Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
OLDS – Healthy and fit after missing a third of the first half of the season with injuries, Chantal Ricker returned with a bang on Thursday night.
With a goal and an assist, the sophomore forward led the MacEwan Griffins women's hockey team to a 3-0 win over the Olds College Broncos in their first contest in almost eight weeks.
Sandy Heim made 14 saves for her second shutout of the season, while captain Sydney Thomlison also chipped in a goal and an assist as the Griffins regained top spot in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference with a 9-1-3 record. Olds falls to 4-10-1. The rematch is set for Friday (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).
Ricker, who now has five points in nine games this season, had 10 points in her rookie season last year (tied for fourth on the team), adding three more in seven playoffs games in helping the Griffins to the ACAC Championship.
The Calgary Fire Midget AAA product makes a difference with strong physical play.
"She made an immediate impact, adding some size and grit to our offensive group," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine.
"She is a player that loves to get into the tough areas, and is able to elevate her game in pressure situations."
Ricker relishes crashing the crease, even if it means she might have a few bruises to deal with later.
"I definitely live for those garbage goals," she said, scoring her tally on Thursday from right in front when she lasered it bar down past Olds goalie Jaydlin Spooner, who had 30 saves in the defeat. "I'm usually getting those around the net.
"The goalies cross-check you and the defencemen do not let you have anything," she added. "But it's good. It's competitive and I like that. That's the one thing I liked about boys hockey is how intense it was with the hitting."
Ricker played boys hockey until bantam, but that physical streak hasn't left her game. Able to carve out space for herself in the offensive zone, it seems only a matter of time before the point production really starts to kick into gear.
"We are looking to her to have a more dominant second half, as she struggled with some injuries in the first," said McAlpine. "She has come back from Christmas break looking stronger than when she left, and I look forward to see what she can do."
She's off to a great start to the second half of the season and so are the Griffins. Ricker noted the intensity in practice earlier this week helped them shake off the rust from a long layoff. Before Thursday, the Griffins hadn't played since Nov. 18 – a 4-1 loss to NAIT, still the only time MacEwan has lost in regulation this season.
"We had a lot of good practices this week," said Ricker. "We were intense and I think it's just important that we set the pace right off the bat."
ICE CHIPS … Jaime Erickson scored the game-winner for the Griffins at the 2:07 mark of first period … Carley Jewell and Jessi Rampton also picked up points for MacEwan, both assists … With the win, the Griffins now have a 2-0-1 record against Olds this season.