Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – If there is a cautionary tale for the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team this weekend as they visit Caronport, Sask., for a pair of games against the Briercrest Clippers, they need only to look at what happened last season.
As they grew into the best team in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference in 2016-17, the Griffins had a blip on the radar when they suffered a 4-3 October loss to Briercrest – one of only two regulation wins the Clippers had last season.
Taking the Clippers lightly is not something that even the best teams can afford to do. It's a lesson the current Griffins squad vows to take to heart as they play games on Friday (6 p.m. MT) and Saturday (1 p.m. MT, both on ACAC TV) in the Briercrest College barn.
"I think it's important that we don't take anyone lightly," said MacEwan interim head coach Michael Ringrose. "A lot of times it's about preparation. For us, it would be pretty easy to look at the standings and look through the last weekend, but we need to take a mature approach this week and finish the first half of the season here on a real strong note."
After a slow start to the 2017-18 season, the Griffins are now riding a six-game winning streak. They have yet to lose November, outscoring their opponents 31-8 in a sizzling month of play to move into second in the ACAC standings.
"I've been extremely happy with last weekend and this little stretch that we've been on where we've put together back-to-back wins three weekends in a row," said Ringrose.
"Obviously, that's something I'm happy with and a sign of progress, but it's all part of a year plan and a process to get us to where we need to be when the hockey matters the most."
And finishing off the first half of the season strong is paramount. The Griffins started the campaign 2-4, but will hit the Christmas break six games above .500 if they can get four points this weekend.
"We've been building and it's a process. Early on we're working through some changes," said Ringrose. "Now I feel we're on the same page and everyone understands our identity as a group. So, we're continuing to hone things and work on our game. But it's a year-long process and we're right in the middle of it."
Briercrest is currently outside the playoff picture with a 2-8-1-1 record. But there's no doubt they gain a leg up when they're at home as visitors have to shake off the bus legs after a lengthy trip to their barn in southern Saskatchewan. Earlier this month, they took one of the ACAC's top teams, UAlberta-Augustana, to the limit (losing 4-3), so teams just can't take them for granted.
To break up the long trip, the Griffins made the Edmonton to Saskatoon leg of the journey on Thursday.
"Our guys are excited to get on the road," said Ringrose, prior to boarding the iron lung. "It's a good opportunity, especially the way things have been going lately, to do a little bit of team building and build a little camaraderie – make a deposit into that bank account.
"We're excited to get going. This week in practice has been good and we've been sharp. So, my expectation is that we take a mature approach and continue to build."