The Red Deer College Queens appear to have turned their Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women’s hockey season around.
With a 1-0 win over the SAIT Trojans (4-4-1) on Thursday at the Red Deer Arena, they have points in three straight games and five of the last four. The Queens (3-4-2) are now threatening to climb out of the league’s basement, where they have resided all season.
“We know what’s at stake and these are two important games for us,” said Queens assistant coach Laura Salomons, who was filling in for head coach Bob Rutz who was away on a personal matter. “I though the girls handled themselves very well in the last couple of minutes, they were composed, they made some good plays and that’s the kind of team we have — a good character team.”
Jessica Anderson scored RDC’s lone goal while Moriah Andrews made 10 saves for her first shutout of the season.
Laticia Castillo made 25 saves in the loss but did not get any offensive support.
For the Queens, the game threatened to turn out like so many of their losses this season. They controlled play all game, but could not put the puck in the night despite a large lead on the shot clock.
Anderson finally solved Castillo — who had a sub-1.00 goals against average coming into the game — 4.39 into the third period, taking a cross-crease pass from Casey Nicholson and burying it five hole.
“We’d been having problems scoring the last few games, so it was very exciting when I got that goal and (hopefully I) can keep building from that,” said Anderson.
Their dogged focus pulled the Queens through on Thursday night. Already without their head coach on the bench, they lost one of their best players, Ashley Graf, to a shoulder injury in the third period. The game was halted for 30 minutes waiting for an ambulance as she writhed on the ice in pain.
Trojans defenceman Erin McLean received a five minute major and a game misconduct for body checking on the play.
If it was a men’s game it would have been a clean play, as she hit Andrews from the side, but the veteran Queens centreman was at an awkward distance from the boards and went in hard.
Both teams went to their respective dressing rooms during the unexpected break.
“That’s tough when you come in and see a player go down and you know the ambulance is being called, to go and sit in the room for a while, we just told them to stay focused and try to be ready,” said Salomons.
Perhaps the most focused player on the ice was Andrews who could have probably taken a nap during the first 55 minutes of the game. She saw two shots in the first period and only one in the second period — none of them particularly dangerous. With about five minutes to go, the Trojans had fired only six pucks her way.
But she earned her keep the rest of the way with several big saves to preserve the lead.
“She’s awesome, she’s really good at staying focused, so we trust her and she did her job good,” said Anderson.
The win brought RDC to within one point of the final playoff spot in the four-team league, behind SAIT and the MacEwan University Griffins who both have nine points — the NAIT Ooks lead the ACAC with 13. A win tonight in the return game in Calgary would leap frog the Queens into at least third place.
“This is a big momentum builder for us,” said Anderson. “Going into tomorrow’s game we needed this win, and we’re excited about tomorrow.”