The Diamond Energy Female Midget AAA Wildcats were pushed to the brink of elimination last night at Fairview West, as the Regina Rebels won 3-1 to take a 2-0 best-of-five series lead.
The Wildcats were, for the second straight game, neck-and-neck with the Rebels, out-playing the visiting squad early in the contest.
Regina did strike first midway through the first period, but Wildcats forward Kenedee Klevgaard tied the game up with 4:33 remaining in the frame for a 1-1 tie through 20 minutes. Taylor Kirwan and Sara Kendall were credited with assists.
Swift continued the pressure for the first half of the second period, but a Jenna Merk goal for the Rebels at the 8:45 mark was the beginning of the second of two very different halves in the game.
"You know, I thought we were really good for the first 30 minutes," said head coach Terry Pavely. "We dominated on the shot clock, they really struggled to get out of their end. Then, we weren't quite as relentless on our forecheck, and we've got to stay relentless, we've got to stay on pucks. The momentum really changed halfway through that game."
Swift had been out-shooting the Rebels 16-6 midway through the second period, but during a slightly stagnant stretch into the third period, were trailing 22-19 in shots at one point.
Down 2-1 and pressing with seven power-play opportunities in the game, the Wildcats ended the contest out-shooting the Rebels 25-22.
The shots, however, weren't as contested as what Pavely and the Wildcats were hoping for heading into Game 2.
"We've got to be more willing to stand in front of the net. We got some good point shots, and we're kind of moving out of the way," Pavely said. "You've got to stay there right until the bitter end - you might get hit once in a while, but we've really got to make it tougher on (Regina's goalie). She's seeing the puck well and I don't think we make it tough enough on their goaltender."
As well, despite those seven opportunities on the man-advantage in the game, the Wildcats are now scoreless on a combined 13 powerplays this series.
"The bottom line is we didn't work very hard on the powerplay. We worked hard on the breakout, but in the offensive zone we weren't willing to compete for loose pucks, and they out-worked us," Pavely admitted. "We've got skill on that powerplay but if you don't out-work them and you can't put two or three passes together, then you get no chances - that was probably the frustration... our power play has been good all year, but it hasn't been where it needs to be in this series."
Ally Kosteniuk, the Rebels' leading scorer, sealed the game on an empty-net goal with 1:14 left to play.
In net for the Wildcats, goalie Harper Davey performed admirably, stopping 20 of 22 shots in the loss.
"The bottom line is we've scored one goal in two games... you can't win. Our goalie has to pitch a shutout to give us a chance. We can't win games not scoring, and that's really what happening now."
Pavely noted that the team isn't performing poorly, however, and is a bounce here or there from getting back into this series.
"Our effort's good, we're doing a lot of good things. I thought our neutral zone play was really good in both games, for the most part we've been really good defensively, and those things sometimes get lost when you can't win games and you can't score," Pavely shared. "I said to the girls that we just need to be a little better... all we have to do is be a little bit better on Saturday. If we are, then we get another chance at them."
A must-win Game 3 goes Saturday afternoon in Regina.
On the wrong end of a possible elimination game, the Wildcats face the Rebels at 1:30 p.m. from the Co-operators Centre.