RDC Queens close gap on SAIT

The RDC Queens don’t have a lot of room to play with if they want to make the Alberta Colleges Women’s Hockey League playoffs.

Queens 2 Trojans 1

The RDC Queens don’t have a lot of room to play with if they want to make the Alberta Colleges Women’s Hockey League playoffs.

The team they have to catch is the fourth-place SAIT Trojans, who came into a home-and-home series with the Queens, five points up in the standings.

The Queens, who have two games in hand and seven remaining, cut into that deficit with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Trojans at the Arena Thursday.

“It’s a swing weekend focus as we have two games in hand,” said Queens head coach Trevor Keeper. “But we told the girls not to think about the four points, or the games in hand, as we’re trying to stay in our 24 hour bubble. It’s hard not to look ahead sometimes, but we did a good job tonight.

“That’s two points SAIT can’t get back.”

Keeper liked the way the girls were focused for three periods.

“There were some speed bumps along the way, which happens, but we stuck to the game plan and kept pressing. We’re staring to have some confidence and we know how to win the one-goal or the tied games.”

Veteran centre Rachael Hoppins was the Queens star of the game as scored the tying goal, on a first-period power play, then made a perfect pass to Megan Abt in the slot for the game-winner, also on the power play at 13:21 of the third period.

“Our line got a couple goals (in a 3-2 win) at NAIT and we were pumped and that confidence carried over to this weekend,” said Hoppins. “Earlier in the year I think we were all gripping our sticks to tight, but we’re doing a good job of getting pucks to the net and we’re starting to pick up the wins.”

Hoppins, much like Keeper, stressed they didn’t go into Thursday’s game with any thoughts other than on the game.

“We can’t worry about the next game, or next week,” she said. “We needed to concentrate on these games. We did the job tonight, now we can look ahead to Saturday.”

The power play is something the Queens have worked on extra hard and it paid off Thursday.

“I was impressed how we moved the puck and got some good shots on goal by our defence. I was lucky to get that rebound on the first one,” said Hoppins.

“The power play is difficult and time-consuming,” said Keeper. “It doesn’t start to pay off until you put a lot of hours into it. We’ve been good in practice and since Christmas we’ve put in a lot of hours against our penalty killers.

“We’re just trying to keep it simple, but also every two or three passes get a shot. The goal where Rachael passed from the half wall to Megan in the slot is exactly what we’ve been working on and they’re staring to execute in games.”

Erik Lodge has also spent a lot of time with the defence and working on getting their shots on goal and away from a defender.

“He’s done a great job of working on the little moves at their blueline and stepping out so we’re not hitting a lot of shin pads,” added Keeper.

The Queens finished with 39 shots on Trojans netminder Chelsie Lowe while Camille Trautman made 19 saves. She had no chance on the goal by Lindsey Audia, who opened the scoring at 7:26 of the first period. Overall Trautman was rock solid.

“She’s always solid,” said Hoppins. “Rarely does she have a bad game and it makes me feel good with her back there.”