Griffins' playoff hopes on life support after 4-0 loss to Pandas

Natalie Bender made 45 saves for the Griffins in a 4-0 loss to the Alberta Pandas on Saturday (Joel Kingston photo).
Natalie Bender made 45 saves for the Griffins in a 4-0 loss to the Alberta Pandas on Saturday (Joel Kingston photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – "Bender could only stand on her head so long."

That quote from MacEwan women's hockey head coach Lindsay McAlpine effectively sums up the night for the Griffins on Saturday.

Goaltender Natalie Bender made 45 saves and the Griffins' offence could muster just 10 shots in a 4-0 loss to the University of Alberta Pandas at Clare Drake Arena.

"The effort was there, it was the execution everywhere that wasn't there," said McAlpine. "It was a tough one."

The Griffins were a shadow of the hard-working club that barely lost 2-1 to the Pandas a night earlier at the Downtown Community Arena in MacEwan's final regular season home game of 2021-22.

Madison Willan and Payton Laumbaach tallied less than a minute-and-a-half apart late in the second period for all the scoring the Pandas would need before Willand Kelsey Tangjerd markers in the third period turned it into a rout.

"It was a tough one tonight," said McAlpine. "We started out really strong, but the wheels fell off halfway through the second period. We took two penalties in a really short time frame and they scored on the 5-on-3. We couldn't dig ourselves out of that hole."

The result drops the Griffins to 6-12-0-0 and puts their playoff hopes on life support. They remain four points behind idle Regina (7-9-2-0) for the final playoff spot, but they no longer have any games in hand.

So, the Griffins will head into their final weekend needing a bit of a miracle to make it into the top six. They would have to sweep first-place Mount Royal University (14-2-2-0) and hope Regina gets swept by second-place UBC (13-5-0-0). To complicate matters, Calgary (7-11-0-0) sits in between the two teams in the standings and will have playoff aspirations of their own in a two-game series against Alberta.

Whatever happens for the Griffins, to even be in contention for a playoff spot on the final weekend of their inaugural Canada West season isn't something McAlpine thought possible at the start of the campaign.

"After tough games like this, I try to remind them where we are in our development," she said. "We're a first-year Canada West team coming into arguably the hardest conference in U SPORTS and we have made a name for ourselves.

"I think we need to be proud of that."