Bender, Emerson lead Griffins to 2-0 triumph over Queens

Natalie Bender made 17 saves as the Griffins shut out the visiting Red Deer College Queens 2-0 on Saturday night (Matthew Jacula photo).
Natalie Bender made 17 saves as the Griffins shut out the visiting Red Deer College Queens 2-0 on Saturday night (Matthew Jacula photo).

Declan Riley / For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Rookie goaltender Natalie Bender recorded her fifth shutout of the season as the MacEwan Griffins toppled the crown, avenging a Thursday loss with a 2-0 win over the visiting Red Deer College Queens on Saturday night.

Raylene Emerson and Shyla Jans both scored while Bender made 17 saves for a victory that stretches the Griffins' lead atop the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference standings to four points.

"It was a big step up from our last game on Thursday night," Emerson, who was named player of the game, said of a 1-0 loss to the Queens. "We really picked up the pace and really played our game."

Eager to bounce back from that defeat, the Griffins battled hard early, finally finding the twine with 4:09 left in the opening period. Emerson found the puck in a scramble of bodies in front, beating goalie Tracie Kikuchi.

The Griffins, showing an improvement on their discipline – an area that Head Coach Lindsay McAlpine has mentioned needs work – only took one penalty in the first, a change from previous games.

"We know heading into the final stretch that teams will capitalize on the power play when we take a terrible penalty, and I think we were disciplined, not only in terms of penalties but also in terms of our structure tonight," said McAlpine.

Though the second period was scoreless for both the Griffins and Queens, both teams battled hard, treating the Downtown Community Arena crowd to a fine stretch of women's hockey. The Griffins' defensive core stood out especially, while Bender looked cool, calm and collected, stopping a bevy of shots from RDC, en route to the goose-egg.

The Queens brought the heat in the third period, looking to tie the game, with multiple chances in front of the Griffins' net along with a strong physical presence. With 2:35 left, the Queens called a timeout, looking to make a push and tie the game.

With their goalie pulled, the Queens made an attempt, but with a mix of bad changes and missed passes, the Griffins capitalized and Jans potted an empty-net goal.

Kikuchi made 22 saves in a losing effort for the Queens, who fall to 10-5-2 on the season. 

MacEwan improves to 13-2-3. Next up for the Griffins is a two-game showdown with cross-town rival NAIT (12-2-1), who are four points behind MacEwan with three games in hand. The Ooks will host on Jan. 26 (7 p.m., NAIT Arena), while the rematch will be played at the DCA (Jan. 27, 6 p.m.).