Austin Connelly, For MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The Griffins capped off the first half of the season with a 3-1 win over the Olds College Broncos on Saturday night to extend a four-game winning streak that has them atop Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference women's hockey standings.
With the win, the Griffins completed a weekend sweep of the Broncos (also beating them 3-0 on Thursday) to improve to 11-3-0-0 heading into the semester break. That keeps them three points ahead of Red Deer College (9-1-1-0) for first place, but the Queens have three games in hand.
"This was a great way for us to end the first half and we'll try to carry this momentum into the second half," said head coach Lindsey McAlpine. "A big focus for us this weekend was to play with pace, and I thought we did that both games."
MacEwan came out to play in the first period as the poured pressure on the Broncos with 14 shots on goal, while Griffins' goalie Natalie Bender would have to make a few key saves of her own including the first shot of the game when she got her blocker on a dangerous shot from the slot.
But it was the Griffins who would break through first when Shyla Jans found herself alone in front on the powerplay and sniped a one-timer over Lexi Bruce's glove with 4:59 left in the first frame. It was a beautiful set up from Breanna Golosky, who broke into the zone quickly circling around the net and setting up Jans.
It would only take the Griffins 5:48 into the second period to double their lead thanks to captain Morgan Casson who went short side over Bruce's shoulder from a tight angle. Casson used her blazing speed up the left wing to weave through a few defenders before riffling a quick wrist shot to make it 2-0.
"We were just saying in the room that it was a very solid first half from a team perspective," said Casson on the team's first half of the season. "It was a great way to end the first half with two sweeps."
Jill MacWilliam got into the action after she poked home a Jans shot that laid dangerously on the goal line after hitting the post, making it 3-0 at 9:30 into the second period.
The Griffins were relentless all game long and if it weren't for some stellar goaltending from Bruce, the score would've been higher for MacEwan. Some of her 43 saves included two spectacular breakaway stops on Jayme Doyle and one on Carly Jewell.
The Broncos would make it a game just 12 seconds into the third period after Jesse Jack got a fortuitous bounce, giving her a breakaway where she beat Bender to get the Broncos on the board. The goal snapped a team shutout streak of 157 minutes and 31 seconds that spanned back to MacEwan's game in Calgary against SAIT last Friday.
Bender only needed 14 saves for the victory, though.
"I think the biggest thing for us is it's always been the Christmas break makes or breaks the team and one thing our team is good at is we are really dedicated to our fitness," said Casson. "So, I think that's going to be our biggest focus here for the Christmas break to help carry that momentum into the second half."
The Griffins will kick off the second half of the season with a first-place showdown against RDC on Jan. 10 (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena, ACAC TV).