It took the Red Deer College Queens 20 minutes to get going in their home opener, and once they did, they went blow for blow with the MacEwan University Griffins.
The problem was the first 20 minutes put them in a hole they were unable to dig out of, as they lost 2-1 in the first game of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women’s hockey season at Red Deer Arena on Thursday night.
Mak Bauer and Eva Lovsin scored for MacEwan while Brenna McNulty made 23 saves for the win.
Second year left winger Kaylea Renz replied for RDC while Moriah Andrews made 23 saves.
“I think we were just really excited to get out there and our nerves got a hold of us a bit,” said Renz. “The nerves settled down and we got into the flow of things a little bit better.”
The slow start proved frustrating for head coach Bob Rutz.
“We’re capable of a much higher compete level, we had a lengthy meeting after the game and the girls agreed,” he said. “We had a tough exhibition schedule and played some tough teams at a way faster pace than what you saw out there tonight … I think we’re capable of much more.”
The Griffins opened the scoring on the power play at 5:02 of the first period as Bauer swept a loose puck past a sprawling Andrews into the open net.
RDC did manage to tie it up at 7:39 with Renz’s power-play marker, but Lovsin put the Griffins ahead for good at 13:43, snapping a shot past Andrews, one the keeper likely would want back.
However, the Queens settled down after the opening frame and kept pace with the Griffins. The only problem was they were unable to beat McNulty a second time with the Winnipeg native making several big saves to keep the Queens in chase position.
“We did some good things in the second and third period but not enough,” said Rutz. “We have high expectations for this program, but the expectations are not so high that they can’t achieve them. Our older players have to be better for 60 minutes, they have to lead the way.”
One positive for the Queens is that Renz got on the scoreboard.
Scoring is seemingly always and issue for the club and this year they are going with a scoring by committee mentality. If they can get Renz going, that will be a big boost for their offence.
The Onoway product scored one goal in nine games as a defensive forward last season, but has shown the potential so far to take on a bigger role.
“Last year she killed the odd penalty for us and played on the fourth line, this year she worked hard on her foot work this summer and has been a pleasant surprise on the offensive side of the puck,” said Rutz “She’s one of our most improved players from the start to this point. We’ve got other girls that can play a huge offensive role and if Kaylea wants to do that too, that’s only going to make us better.”
She scored her goal by going to the net on the power play and redirecting a Megan Jones point shot into the net.
“We work on that quite a bit in practice,” said Renz.
“We try and generate the high shot and we focus on getting a lot of traffic to the net and dig in those rebounds, not necessarily getting that first shot through but making sure we’re getting a shot on every chance.”
The two teams will play again tonight, this time in Edmonton at 8:15 p.m. The Queens will be looking to return the favour and spoil MacEwan’s home opener and get the all important split.
“It’s huge, especially at the start of the season, we want to get a win this weekend to get us going,” said Renz. “I believe in our team, I think we will. The jitters are gone now and we’ll come out hard and have a full game.”
NOTES — Andrews was named player of the game for the Queens while forward Courtney Zajac got the honour for MacEwan, assisting on both goals … RDC was 1-for-7 on the power play while MacEwan was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.