In a rematch of the Mac’s tournament final, the Calgary Flyers edged out the St. Albert Slash 1-0 Sunday at Performance Arena.
The Flyers scored 39 seconds into the contest on a scramble behind the net. The puck was kicked loose to Emily Harrison in front who wacked the puck behind Slash goalie Tyler Lisitza.
“I'm sure they circled the calendar as soon as the Mac's was over,” said head coach Terry Sydor. “We talked prior to the game about the first shift and not being casual and they scored on the first shift.”
The tenacity of the Flyers wasn't unexpected by the Slash after they beat the Calgary squad 6-2 for the Mac’s title Jan. 1 at the Pengrowth Saddledome.
“We knew it was going to be a battle. We expected they would come out hard and they did,” said captain Melissa Kueber. “We backed down a little and took the game more casually than we should have.”
Lisitza finished the loss with 23 saves against the top offensive team in the Alberta Major Midget Female Hockey League with 119 goals in 30 games. Her counterpart, Ashley Crosser, posted the shutout with 28 stops and was unbeatable during a 15-shot onslaught by the Slash in the third period.
“We ramped it up in the third and got a lot of shots and chances,” Sydor said.
The Slash failed to score on five man advantage opportunities but shut down the Flyers’ power play on nine chances.
“The penalties took away opportunities offensively but our penalty kill was strong,” Sydor said.
Five of the nine Slash penalties were stick infractions and Sydor said the players need to be more disciplined and keep their feet moving.
“We should know not to do that. There are consequences from that. It's frustrating. We know we need to be more disciplined. Successful teams stay out of the box and just because we can kill the penalties off, it doesn't nullify them,” he said.
The Flyers almost doubled their lead late in the first, as Gillian Doyle fed Chelsea Minor on an offensive zone turnover, but Lisitza swallowed the puck.
Moments later Crosser came up big with a glove save as Sabrina Fleming fired a hard wrister through traffic.
Late in the second, Minor missed a breakaway opportunity, shooting wide to the left and had another chance on a two-on-nothing moments later but the Flyers missed again.
Early in the third, the Slash carried most of the play. Eliza Snider's point shot was tipped by Kueber through Crosser, but the netminder reached back and gloved the puck away with her blocker hand.
Five minutes into the final frame, Jessica Kampjes fed Kueber out in front but her one-timer slipped just wide of the left post.
“We played well but we didn't have the same energy, and obviously they really wanted to win,” said defender Haley Kuzyk.
The Slash (13-10-8) were looking to put some distance between themselves and the Lloydminster Steelers (13-10-7) in the race for second place in the north with a four-point weekend at home. They got off to a great start by doubling the Calgary Chaos 4-2 Saturday before succumbing to the Flyers (21-3-6), the league leaders with 48 points as the top team in the south.
Taryn McCormick, Kueber, Kampjes and Karly Heffernan were the goal scorers against the Chaos (11-13-6). Emily Mitchell stopped 18 shots as the Slash connected three times on six power play opportunities.
“That was a really good game. The pace was better and we had the energy from the Mac’s tournament again. We also had a good start,” Kuzyk said. “Today it was a slow start. They scored early and I thought we would come back but we lost the momentum.”
The Steelers are one point back of the Slash with a game in hand. The teams face off this Saturday at 4 p.m. at Performance Arena as St. Albert wraps up league play.
“They have a mobile defence so we'll have to pressure the puck,” Sydor said. “We tend to overthink and predict what the other team will do and we get a little laid back. We want to force turnovers. If we can do that we'll be successful. Their goalie is also very good low, so we have to get the puck up.”
The next day the Steelers visit the winless Spruce Grove Saints in their last game before the playoffs. That makes Saturday's tilt a must-win for the Slash if they hope to secure a first-round playoff bye.
“We have to set the pace on the first shift and go from there,” Kueber said. “Special teams will also be crucial against Lloyd.”