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Time to celebrate!

Ooks women’s hockey is golden again! The defending champs defeated the Red Deer College Queens 2-1 in games three and four to win the championship series with Game 3’s winner coming in second overtime.

RDC came into the weekend with momentum after taking Game 2 on home ice but the Ooks’ focus and effort proved to be too much. With the win, the Ooks are ACAC champs for the third season in a row and the second team to win three consecutive titles in ACAC history. Last two seasons Red Deer took home bronze and silver, respectively.

It was a lively atmosphere as the fans in the NAIT arena for Game 3 witnessed a tight contest. The first and second periods were scoreless – both teams had equal chances to score and pushed with equal force on the defensive side of the ice.

In the third period, the action started to pick up. Right winger Jordyn Tibbatts fired home her first goal of the series to put the Ooks in front. The home team began falling back to play a more conservative style with the lead. With the game coming to an end, the Queens pulled their goalie to add an extra attacker and scored to tie the game, sending the two squads into overtime. Ten minutes went by with no score before Haley Vandepoele notched the winner in the second overtime. This is the second time Haley has scored an OT winner against the Queens, as she fired home the clincher in last year’s semifinal series to advance the Ooks against the Grant MacEwan Griffins. Goaltender Jill Diahcuk stopped 31 of 32 shots in the win. “Each game was so close. It forced us to be better. Red Deer played hard and never gave up,” coach Iwanicka commented.

Heading into Game 4 of the series, the Ooks came out determined to secure the championship in Red Deer on Saturday afternoon. Both teams came out of the first period scoreless but five minutes into the second, the Queens scored to take the lead. A minute later Ooks forward Veronika Kuzelova scored her first goal of the post season with assists from Lindsey Brouwer and Livia Lucova. The Ooks escaped the period with a tie despite being outshot 10-7. The third period proved tight again until captain Sherri Bowles ripped in her third goal of the series seven minutes in, with assists coming from Vandepoele and Renata Mastna. Red Deer couldn’t muster the tying goal as time ticked down and the Ooks, 2-1 winners, stormed onto the ice to celebrate the threepeat. Diachuk made 20 saves in her final ACAC win. “It is great to see our fifth-year players go out on a high note, they deserve it,” said Iwanicka. “I think roles, leadership and goals were vital to our success.” Iwanicka is the first head coach for women’s hockey to take the team to three straight ACAC championships. The title caps another fantastic season from the Ooks and is a nice send off for fifth year players Bowles, Diachuk, Brouwer and Mastna. Ooks defenceman Jocelyn Racic took a moment to savour the win.

“We worked really hard all season with everyone contributing every step of the way and this championship truly means the world to us,” she said.

Faryal Bashir

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