The second half of the ACAC hockey season is underway for the Red Deer College Queens and it appears to be more of the same.
The first half saw the Queens start slow going 0-3 and then finishing with points in six of the last seven games.
The main issue was not putting the puck in the net enough according to head coach Bob Rutz.
“We’re working really hard to get the puck but we’re not a threat offensively,” he said.
“So we get a lot of shots but we don’t capitalize on secondary scoring chances like off rebounds.”
The Queens split a pair of games with top-ranked NAIT, losing 2-1 in a shootout Thursday and then blanking the Ooks 1-0 in Edmonton.
So the points have been secured but the goals are still scarce.
The Queens spent most of the Christmas break practices working on getting pucks to the net and looking for the second or third chance to score more, said Rutz.
“You can outshoot teams in as many games as you want but if you’re not scoring more goals than them it’s not really an advantage.”
Rutz admits there aren’t a lot of pure goal scorers on the roster this year compared with last year’s edition where three players who have graduated accounted for 22 goals during the season which is hard to replace.
“The girls that are left are maybe not as offensively talented but they do make up for it with their work ethic in the defensive zone,” he said.
He’s pleased with how the Queens are playing in their own end with both goalies, Camille Trautman and Moriah Andrews giving the Queens a chance to win each night out, he said. But the goal drought is frustrating.
“I’ll give you an example. One game we outshot SAIT 20 to 3 after two periods so we were great in our own zone and all over them but we won the game 1-0. So we have to find a way to get the puck behind the goal line on a more consistent basis.”
With this being a four-team league and only three teams make the playoff round Rutz has his team embracing the mindset of treating each game like a playoff game.
The addition of overtime and shootouts has added a new dimension to the importance of scoring enough to win games.
“There’s no ties anymore so somebody is getting two points after each game. That’s why you can’t go a stretch when you’re not getting any points.”
With NAIT essentially running away from the three other teams each weekend is a battle for position when the post season arrives.
Rutz openly admits he’s not a fan of the shootout being used in the ACAC to resolve ties but his team has been actively practicing the showdown skills contest in practice.
It’s a part of the game he feels should not be used to decide a winner but in a league where every point scratched out is so very important it might be the difference for the Queens of making it to the post season tournament or not.
“It boils down to who wins that shootout and there have been many of them this year so yeah, it’s very important.”
Rutz says with just over a dozen games left in the regular season the goal is simple enough for the Queens.
“Our goal is to get points in each game. Whether it’s one or two, we can’t go to games without getting points.”