Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Leading for the majority of Friday's Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women's hockey game, the MacEwan Griffins ran out of steam in the third period and lost 2-1 to the cross-town rival NAIT Ooks on Friday night.
"Not to discredit NAIT, they played a great game," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "They played with high emotion and I don't know that our girls were able to match that tonight.
"Not to blame the week that we've had, but I think it unfortunately showed a little bit tonight. We were a little bit drained and we just couldn't find a way."
Dominique Scheurer gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead 13:46 into the showdown between the two top teams in the ACAC standings. It held up for 39 minutes and 42 seconds of tight defensive action.
That's when Julia Wing tied the contest for NAIT before Ooks teammate Jenn Gaeckle potted the game-winner with 2:31 left. Hemmed in their own zone after a successful penalty kill and unable get fresh legs on the ice, the Griffins coughed up the puck in front and Gaeckle beat goaltender Sandy Heim.
"We had a bit of a defensive breakdown," said McAlpine. "Our D had been out there for three minutes and a couple of our forwards got stranded. We ended up putting an errant puck on her tape in the slot and she capitalized."
In a game as tightly contested as Friday's, there was no coming back for the Griffins.
"It was a really back and forth game," said McAlpine. "More so tonight than the other games we've played, I actually thought it was a defensive battle – tons of neutral zone back and forth.
"The 1-0 goal for us was a nice shot from the point, but it was a bit of a lucky bounce. It ended up going off their player and in. And then their (first) goal was kind of the exact same – a nice shot, but it bounced off one of our girls and ended up going in off the post.
"A typical NAIT-MacEwan game," she summed up. "We just gave up a prime scoring opportunity late in the game and couldn't dig ourselves out."
Heim made 19 saves for MacEwan, while Kaitlyn Slator stopped 23 for NAIT.
With the result, NAIT (15-2-2-0) now moves five points clear of MacEwan (13-4-1-0) for top spot in the ACAC standings, but the Griffins have a game in hand and a chance at redemption in the rematch on Saturday (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).
"One of our leaders brought it up that the joy of university hockey is we get a chance at them tomorrow night," said McAlpine. "As much as first place is maybe a little bit farther away from us right now, I think us setting the tone for wherever we might meet NAIT in the playoff run is a huge reason for us to come out firing tomorrow."