RED DEER – With the stingy style both teams in the ACAC women's hockey championship play, goaltending is always going to be a major storyline.
Two days after MacEwan's Sandy Heim made a game-saving stop to help deliver a 2-1 Griffins win in Game 1, it was Red Deer College netminder Tracie Kikuchi's turn in the spotlight.
On Saturday night, the first team All-Conference goalie blanked the Griffins with 21 saves in a 4-0 Queens victory to even the best-of-five series at a game apiece.
It wasn't as if the Griffins made her life too difficult, but a shutout is a shutout.
"We weren't able to put a ton of great opportunities on Kuch," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine, whose team nevertheless outshot the Queens 21-17. "If we can't put good shots on her, she's not going to let any in."
In other words, their hunt for rebounds, tips, deflections and screens wasn't near good enough.
"We definitely lacked in that area for sure," she said. "I don't think our traffic was what it needed to be. It definitely wasn't what it was like on Thursday.
"Our rebound tracking wasn't great and I think our shot selection overall probably needs to be better."
Heim made just 13 saves on 17 shots and wasn't her usual brick wall self on the evening.
"The score was definitely not indicative of the game," said McAlpine. "I wouldn't say it was a great game by either team. Lots of neutral zone play, lots of back and forth.
"They ended up capitalizing on opportunities that I would say Sandy doesn't typically give up. But she did tonight – a couple outside shots that I think she'd want back."
Kaitlin Linnell scored twice for RDC, including the game-winner when she opened the scoring 12:14 into the contest. She also scored the Queens' third goal at 9:27 of the second period.
In between was a powerplay tally by RDC captain Julia Murrell with just six seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Emily Lougheed completed a three-point night when she scored RDC's fourth goal of the evening at 12:05 of the third period.
So, the ACAC Championship is essentially down to a best of three.
Game 3 is set for Thursday, March 8 (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena), while Game 4 will go Friday, March 9 in Red Deer (7:30 p.m., Enmax Centrium). Game 5, if necessary, is scheduled for Saturday, March 10 (6 p.m., DCA).
"Best of three, we're back at home on Thursday. It's a huge game, pivotal game in the series," said McAlpine. "We talked about Red Deer being a team that never quits.
"Like I said at the outset, any team in this league can win this championship. I think it was a good mental check-in for our girls again."
ICE CHIPS … The MacEwan men's hockey team will also be facing Red Deer College next weekend. While the No. 2-seeded Griffins enjoyed a bye weekend past the first round of the playoffs, the No. 3 Kings swept No. 6 Concordia in two-straight, winning 8-1 and 4-3 … That means MacEwan and RDC will square off in one best-of-three ACAC semifinal while No. 1 NAIT and No. 5 UAlberta-Augustana, who swept No. 4 SAIT in the opening round, will meet in the other.