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Ooks women's hockey team secures playoff spot; goalie on track to break multiple records

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As NAIT's women's hockey team heads to playoffs, one of its goalies is finishing up her collegiate career a multiple record holder. 

After a six-game win streak in January, the Ooks are sitting third going into the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC), having been passed by the Lakeland Rustlers and Red Deer Polytechnic's Queens during a double bye. 

"We show up to the rink and want to be 100 per cent every day and just push each other to be better," Hailey Cruickshank, the team's captain, said of the team's success. 

Among the team's top contributors is goalie Kaitlyn Slator, who with every game inches closer toward earning more titles. 

The netminder has beaten all of NAIT's records except the shutout record, for which she is tied with another Ooks player, 2010-15 goalie Jill Diachuk. Diachuk's 12 shutout games is also an ACAC record. 

Slator has also beat the ACAC's all-time wins and games-played records and is on track to surpass minutes played, too. 

"It's an extreme honour. I never thought it'd be possible, looking back at my midget and first years here, but I've worked hard so it's nice to be able to look back on something and be proud of what I've done here at NAIT," Slator told CTV News Edmonton in a recent interview. 

"She's definitely a pleasure to coach. We don't know whether it's her worst day or her best day when she comes to the rink; she really puts everything behind her. She's a work horse out there," head coach Brendan Jensen said. 

Cruickshank added, "All my years playing, I've looked up to her… The way that she balances work, school, hockey, all of those things, it's just incredible." 

Slator called the praise and accolades "pretty cool" but said they aren't her focus. 

"I couldn't win any games by myself," she said. 

"I think everyone on our team wants that championship and I think we have a good chance this year, so hopefully we pull it off and play our best."

The ACAC championship playoffs start March 1

Before then, NAIT has two games against two-time champion Red Deer and Lakeland

NAIT will travel to Red Deer for a 7 p.m. Friday game, then host Red Deer and Lakeland on Feb. 17 and 23, before travelling to Vermilion on Feb. 24. 

The games will determine who has home ice advantage. 

"But I think our hockey club going into any building, whether it's here at NAIT Arena or out on the road, is a pretty tough one to compete against," Jensen, a former Ooks goalie himself, said. 

"[Red Deer and Lakeland] are our two toughest opponents, but I think we can do it with all the hard work and time the team puts in," Cruickshank said. 

No matter the outcome, Slator will be celebrating the friendships she's made during her time at NAIT and the opportunity to play a sport she's loved since childhood. 

"I don't ever want to be done with hockey. I don't know where that'll be in my future, whether that's in coaching or playing beer league or some other league somewhere. I'm open to anything but I'm also excited for different parts of my life that I've got here at NAIT, starting my career and that kind of stuff," the x-ray technologist said. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Galen McDougall 

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