Riding a season-best, four-game winning streak into their last contest before exams and Christmas break, the University of Calgary Dinos women's hockey team had high hopes about continuing their winning ways and finishing off the first half of their season with another "W." However, things didn't go according to plan as the 'saurs were outplayed by their opponents, the Grant MacEwan College Griffins, for the majority of the game and wound up on the wrong side of a close 2-1 shootout in their only action this past weekend.
The Dinos, who battled tooth and claw in every game over the past two weeks, were unable to sustain their ferocious ways any longer and ran out of steam right before the end of the stretch. Already missing several players due to injury and illness, the extensive wear and tear on the team was evident, as they appeared tired and banged-up compared to their healthier, fresher adversaries. The girls came back from being down early and put forth a determined effort late in the third, forcing extra time which guaranteed them leaving St. Albert with at least one point, but ultimately fell inches short of extending their winning streak to five games as the Griffins stole the show in the shootout.
"Given the circumstances with everyone injured and sick I would say that we did pretty well," commented goalie Katie Urness, who made 27 saves on the day and was awarded Dinos player of the game. "It didn't go our way, but we ended up getting a point so we can't be too disappointed."
The game started off shakily for the U of C as GMC came out firing early. The Griffins had complete control of the puck early on, cycling it around the Dinos' end, forcing turnovers and stopping all attempts at clearing the zone. They were rewarded for their aggression as they struck first blood before the Dinos could fully transition into their defensive zone coverage only 5:41 into the first. After forcing another turnover at the blueline because of a failed clearing attempt, the Griffins caught the Dinos looking, as they seamlessly passed the puck to the front of the net for a shot. Urness made the initial save but was left out to dry on the rebound, as GMC forward Leanna Kordyban put it home to give her team a 1-0 edge. The Griffins kept on pressing from there, creating many odd-man rushes and other prime scoring chances thanks to their lightning-quick forecheck, which the Dinos were unable to contain. However, the Griffins were incapable of extending their lead thanks to some stellar stops by Urness.
Grant MacEwan's dominance continued throughout the first and second but the Dinos, not willing to go without a fight, came back with a more concentrated effort for the third. Their top-ranked power play suffered from major power outages throughout the contest but finally clicked with the game on the line. After some rigorous battles down low along the boards, the puck came out to forward Shannon Davidson in the slot, where she out-battled the Griffins' penalty killers and banged home a rebound to tie the game up with only six minutes left in the third.
"The goal was messy, but it came from hard work," said Davidson. "There was a tussle in front of the net, the puck came loose and I roofed it."
Overtime saw both teams exchange prime scoring chances but, with neither being able to capitalize, the game went to a shootout to determine a winner. Dinos forward Lianne Legere scored on her team's first shot with a beautiful deke. That would be the only successful attempt, as Griffins goaltender and player of the game Kanesa Shwetz shut the door on the next four Dinos shooters. Urness held on as best she could but was eventually foiled in the fifth round where the Griffins scored to break the deadlock and win the game, handing the Dinos their first shootout loss of the season and snapping their winning streak.
Special teams played a large role in the game as a combined 19 power plays were handed out. The Dinos went an uncharacteristically lacklustre 1-for-10 with the extra skater but put up a wall on the other end, as their penalty kill, also ranked first in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, perfectly denied all nine opportunities against the team.
Despite the tough loss, the Dinos are holding their heads high. With nine points out of a possible ten in their last five games, the lady hockeysaurs are still the top team in the league going into the month-long break. The girls will make the most out of their much-needed relaxation time to heal up the fatigued bodies before coming back next semester fresh and continuing their climb to the top of the ACAC standings.