The RDC Queens could have been a bit sharper in the third period, but overall they looked like a team that will challenge for the Alberta Colleges Women’s Hockey League title this season as they downed the defending champion NAIT Ooks 3-2 at the Arena Thursday.
“They’re still a tough team, but it was amazing I could feel a different vibe throughout the dressing room all day,” said Queens fifth-year defenceman and captain Casey Nicholson. “From the coaches all the way down there was a different feeling. They’re a well-coached team, but we came out early and played our game.”
The Queens dominated play from the outset as they outshot the Ooks 16-3 in the first period but came out scoreless.
The second period saw the Ooks take the lead when Veronika Kuzelova slid the puck under Alex Frisk while on the power play at 2:24. However the Queens didn’t sit back. In fact they continued to storm the Ooks net and Julia Murrell tied the game at 5:13 when she grabbed a loose puck in front of the NAIT goal and calmly slid it past Shelby Audet.
“In the past we seemed to have letdown when we gave up a goal, but tonight that wasn’t the case,” said Nicholson. “We wanted the puck and wanted to take it to them.”
Keinyn Nordell put the Queens ahead at 12:05 slamming home a puck into the open side after a nice feed from Morgan Fraser. Nikki Connor notched what proved to be the winning goal with 6.9 seconds remaining in the middle stanza when she broke off the point and took a perfect feed from Murrell, who was the RDC player of the game.
The Ooks showed why they’re the defending championship as they came out strong in the third period and Jordyn Tibbatts scored on a rebound at 3:29. From then on they held an edge in play and dominated territorially over the final 2:30 when they pulled Audet for an extra attacker.
“The girls have to be comfortable protecting the lead,” said Queens head coach Kelly Coulter. “Our game shouldn’t change. We should stay consistent, continue pressuring them and managing the puck … don’t stray from what got us into the lead.
“Tonight they got some momentum and came at us. It was a matter of us needing to execute the way we practice. We have to be more comfortable, but then that will come with time. We did use several rookies tonight.”
Although the Ooks did have pressure over the final 2:30 Nicholson was pleased with the way they hung on.
“We had our veteran defence out there and I thought overall we stayed composed. We tried to do our job and not worry about the fact they had an extra person.”
Overall it was a good solid effort.
“I was very happy with our first two periods,” said Coulter. “We held them to eight shots and put pressure on their defence and took away their deep passes.”
The Queens will need to do more of the same tonight as they visit the Ooks, 2-3.
The win gave the Queens a 4-1 record and first place.
“I’ve been very happy with the way we’ve started the season,” said Nicholson. “We have more depth and talent than we have had and a lot of grit. We have 25 players and five lines and they all play with grit. On defence we have a lot of experience with only one true rookie (Breanne Neudorf).”
Frisk finished with 20 saves while Audet faced 36 shots. The Queens took three of four minor pen