Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Making the Olds College Broncos work for every scrap of ice all night, the MacEwan Griffins skated to a dominant and resounding 6-0 victory in the opener of their best-of-three Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women's hockey semifinal series on Thursday night.
It was a thorough and clinical beatdown as the defending ACAC champions outshot the Broncos 48-12 and sent them to the brink of elimination. MacEwan can end the first playoff series in Olds College women's hockey history in Game 2 on Saturday (2:30 p.m., Olds Sportsplex).
"I think everyone just came in and was ready to go," said forward Shyla Jans, who had two goals and an assist to pace the Griffins. "We treated it like a playoff game, but also we treated it like any other game, too – just to be ready for it.
"Obviously, we used our speed."
Did they ever. At times it seemed like the Griffins had an extra player on the ice – so limited was the free space and time for the Broncos.
"We went in with the mentality that our game has to look the same regardless of the team we're playing," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine, whose squad finished 26 points ahead of the Broncos in the standings. "We knew it would be a different type of challenge to play Olds. They come out hard and I think they got a little deflated a little earlier than I expected out of them.
"We kept pushing and pushed through a rougher third period, and we capitalized on some opportunities that we sometimes haven't in the past."
Strategy No. 1 was to junk up the front of the net with as many bodies, sticks, arms and legs as possible so that Broncos' workhorse goaltender Jaydlin Spooner – who led the ACAC with 558 saves in the regular season – couldn't make a clean save.
MacEwan's opening tally just 4:14 into the contest was case in point. Kyrelle Skoye sifted a shot from the point through a mess of traffic and past Spooner.
"That's been a huge focus for us, actually since September," said McAlpine. "Our team sometimes gets playing on the outside with puck control and not actually getting pucks to the net. I think we've done a way better job in the last half year.
"I think we've got a lot of good goalies in our league, so it's an area we need to keep building on."
Olds' best chance of the game came with two minutes left in the first period when the puck stopped on a bad patch of ice inside the Griffins' blueline and tripped up MacEwan's defence, allowing Tori Chenier to get two whacks at a puck in tight while short-handed. But Sandy Heim coolly turned her aside.
Heim made 12 saves for a shutout, many of them several minutes apart.
"Her and I had that chat pre-game where she's got to find that line of not being too intense but staying involved in the game," said McAlpine. "There's times when she didn't get a shot for upwards of 10 minutes and she was able to make a key save for us and she did great."
Not long after that Olds chance, MacEwan rookie Amanda Murray shelved a shot from the low slot just as a powerplay was expiring to give the Griffins a 2-0 lead heading to the room.
Amazingly, despite running into some early penalty trouble, the Griffins still outshot the Broncos 17-3 in the first period.
The second period was more of the same with MacEwan pouring on the pressure. Just 3:33 into it, Jans stabbed home a loose rebound sitting outside the crease.
Less than three minutes later, enjoying another powerplay, the Griffins made it 4-0 when Carley Jewell walked in from the blueline around a defender and wired a shot under Spooner's glove.
With 24 seconds left in the frame, Dominique Scheurer raced down the left wing and sent a perfect pass in for Nikki Reimer, who, with a defender draped all over her, snapped a backhander past Spooner for a 5-0 advantage.
Jans scored one more at 4:18 of the third period when Spooner was out of position after a save and the Griffins forward beat two defenders trying to guard an empty cage.
"It was just net traffic," said MacEwan player of the game Jans about both her tallies. "And I think that's one of our biggest focuses is to get the net traffic in front of their goalie because obviously their goalie's pretty hot coming into playoffs."
ICE CHIPS … Besides Jans, four other Griffins had multi-point games (Skoye and Murray with a goal and an assist, and Raven Beazer and Chantal Ricker with two helpers each) … Spooner made 42 saves for Olds in a losing effort … Faith Volk was named player of the game for the Broncos … Should Game 3 of the series be required, it will be Sunday (1 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).