by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
Stats do not lie.
Or at least they tell part of the truth.
During the six Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) women's hockey regular season series between the MacEwan University Griffins and SAIT Trojans, the Griffins had won five while outscoring their Calgary opponents 13-7.
The last time the Griffins were crowned title holders was 2007-2008 while SAIT has to go back only a few years to 2010-2011 to find such accolades
Heading into the best-of-five 2016-2017 ACAC Women's Hockey Championships last Saturday March 4, the Griffins knew they had a hot goaltender in the presence of Sandy Helm.
Named 2016-17 ACAC Women's Hockey Player of the Year (Sponsored by CCM Hockey) earlier in the day March 4, Helm, according to the ACAC "was not only the busiest goaltender in the ACAC, with a league-high 534 saves in 22 games played this season, she was the best, leading the conference in goals against average (1.45), save percentage (.943) and wins (10). She is currently riding a shutout streak of 168:48 into the ACAC finals after stopping 131 of 134 shots in a semifinal series win over Red Deer."
How would she perform in the championships?
Game 1 on home ice at the DCA Arena, she turned away all 21 Trojans attempts for a solid 4-0 decision with teammates Courtney Zajac recording two goals with singles from Morgan Casson and Rayen Beazer.
Sunday's game at SAIT Arena would see the Trojans sneaking a goal past Helm, a second-year Accounting/Strategic Measurement student-athlete from Wilderswil, Switzerland, with a Madison Casavant third period score at 18:52.
Unfortunately it was not enough as the Griffins had first period goals by Shanya Shwetz and Jessi Rampton to make it a 2-1 decision.
With four days off, the two teams returned to Edmonton this past Friday for Game 3 with the Griffins looking for a possible sweep.
The Trojans had other thoughts though, claiming a 3-1 decision behind two third-period goals, including an empty netter with 1:12 remaining in regulation, from the stick of Madison Colbow with the other goal coming in the first period with Emily Potts breaking mesh.
Shanya Shwetz scored the lone goal for the Griffins.
Emma Greenwood earned the W in net by stopping 31 shots.
"We got the first win, and I told them before the game that every winning streak starts with one win," said Trojans head coach Terry Larson in an interview with Brody Mark, Sports Information & Media Consultant for the SAIT Trojans. "And right now we need to go on a winning streak. We got the win tonight, and now we'll go for two in a row tomorrow.
"The whole team was sticking to the system, driving to the net and then Pottsy just buries one. It perfect timing, as it got the momentum going for us."
Game 4 Saturday night at SAIT Arena would see the teams head into Overtime tied at 2-2 with Trojans goals coming from Madison Fjellstrom (1st period, 17:35) and Madison Colbow on a power play (2nd period, 7:02) while Griffins came back from a two-goal deficit with markers from Jessi Rampton (2nd period, 17:55) and Carley Jewell (3rd period, 8:24).
Griffins' Morgan Casson skated in from the blue line after redirecting a clearing shot by Trojans' Colbow, beating goalie Elisha Oswald high to the glove side for the golden goal at 6:38 of OT.
Oswald stopped 29 shots while Helms turned away 23.
"To be honest, I don't remember the play leading up to it, the whole overtime," said Casson in an interview with Griffins' Jefferson Hagen. "I think I kind of blacked out a bit. I remember just getting the puck and looking up and seeing the corners and I'm speechless right now. It's absolutely the biggest goal I've ever scored."
Griffins coach Lindsay MacAlpine was high in praise for Casson when talking to Hagen: "Morgan was phenomenal start to finish. We rely so heavily on her and for her to come up big like that, I was so proud of her.".
Of coming back from a two goals down MacAlpine said: "We always joke on our team that we never do things the easy way, we like to make it hard on ourselves and I think that was a prime example. We had a 2-0 deficit and absolutely clawed our way back to get us into it. Heading into that third, they believed they could do it and they came out and did. They completely changed their game. We turned it up and suffocated them in the third."
Of the victory, she concluded: "It means everything. The group of girls that we have … I think the most exciting part is they're a young team, they buy in and it's just the beginning of something big for us."
Trojans coach Larson was proud of his girls as in conversation with Mark he said: "We worked our asses off and we battled hard, but it was two really good hockey teams. All the games in this series were good ones, and tonight could have been anyone's to win.
"There is nothing to hang your head about. No one gave us a shot to do anything after the start we had (1-9 start ending ACAC regular season at 11-13) and look where we ended up."