Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Scoring woes have traditionally come in bunches for the MacEwan Griffins women's hockey team.
After scoring just twice during a two-game weekend sweep to NAIT following Saturday's 3-1 defeat, the Griffins have just four goals to their credit in three-straight losses and have tumbled out of top spot in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference standings.
It's a wakeup call, to say the least, for a team that's dominated the ACAC loop with three-straight championships and seemed on their way to being heavy favourites for a fourth after opening the season with seven-consecutive wins.
"We can look at it that way, but if I'm being honest, it's a little more reality in the ACAC," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "I think at the outset, we obviously got a sweep against NAIT, but then we played SAIT and Olds. Now we've kind of come back to playing the Red Deer's and NAIT's back to back.
"It's a bit more of a gut check and realizing those two teams any night can beat us."
The shot clock would indicate how MacEwan deserved a better fate on both nights against their cross-town rivals this weekend. But they lost 2-1 to the Ooks on Friday, despite outshooting them 40-25, and fell on Saturday after also dominating the shot clock 28-20.
In both cases, rookie Ooks goaltender Ashley Smith was the difference as she posted an otherworldly .971 save percentage against MacEwan over the weekend.
"We're complacent with beating a team on the shot clock," said McAlpine. "It's great we put 40 shots up, but we're a little hesitant to get into the hard areas of the ice, create lanes, get more physical at the net front and fight to bury loose pucks. That's kind of the area of the game we need to focus on more."
Jayme Doyle opened the scoring for the Griffins on Saturday midway through the first period with her fourth of the season when she capitalized off a strong MacEwan forecheck by driving past a defender and snapping a shot low blocker side past Smith.
But after Brittney Savard and Julia Wing beat Brianna Sank in the second period to give the Ooks the lead, the Griffins ran into a wall in Smith. They weren't without their chances, including a glorious breakaway opportunity by Jill MacWilliam late in the third period that ended in a highlight-reel save for the Ooks goaltender.
Jordan McMillan hit an empty net with 16 seconds left to ice it.
"You can look at it one way that it was a hot rookie goalie who came in," said McAlpine. "We'd never faced her until this weekend, so credit to her. But the whole weekend exposed some areas of the game that we need to be better in."
MacEwan and NAIT have matching 7-3-0-0 records and are tied for second in the ACAC standings, three points behind Red Deer College (8-1-1-0).