After a long, holiday-induced hockey hiatus, the University of Calgary Dinos women's hockey team hit the ice again, beginning the latter half of their 2007-08 season this past weekend. The Dinos were looking to finish off their extended home-and-home split with the Grant MacEwan College Griffins by exacting some raptor revenge for a 2-1 shootout loss they received before the break. However, the Dinos fell just inches short in the shootout once again, losing 3-2.
The lady hockeysaurs evidently made the most of their much-needed time off to rest and heal their players as the team looked fully rejuvenated for their first game back. Despite playing ferociously and controlling the puck for most of the game, the girls were hurt by their inability to convert on all of their chances, while the Griffins got enough bounces their way to come out on top.
"We outplayed them but couldn't finish on a lot of the chances that we had," lamented forward Beth Nerland, who had one goal in the loss. "We're just not finishing. That's going to be our focus next practice."
Both teams appeared very eager to return to action as the game began at a highly energetic, fluid pace. Grant MacEwan opened the scoring at 13:33 into the first when Griffin Jillian Barber scored a sneaky wrap-around goal with only four seconds remaining in a power play, her team's third of the opening frame. The Griffins showcased their impressive puck controlling abilities in the man-advantage as the Dinos were unable to obtain safe possession of the puck for the entirety of the two minutes, an uncharacteristic sight for the top-ranked penalty kill line.
The lead was short-lived as the Dinos stormed back, led by Nerland. She blazed in on the left wing and fired a shot that was blocked by a defender, but she retained the puck, kept driving to the net and made good on her second attempt, tying the game at one with only 2:29 left in the period.
"Our coaches have been pressing us to get in the zone and put it on net," she commented about her goal. "My shot hit the defenceman's shin pads but I picked it back up, found a clear path and finished it."
Nerland's goal wouldn't be the only one the Dinos scored in the dying minutes of a period. With the Griffins leading 2-1 late in the second, the Dinos pushed back hard and were rewarded. On a power play of their own, Dinos forward Lianne Legere slid home a backhand in front of the MacEwan net to tie the game at 2-2 with only 1:34 remaining in the period. GMC came back with a great scoring chance the very next play but it was denied by Dinos netminder Katie Urness.
The Dinos, after erasing two one-goal deficits, were resolute to not let their efforts go to waste and took control of the third period, generating many chances, none of which they were able to capitalize on and use to solve Griffins goalie Kristen Sugiyama. Urness kept her team in it by making some big saves herself in the final frame of regulation, including a pad stop on a penalty shot.
With no scoring in the third or overtime, the Dinos partook in their league-leading fourth shootout. Sugiyama proved to make the difference, denying all three Dinos shooters. GMC's leading scorer Melody Howard, who won in the shootout the last time these two teams met, scored on the second Griffins shot, which ended up being the game-winner. After winning their first two shootouts in dramatic fashion, the Dinos have now lost two in a row, both at the talons of the Griffins.
With the loss, the Dinos now sit in fourth place out of six in the tight Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, but are only five points behind the first-place Red Deer College Queens. The lady hockeysaurs, with only 16 possible points left to be won, will have to rebound in a big way next weekend against the Queens, the only team the Dinos have yet to defeat this season, if they still want to achieve their goal of entering the playoffs atop the illustrious plateau of first in the ACAC standings.