Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
CALGARY – A late goal by Karlie Bell ensured the fight for first place in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference standings will come down to the final night of the regular season.
With less than three minutes remaining on Friday, the third-year forward took a feed from Carley Jewell and snapped a shot that beat SAIT Trojans goaltender Jenna Patrician low blocker side to deliver a 3-2 victory for the MacEwan Griffins.
Amanda Murray scored MacEwan's other two goals as they put away a game SAIT team that has already missed the playoffs and is playing for pride.
"SAIT, to their credit, that was by the best game we've seen them play this season," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "Apparently their playoff dreams are dead at this point and they laid it out there for a team in that position."
The victory pulls MacEwan (17-3-3-0) even with the NAIT Ooks (18-4-1-0) for top spot in the ACAC, but their cross-town rivals own the first tiebreaker (wins) and the second one (head-to-head).
So, all the Griffins can do is aim for a second win over SAIT in Saturday's rematch (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena) and hope third-place Red Deer College, who visits NAIT at the same time, does them a favour. But at least they have a chance.
"That's exactly what we said at the end of the game," said McAlpine. "We still need those two points or us at the end of the game regardless. What happens in the NAIT-Red Deer game is out of our control. We've got to control what we can and get those two points and finish the sweep here."
Whoever gets the top seed will host Olds College (6-17-1-0) in the first-round next week, while No. 2 has a much tougher best-of-three match with RDC (13-5-5-0).
On Friday, SAIT opened the scoring on just their third shot of the contest, when Brittany MacDonald beat Griffins goalie Natalie Bender.
Murray, though, tied the game before the period was out, putting a one-time pass from Nikki Reimer past Patrician on the powerplay.
The rookie then netted her second of the game and eighth of the season, scoring on a wraparound at 5:41 of the middle frame.
"She had a great game," said McAlpine. "She's been great for us offensively, kind of consistently throughout the year. She's ended up getting a lot of goals. That's where most of her points come from."
SAIT wouldn't go away, though, tying the contest at 7:30 of the third period on a powerplay goal from McKenzie Meek.
But the Griffins persevered on Bell's tally to squeak out a win that sharpens their mettle ahead of the post-season.
"I think it was actually perfect for us heading into playoffs," said McAlpine. "Our team and bench energy right from puck drop to the final buzzer was exactly what we wanted to see out of them."
MacEwan's Bender made 19 saves for the win, while Patrician stopped 34 of 37 for the Trojans.