Unable to recover from rough first period, Griffins fall 6-1 to Pandas

Kyrelle Skoye gets a chance against Alberta goaltender Kirsten Chamberlin on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).
Kyrelle Skoye gets a chance against Alberta goaltender Kirsten Chamberlin on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Giving up a back-breaking goal just 28 seconds after opening the scoring in the first period on Saturday night, the MacEwan Griffins women's hockey team got stuck in a washing machine spin cycle as the game quickly spiraled away from them.

Down 4-1 after one, they chased all night, falling 6-1 to the cross-town rival Alberta Pandas at the Downtown Community Arena.

"If I'm being honest, I thought our whole first period, regardless of us putting a puck in the net, was nowhere at the level we need to be at to compete in Canada West," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine.

"I've talked about compete numerous times with our group and it wasn't there in the first period. You cannot chase a game against U of A."

The result completes a weekend sweep for the Pandas, who improve to 7-4-0-1, dropping the Griffins to 5-7-0-0.

Rookie Joie Simon opened the scoring for the Griffins 9:34 into the game when she sent a shot through a defender's legs past Alberta goaltender Kirsten Chamberlin, who didn't see it until it was behind her.

"Great to score against them," said McAlpine. "They're a team that gives up very little in our league in terms of shots against.

"That line works hard always. Regardless of who we're playing, I get the same effort from (Makenna) Schuttler, (Amanda) Murray and Joie. I was happy they were rewarded. But after that, our compete level wasn't high enough."

The Pandas charged back with a vengeance, tying the game just 28 seconds later as Natalie Kieser potted a rebound after Madison Willan sent a sharp angle shot off Brianna Sank's pad.

Less than three minutes later, at 12:53, the Pandas took the lead for good as Sank was unable to vacuum up the puck on an initial shot off a 3-on-1 and Allison Reich dribbled the rebound past her and over the line.

Alberta gained a 3-1 advantage at 17:36 on the powerplay as Abby Krzyzaniak put a one-timer under the bar and they closed out the period just over a minute later with a fourth tally – a rebound off the skate of crease-crasher Megan Wilson and in.

Natalie Bender came in for Sank at that point and let in two more throughout regulation – a tap-in rebound by Kieser at 12:16 of the second and a seeing-eye powerplay point shot  by Kiara Machry that found its way inside the far post with nine seconds left in the middle frame.

Natalie Bender poke-checks Alberta's Kallie Clouston on Saturday (Eduardo Perez photo).

Kieser completed a five-goal weekend against the Griffins after netting a hat trick in Friday's 4-0 Alberta win.

"I've said this before, every weekend for us is a learning curve, whether it's stringing two games back to back, whether it's playing a new team with a different look," said McAlpine. " I think we have to weather expectations sometimes. It's really our first semester in a league where U of A has been a contender for a national championship since the outset of their program.

"I think minus this game – and I just said this in the room – our first semester we should be proud of. It's taken some other teams who have joined this league a very long time to get the number of wins we have in this semester, so I think there are things to build off of, but tons of learning opportunities in this first half."

Next up for the Griffins is home series vs. Manitoba on Jan. 14-15.