Jason Hills, For MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – You hear hockey broadcasters and coaches sometimes use the term 'that puck had eyes'. It's used to describe when the puck someway somehow just finds the back of the net in a unforeseen fashion.
The puck seemed to have its eyes closed for the MacEwan Griffins in a tough 3-2 loss to the SAIT Trojans Saturday night at the Downtown Community Arena.
A disallowed goal due to a quick whistle, two posts, four crossbars, and a plethora of other high-quality scorning chances went the wrong way for the Griffins.
MacEwan drops to 9-3-0-0 and out of first place in the Alberta College Athletics Conference standings (now behind 10-2-0-0 NAIT), while SAIT improves to 2-10-0-0.
"We've had a couple of 'one of those nights' this year. We have to bear down when we get those chances, especially in the dirty areas, and tonight we got a reminder about it, and we needed that push," said Griffins assistant coach Katie Stewart.
"It wasn't our worst game by any means, we had some real bad bounces, but we can't use that as an excuse."
SAIT's Davina McLeod broke a 1-1 tie with the go-ahead marker 6:48 into the third period, and Kelsey Patterson added an empty-netter before Jaimie Erickson scored with 57 seconds left to make it 3-2.
Elisha Oswald made 33 saves for her first win of the season, while Natalie Bender made 33 saves in the loss for the Griffins.
MacEwan's Jordyn Reimer and SAIT's Shea Dolan traded first period goals.
Reimer gave the Griffins a 1-0 lead at the 5:59 mark. After Amanda Murray's shot from the slot hit the crossbar, Reimer crashed the net and buried her fourth of the season.
But SAIT responded nicely after Reimer's goal and Dolan made a move from behind the net, ripping a shot over the shoulder of Bender to tie the game 7:06 later.
MacEwan tilted the ice in the second period and had several opportunities to break the game open.
Karlie Bell thought she gave MacEwan a lead as she drove the net and put a rebound past Oswald, but the referee lost sight of the puck and blew the whistle, thereby nullifying the goal.
Moments later, Jessi Rampton made a nice move behind the net and set up Shyla Jans in the slot. She ripped a hard wrist shot that hit the post.
Then Nikki Reimer hit a crossbar and, late in the second period, Jans hit the bar, too.
"We were happy with our game, but it came down to that extra fight and effort to get the puck in the net. We need to bury those chances. We had some tough bounces tonight," said Rampton.
"When you have an open net or you're hitting crossbars and we have a good power play and we don't cash in like we know we can, it can be frustrating, but we have to find ways to battle through it."
Losing to SAIT stings for MacEwan as the Trojans sit at the bottom of the ACAC standings, but they know as the two-time defending ACAC champions, teams that visit the DCA are going to bring their best.
The Griffins are learning that it doesn't matter who the competition is — they're going to have big targets on their backs.
MacEwan had a bad bounce in the offensive zone that led to McLeod's breakaway goal. The Griffins battled to find the equalizer. They caught another tough break that led to the empty-netter that turned out to be a dagger after Erickson's power goal in the final minute made it a 3-2 game.
"It sucks to lose this game, but we can take a lot of valuable lessons from tonight," said Stewart.
"We've had three losses this year, and they've all been the same way, and we're learning those lessons. We want to be a team that it doesn't come down to that one bounce.
"We played until the final whistle. I liked that we battled to right to the end. If we can iron out those valleys we're going to be a really tough team to beat."