Griffins show up to meaningless finale with best effort of the season, pushing MRU in 2-1 loss

Amanda Murray had one of her best efforts as a Griffin on Saturday, scoring a goal and giving MRU fits all night (Joel Kingston photo).
Amanda Murray had one of her best efforts as a Griffin on Saturday, scoring a goal and giving MRU fits all night (Joel Kingston photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

-With files from MRU Athletics

CALGARY – Eliminated from playoff contention a day earlier, you wouldn't have expected the MacEwan Griffins to show up with their best effort of the season, but that's exactly what happened on Saturday night.

They pushed U SPORTS No. 2 Mount Royal University hard before falling 2-1 in the final game of their inaugural Canada West season.

"To be honest, it was the best game I've ever seen the Griffins play," said head coach Lindsay McAlpine, who was coaching in her 291st game for MacEwan, dating back to 2010. "We came out absolutely flying.

"It was a testament to our team's character, drive and willingness to keep pushing in this league and make a name for ourselves. In a game that was meaningless on our end, we played exceptional."

With the result, MacEwan will finish eighth in the conference with a 6-14-0-0 record, while MRU (16-2-2-0) will enter the Canada West playoffs as the top seed.

For the second-straight night, the Griffins opened the scoring, this time getting on the board just 46 seconds into the contest on their first shot of the game.

Of course, it was a doozy for Cougars' netminder Zoe De Beauville as Joie Simon beat a defender and sent a pass over to Amanda Murray to one-time over her blocker.

"Amanda Murray was literally possessed for us tonight," said McAlpine. "She's always a workhorse and plays with great intensity, but today was a level I have never seen out of her. Their line was dangerous every single time they were on the ice tonight."

MRU tied the game with 3:22 left in the first when Courtney Kollman intercepted a pass from a Griffins defender in the neutral zone and went in on a breakaway, deking out Natalie Bender.

The Cougars notched the game-winner two minutes into the second period when Tianna Ko was stopped by Bender on her initial shot, but jabbed the rebound past her.

Bender, however, was sensational in the final game of her university career, making 40 saves, including robbing one of Canada West's most dangerous goal scorers – Anna Purschke – on a third period breakaway.

"She was outstanding," said McAlpine of Bender who finished the season with a 2.67 GAA and .922 save percentage and finishes her illustrious career as MacEwan's all-time shutout leader. "You couldn't have asked for a better finish to her career."

The Griffins couldn't net the tying goal, but they left an impression on their coach, their fans and their foes.

"I always go back to character," said McAlpine. "It's something that's important for me in the recruitment process. We've got a room full of girls that know they were in tough today. That never stops them. They come and they push and they work and they block shots today. They dove in front of pucks with their face.

"I couldn't be more proud to end our first season in Canada West with a game like that."