CALGARY – Their valiant chase for a playoff spot lasted until the second-last day of the regular season.
Few would have ever thought the MacEwan Griffins women's hockey team would do that in their inaugural Canada West season.
So, although MacEwan will miss the playoffs after losing 4-1 to the Mount Royal University Cougars on Friday night, they can certainly hold their heads high.
"I couldn't be more proud," said Griffins head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "I think we've laid an exceptional foundation for what's to come in the future."
The result drops the Griffins to 6-13-0-0, keeping them in eighth in Canada West, while MRU officially clinches first place at 15-2-2-0.
It turns out that even if MacEwan had won they would have been eliminated from the playoffs as Regina (8-9-2-0) upset UBC (13-6-0-0) 2-1 to officially lock up the conference's sixth and final post-season position.
Goaltender Brianna Sank did everything humanly possible to keep the Griffins in contention on Friday, making 42 saves as MacEwan was under fire, particularly in the second period.
"Sank was unbelievable," said McAlpine. "She stood on her head. Right from the outset, she looked composed, everything was absorbed, didn't give a ton of rebounds out. She played big and held us in there. The score could have probably been a little bit different. She was great."
The Griffins, on the other hand, generated just 21 shots on MRU goalie Kaitlyn Ross, but they did manage to open the scoring on Aryn Chambers' powerplay marker and held a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
"It was a bit of a scramble at the blueline," described McAlpine. "We were able to settle it back in and set up the powerplay. Kyrelle (Skoye) hit (Jayme) Doyle for a one-timer and Doyle unloaded on it. The rebound came out in the high slot, Chambers jumped on it, waited on it for a second and the goalie dropped. She went top corner. It was a really nice goal – beautiful."
MRU tied the game just 11 seconds into the middle frame, though, on Aliya Jomha's tally before Anna Purschke notched the winner at 8:25 of the second.
Breanne Trotter and Emma Bergesen third period goals put the game out of reach, but McAlpine was pleased with her team's response in the final frame after being under the pump in the second.
"They outshot us pretty significantly, but I'm really proud of our group," she said. "We didn't have a great second period and chatted about it – the things we needed to do to be able to compete against the No. 2-ranked U SPORTS team – and I thought we responded really well, did the little things right in the third and pushed hard."
The teams will meet again on Saturday (6 p.m., Canada West TV presented by Co-op) in what will be the final university game for graduating seniors Natalie Bender, Skoye, Chantal Ricker and Beth Taylor.