Strong effort comes close to a result for Griffins, but Huskies sneak out win on late goal

Maria Ayre scored for the Griffins in the third period (Joel Kingston photo).
Maria Ayre scored for the Griffins in the third period (Joel Kingston photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — The MacEwan Griffins put forth one of their best performances of the season, but sometimes that's not enough to earn the two points in the win column.

After battling to tie the game in the third period against the Saskatchewan Huskies, the Griffins gave up the lead just 1:15 later and couldn't mount another comeback as they fell 2-1 on Friday night at the Downtown Community Arena.

Brianna Sank was outstanding in the loss for MacEwan, making 30 saves, while rookie forward Maria Ayre scored her first-career Canada West goal in the loss.

The Huskies were led by goals from Kendra Zuchotzki and Kelsey Hall, while Camryn Drever made 12 saves in the win for Saskatchewan.

"That was one of our most consistent efforts, but now it comes down to better execution in the D-zone and the O-zone as well," said Griffins head coach Chris Leeming.

"We saw a lot of improvement from last weekend, and it's a step in the right direction, but we still have some things we have to clean up."

The opening period was scoreless, despite the Huskies controlling most of the play and outshooting the Griffins 11-2, but Sank was stellar between the pipes.

MacEwan had a much stronger second period, as they started to get some more pressure towards Drever.

But Saskatchewan was able to score with just 53 seconds left in the period.

Paris Oleksyn's shot from the slot hit the post, but Saskatchewan kept the pressure on, and moments later Zuchotzki's shot from the top of the circle beat Sank to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

MacEwan continued to battle and Ayre's goal at the 7:17 mark tied the game. The rookie made a nice play in the neutral zone and made a nice give-and-go play with her linemate Mila Verbicky, and she beat Drever short side.

"Maria has that ability to put the puck in the net. She worked hard to put herself in that position, and she's got a real sneaky shot, and she put it on display on that goal," said Leeming.

But the game didn't stay tied for long as just moments later the Huskies took advantage of an unlucky bounce off a Griffins pass in the neutral zone that led to the game-winning goal on a breakaway from Hall, who made no mistake for her second goal of the season.

"I think it was unfortunate they got that lucky bounce that led to their second goal, but they're a good team, and they capitalized on that chance," said Griffins captain Sydney Hughson.
"Overall, I thought we built off our effort from last weekend. We worked hard, and our PK was really good, we just have to execute better offensively."

One thing the Griffins coaching staff stresses is getting more shot volume and that was one area that the Griffins had trouble in, getting just 13 shots on Drever.

Makenna Schuttler battles for possession along the wall Friday (Joel Kingston photo).

"There were ebbs and flows to the game. They controlled the game for a while, and then we took over, and it went back and forth, but we need to get more shots on net. If we're going to score goals we have to be committed to going to the dirty areas and create net-front traffic and try to get some secondary opportunities," said Leeming.

"They're a well-structured team and they work hard defensively, and we have to elevate our game to combat that and to find those gaps in their game. It doesn't come easy at this level, but we have to stay persistent and consistent in our attack.

"We've got to get to the hard areas and be willing to sacrifice and win some net front battles in their end."

BACK AT IT: The Griffins will finish off their weekend series with Saskatchewan on Saturday at 3 p.m., DCA, Canada West TV.