were relentless and we told them to keep at them and it would come.”
Kendra Hanson scored in the first period and Erika Iglesias in the second for the Ooks.
Julia Murrell finally got the Queens on the board with a tip in of a Megan Jones point shot at 12:23 of the third period while on the power play. Kaely McMurtry tied the score at 18:27 just as netminder Alex Frisk reached the bench in favour of an extra attacker.
The win gave the Queens a league-leading 11-2-1 record and left them nine points up on SAIT, Grant MacEwan and NAIT (6-6-2).
The Ooks did look sharper early, but then they played a pair of exhibition games last weekend while the Queens didn’t play during the month-long break.
“We did look a bit rusty early,” said Coulter, whose squad lost 2-1 to the Ooks at NAIT Wednesday.
“It was important to bounce back today,” said Graf. “It’s also important that just because we’re on top of the mountain we don’t get complacent. We have to take it game-by-game and not start thinking we’re hot stuff.”
Frisk finished with 16 saves, but was solid, although she would have liked the first goal back as it somehow trickled between her pads from the side of the net.
“This was her first game back and she was fine,” said Coulter. “She’s kept us in a lot of games when we’re not great, so it’s important to pick her up as well.”
The Queens also added Jessica Anderson and Chanelle Petrie during the break.
Anderson is in her fourth season with the Queens, but missed the first half of the season because of injury. Petrie played two years ago with SAIT.
“They both add experience and energy,” said Coulter. “Jessica was injured while Chanelle was in school but wasn’t sure she could play because of her classes. She played with the (Junior A Central Alberta) Amazons and felt she had the time to come out.”
The Queens face Olds in a home-and-home series next week — Thursday in Olds and Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Arena.