by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
After a 17-year hiatus the MacEwan Griffins and Red Deer Queens squared off for bragging rights for the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) Women's Hockey Championship banner.
It was in 2001-2002 that the Queens edged the Griffins in a best-of-three series.
Now into a best-of-five-game series format for 2017-2018, would it be the Queens skating to a fourth ACAC women's crown or the Griffins defending the banner to earn their third?
Red Deer boasted two 2017-2018 ACAC First-All Conference selections with goalie Tracie Kikuchi and forward Jade Petrie.
The Griffins showcased 2017-2018 Women's Hockey Player of the Year in the presence of Carley Jewell, a third-year defensemen who had had six goals and 14 assists during the ACAC regular season.
How would their respective talents come into play?
MacEwan 2 Red Deer 1
March 1, 2018 Downtown Community Arena
March 1, 2018 saw Game 1 at Edmonton's Downtown Community Arena going in favour of the host Griffins; edging the Queens 2-1 with Jewell finding a deflected shot on her stick to score a third-period power play goal at 15:05 for the win.
"It just popped out and I saw it there," said Jewell, in an interview with Jefferson Hagen of MacEwan Athletics. "Kuch, ((Griffins goalie Tracie Kikuchi) I don't think she knew where it was. It was really lucky that it popped out to me there."
Kikuchi made 25 saves.
Griffins' goalie Sandy Helm, who was 2016-2017 ACAC Women's Hockey Player of the Year, made 18 saves.
Also scoring for the Griffins was Jessi Rampton on a first period power play 7:22.
The lone score in the middle frame was from Queens' Kirsten Baumgardt at 8:41.
Red Deer 4 MacEwan 0
March 3, 2018 Enmax Centrium
Returning to Enmax Centrium two days later, it was all Red Deer with a 4-0 shutout.
"Our execution was much better tonight. I was happy to see that we got a power play goal by going to the net. It was nice to see us rewarded for something that we've been practicing," said Queens' coach Kelly Coulter in an interview with Brent Forster. "Sandy is a very good goaltender so we need traffic around her. I thought that we executed our game plan for a full 60 minutes. Game two is done and now we have to focus on game three."
Rookie Kaitlan Linnell (Bachelor of Science Pre-Professional Veterinary Medicine) had two goals with one in the first at 12:14 and her second in the second period at 9:27.
Queens other markers came at 19:54 of the first with a Julia Murrell power play while Emily Lougheed's scored the team's fourth goal at 12:05 of the third.
Lougheed, a 5th year forward (Instrumentation Engineering Technology) had two assists as did Petrie.
Kikuchi had 21 blocks. Helm repelled 13 shots.
Griffins Sandy Heim makes a glove save - one of her 39 during Game 3 with Red Deer College's Jade Petrie on the doorstep (Len Joudrey photo)
MacEwan 3 Red Deer 1
March 8, 2018 Downtown Community Arena
Game 3 had balanced scoring for the Griffins with first period goals by Jessica Dyck, Tessa Mitchell along with a third period Nikki Reimer net breaker leading to a 3-1 victory.
Goalie Helm, from Wilderswil, Switzerland, came up big for the Griffins making 39 saves.
"That's exactly what I expected out of her," said McAlpine in an interview. "She thrives off that playoff situation. She loves it. The more shots she gets, Sandy gets better. That was to Red Deer's detriment tonight. They put 40 shots on her and she was unstoppable at times."
"The Queens battled hard tonight," said Coulter. "We got a lot of shots on net but didn't pick up the rebounds around the net."
Queens' goal came from Cassidy Anderson at 16:41 in the first.
The MacEwan Griffins celebrate with the 2017-18 ACAC women's hockey banner at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer on Friday night (RDC Athletics)
MacEwan 3 Red Deer 1
March 9, 2018 Enmax Centrium
Game 4 would be the final game in the best-of-five series with the Griffins taking advantage of power plays to score two power play goals in route to a 3-1 decision.
Of the eight goals scored by the Griffins in the championship series, four were by power play.
Amanda Murray opened the game with a power play score at 16:26 of the first.
Red Deer would tie it up on their own power play to start the middle frame with a Landry Dredall goal at 1:40.
A Chantal Ricker unassisted goal at 9:05 and a Nikki Reimer power play goal at 18:14 of the second frame rounded out the game.
Helm had saves and Kikuchi 27.
Red Deer coach Coulter gives credit where credit is due as he speaks of the MacEwan special teams in an interview: ""The Griffins are a good team and they shut us down defensively. Their special teams showed a little better tonight and ours didn't get the job done. Sometimes that is the biggest difference in the game and hats off to them. They are the defending champions for a reason and they made it hard on us. I'm very proud of our players and the effort that they gave all year."
For Lindsay MacAlpine, who was honoured as 2017-2018 ACAC Women's Hockey Coach of the Year, the defence of the title and the outcome was different from last year when they beat SAIT Trojans 3-2 in double overtime in the final match.
"You know what, I'm a little bit in shock right now," said McAlpine, in interview posted on the MacEwan Griffins website. "It was such a different win from last year because we did it in regulation.
"At the end, it came down to game management and holding that lead. Last year was an overtime win, so it was kind of a different set of emotions. But our girls played the complete 60-minute game that we needed them to. We came out with great energy and it was nice to be able to get it done in four."
According to a ACAC media release, since taking over as MacEwan's women's hockey head coach in 2012, McAlpine has amassed a 73-50-7-2 regular season record and a 9-9 playoff record (prior to the 2017-2018 ACAC final).