Jennifer West always had an idea she would like to play hockey for the Red Deer College Queens. It just took a little longer than the 20-year-old netminder anticipated.
West left Red Deer in 2012 to play her final year of midget with the Pacific Steelers in Vancouver. Following that year she thought she would return to RDC, but received an offer to play with the University of Lethbridge.
“RDC was on my radar but I received the U of L offer and it seemed to be a chance to play in the CIS,” explained West, who joined the Queens this season
“It didn’t work out in Lethbridge as I never dressed for a game, so I didn’t use any eligibility,” added West following a 25 save performance in a 2-1 win over the Grant MacEwan University Griffins at the Arena Thursday.
The following year she stayed in Lethbridge, but played junior A hockey.
“I wanted to just concentrate on my education, but I missed playing competitive hockey. The junior league is good for players who don’t play college or CIS, or just want to have some fun. It’s certainly fun, but it’s not really competitive and I missed that.”
It took some time for her to get back into the swing of things this season, but feels more comfortable.
“It was hard to start as I didn’t play the year at the U of L and then last year wasn’t that competitive so it was like being away for two years,” she said. “But I’m getting there and I have such a strong team and a veteran defence around me which helps.”
West and Alex Frisk have shared goaltending duties so far this season and possess the top goals-against average in the league at 1.09. West lowered her goals-against-average to 1.26 Thursday with a .947 save percentage. Frisk is a 0.99 and .954 respectively.
“We work well together and support each other,” said West, who was a little unfortunate on the lone goal against her Thursday when Shanya Schwetz knocked the puck in off a RDC defender who tried to take the puck out in front of the net.
Other than that West was solid.
“The huge thing was our defence did a great job of moving players out from in front and I saw every shot,” she said.
Queens head coach Kelly Coulter said they’ve been working on that part of their game.
“We’ve been working in practice on taking away a team’s time and space and boxing out in front of our net,” he said. “We did a good job of that tonight.”
Emily Swier opened the scoring for the Queens at 8:47 of the first period when she was left alone in front and lifted a backhand shot high to the glove side of Sandy Heim. Schwetz tied it at 8:49 of the second period with Nikki Connor scoring the winning goal on a two-man advantage when she came in off the point, took a perfect pass from Ashley Graf and beat Heim to the glove side.
Overall the game was a bit sloppy and the Queens didn’t look as sharp as they have been most of the first half of the season.
“We were a little rusty after a week off and our puck management could improve,” said Coulter. “We didn’t want to get into then north-south style of game they like playing, but you have to win some of those games as well.”
The win moved the 7-1-1 Queens into first place, one point up on the Griffins, 7-4-0, who they face again tonight in Edmonton. RDC does have two games in hand.
The Queens finished with 24 shots on Heim and took three of six minor penalties. The Queens host SAIT next Thursday in their final home game before the Christmas break.