Kikuchi sharp, Griffins squeak out 4-3 shootout win

Landry Derdall (12) eludes a Griffins' forechecker. Photo - Tony Hansen
Landry Derdall (12) eludes a Griffins' forechecker. Photo - Tony Hansen

Brent Forster - RDC

The Red Deer College Queens' home opener on Thursday evening showcased a rematch of last year's semi-finals against the MacEwan University Griffins and the game featured several swings in momentum. The Griffins iced a team similar to last season's championship squad and had early jump but the Queens responded. Regulation time, plus a pair of 5 minute overtime periods solved nothing, and MacEwan eventually skated to a 4-3 shootout win. 

Tracie Kikuchi got the start in net for the Queens and was fantastic, while Sandy Heim was at the other end for the Griffins.

Kikuchi was sharp early and turned aside several quality chances. Eventually, MacEwan opened the scoring with a hard wrist shot at 16:40 on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity. Carley Jewell snuck in from the point and shot stick side with traffic in front to put the Griffins up 1-0. Jewell scored her second of the game with 2:17 remaining in the first period on a 5-on-4 advantage to give MacEwan University a 2-0 lead. The third-year student-athlete scored high on the glove side. After 20 minutes, Kikuchi, a Kinesiology & Sport Studies student, contended with 13 shots from the Griffins while Heim turned aside 3.

Momentum began to swing in favour of the Queens in the second period. After a crisp break out of their own zone, Keinyn Nordell carried the puck up the right side into the Griffins' end and centred a pass to a wide open Celine Chailler. The first-year student-athlete from Grande Prairie buried her shot between Heim's pads at 3:35 to pull within a goal. Just over 3 minutes later, The RDC Queens tied the contest 2-2 at 6:45. Karissa Cullum fired a low shot that beat Heim on the stick side. 

Queens Hockey Head Coach Kelly Coulter liked that the 2 new Queens were rewarded for their positioning and getting the puck on net. "Celine and Karissa, both new players to our team scored in their first game in the league. Celine's goal was just going to the net and redirecting the puck," said Coulter. "Same with Karissa - she just got the puck on net. Our new players are willing to learn the little details to make them good college hockey players." 

The Queens continued to press. With 1:20 remaining, Jade Petrie and Julia Murrell connected on a shorthanded goal. In the slot, Petrie found an open Murrell who backhanded the puck high on the glove side to give the RDC Queens a 3-2 lead. Kikuchi continued to play well and made 14 saves in the middle frame. RDC tested Heim 4 times.

MacEwan University applied pressure and with 2:18 remaining in the third period Jessica Dyck tied the game 3-3. The shot came from the left side. Kikuchi stopped part of it but the puck trickled behind her. RDC had 6 more shots in the final period while Kikuchi was outstanding and turned aside 13-of-14 Griffins' attempts.

When 60 minutes didn't produce a winner, the game headed to a 5 minute 4-on-4 overtime period. After the first overtime, neither team could score and the contest headed to a 3-on-3 second overtime period for 5 minutes. MacEwan University added 3 more shots in overtime. The extra time created some exciting moments but the goaltenders were solid and the game headed to a shootout.

Both goalies traded saves after the first and second shooters. The Griffins' third shooter, Dominique Scheurer, broke the stalemate when she scored five-hole. Heim stopped the third RDC shooter on the glove side and the Griffins picked up a 4-3 shootout win. The RDC Queens earned 1 point in the standings.

Tracie Kikuchi was named the Queens player-of-the-game and stopped 41-of-44 shots. Carley Jewell was the recipient for the Griffins.

"Tracie was a warrior for us tonight," said Coulter. "Tracie is a battler and gives us an opportunity to win. I was very happy with her performance."

Coulter liked the team's persistence to get back into the game. "I like that we battled back in the second period after being down 2-0. I think that this game was a good eye opener for the new girls in the league. They saw the speed that teams attack and how they take away time and space. MacEwan is a very good team," said Coulter. "We can't win a lot of hockey games getting less than 20 shots on net and that's something we want to address. There are a lot of positives. Our penalty kill was very good. I'm proud of the student-athletes for coming back and solidifying a point. For many of the new players it was a good learning experience. Now, we want them to take the messages and implement them." 

The Queens went 0-for-2 on the power play while the Griffins connected on 2-of-7 opportunities.

In a rematch, the RDC Queens will compete against the MacEwan Griffins in Edmonton on Friday, Oct. 6 at 7:00 p.m.