Women’s hockey team win first ACAC championship in 9 years

by | Mar 26, 2024 | Sports

After a successful season, the women’s hockey team redeemed their loss last year, finally winning their first ACAC Championship after a nine-year drought. So let’s dive into their season and see how they got the job done this year.

The Ooks started their season in October by taking on province rivals SAIT. This game would start the season on a bad note for the Ooks, as they lost in overtime 3-2. But this loss was their only one in October. They ended the month with a 7-game winning streak, including a dominant win against SAIT later in the month 6-1. They also demolished Medicine Hat College 4-0 and 9-1. The Ooks finished the month with a 6-0 thrashing of Olds College, leaving their record at 7-1 at the end of October. 

November saw the team start off with a struggle, losing to former finals opponent Red Deer Polytechnic 2-1 and 5-2. The month quickly turned around, and the team fired off three straight wins, giving them some confidence. But the confidence quickly faded, and the team lost their next two games. One of the losses was against Red Deer, which was a tough blow. It pushed them to another loss the following weekend against Lakeland College. 

In December, the team would have a winter break before returning a month later. In January the team came out reenergized, winning every game in the month and having some amazing performances with the playoffs around the corner. The month started with a 4-0 beating of SAIT, before upping the ante next weekend and beating Medicine Hat College 8-2. The month finished with a 3-1 win over Olds College where Kaitlyn Slator became the all-time ACAC wins holder. 

A NAIT and Red Deer player battle in front of the net. Photo via Red Deer Polytechnic

February saw the team finish the regular season with four games against the top two teams in the ACAC standings. The Ooks started the month with a pair of games versus Red Deer Polytechnic. The first game was a 4-1 loss, which was their fifth loss to Red Deer this season. The Ooks beat Red Deer 5-1 the next night, finally getting one up on them this season. Lakeland was ready for the Ooks the following weekend, beating them 4-3 and 3-2 on respective nights. 

NAIT finished the season 17-8 and third in the ACAC. This put them in a semifinal playoff series against their longtime nemesis Red Deer Polytechnic, battling for a chance at the ACAC championship final. The semi-final series was best of three, and the Ooks were ready to right the wrongs of last season. The first game did not go the Ooks way; they lost 3-2 in a close match after being tied in the third period. The Ooks went back to NAIT, needing two wins to not end up in the same position as last year. They took care of business at home, winning 2-1 after a Halle Graham power-play goal in the second period. 

a female hockey player holds a trophy and has her arms up in the air
A player celebrates on the ice after winning the ACAC Championship. Photo via NAIT Athletics

The series now went to a decisive game three in Red Deer. In this game, the Ooks did something they haven’t done all season: beat Red Deer in back to-back-games. Their star goalie, Kaitlyn Slator, came up clutch,getting a shutout to help the team advance to the ACAC Championship. The 2-0 victory saw the Ooks return to the very spot they lost at last season, but this time the opponent was the first-place Lakeland College. 

The Ooks started the five-game series on the road. They won the first game 3-1 before coming back to NAIT and winning in comeback fashion 3-2 after trailing going into the third period. With the Ooks now up 2-0, they only needed one victory to reach the ACAC mountain top and had 3 chances to do it.

Their first chance at Lakeland College did not go as planned, and they lost 4-2, which likely gave Lakeland some hope. But the Ooks didn’t let their game drop. In the last home game of the season, NAIT came back to the arena and gave the fans a show and a championship for the first time in nine years. The 2-0 victory saw the Ooks finish their season-long journey and Kaitlyn Slator end her NAIT career with a shutout and a championship.

Woman in hockey jersey with hair in a bun shakes hand of man in a suit. Both are smiling.
Kaitlyn Slator receives her medal after the Ooks win the ACAC Championships. This is Slator’s last year of eligibility, and the season has been filled with career records. Photo via NAIT Athletics

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