Watching the RDC Queens Thursday at the Arena it was hard to tell they’ve been away from competition for over a month.
In fact the Queens looked as sharp as they have all season in whipping the SAIT Trojans 5-0 in Alberta Colleges Women’s Hockey League play.
“It seems like we haven’t played for half a year, but we had good practices last week and this week,” said Queens head coach Trevor Keeper. “It was high-tempo and we tried to do a lot of game-like situations. We pushed the girls hard last night and they responded.”
It took them some time in the first period to find their legs, but once they did the Trojans were no match for their speed and tenacity. In fact, in the second period, the Queens looked as good as they have all season as they scored four times and held a 20-3 edge in shots on goal. All three SAIT shots — two of which came in the final 30 seconds — were easy saves for Camille Trautman, who recorded her second shutout of the season and lowered her league-leading goals-against-average to 1.60. Her save percentage is also tops in the league at .937.
“I thought it did take them a while to get their legs under them, but after that we did a good job of forechecking and backchecking. They put a lot of pressure on SAIT,” said Keeper. “In the second period especially our F 1 put a lot of pressure on the puck and stripped the puck carrier. And when SAIT did come back into our end our forwards worked hard to get back, which allowed our defence to stand up and stop the rush.”
Leah Boucher scored what proved to be the winning goal at 7:31 of the first period, when she took a feed from Jayna Kitchen in the slot and picked the top corner on the glove side of SAIT netminder Chelsie Lowe.
It was the second goal of the season for Boucher, who spent the last four seasons with St. Francis Xavier University after graduating from the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs.
“I was 22, had my degree and I thought I’d add a business diploma, which would help my future, so I thought why not come back and spend some time playing hockey in my home town,” explained Boucher on her decision to join the Queens. “It’s been great, I’m really enjoying it and we have great chemistry.”
Boucher played with a few of the Queens, or has coached them.
“I did play with some of the girls and I coached a few of the younger girls, so there’s a lot of familiar faces out there,” she said.
Overall the Queens have 10 players off the Chiefs.
Boucher, who also added an assist on a second-period goal by Kitchen, liked what she saw Thursday.
“We had a great week of practice and everyone was excited about getting back on the ice. We skated hard and were first on the puck.”
The Queens went into the Christmas break in second place in the league, one point back of the NAIT Ooks. That was something that didn’t sit well with the team.
“We all realize how good we can be and we needed that break to refocus and see the depth and talent we have on this team,” said Boucher. “When we stepped on the ice last Thursday we all knew this was our year.”
Two other former Sutter Fund Chiefs — Ashley Graf and Jade Petrie — also scored in the middle stanza along with Natasha Steblin.
Keeper used four lines and six defencemen, something he knows is important for the team’s success.
“When I first took over the girls program people said you didn’t need four lines because there wasn’t any body checking,” he said. “But if you roll four lines and have them play with a sprint mentality it causes the opposition to wear down, especially in the third period.”
Although the Queens didn’t scored in the final frame they held a 12-5 edge in shots and if not for the Trojans backup netminder, Hannah Brock, they would have added two or three goals.
l Trautman finished with 18 saves and needed a handful of solid in-close stops to preserve the shutout . . . The Queens had 41 shots on goal . . . The teams meet again tonight at SAIT with the Queens hosting Grant MacEwan next Thursday.