Sandman Players of the Month: Mwasalla, Abel earn September, October honours

Grace Mwasalla led the Griffins women's soccer team with 15 goals and 17 points (Joel Kingston photo).
Grace Mwasalla led the Griffins women's soccer team with 15 goals and 17 points (Joel Kingston photo).

MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Women's soccer forward Grace Mwasalla and men's hockey goaltender Ashton Abel have earned Sandman Players of the Month awards for the first two months of MacEwan Athletics' 2022-23 campaign.

As an honour for their outstanding play, both have earned a free night's stay from the Sandman Hotel Downtown Edmonton.

Mwasalla completed an incredible season for the MacEwan women's soccer team, finishing with 15 goals and 17 points in 14 games, setting new program records in both categories for the most goals and points in a Canada West season. 

"I've never seen an individual output since I've been here at MacEwan like this," said MacEwan women's soccer head coach Dean Cordeiro of Mwasalla's season. "She's an elite player. To not only see her in our conference and what she was able to do, but if you look at U SPORTS, I think she was in top three in scoring, as well."

Mwasalla finished second in U SPORTS in goals and tied for fourth in points. She was recently named to the Canada West first all-star team. 

"It was a treat to watch, right before your eyes," said Cordeiro. "With some of these performances unfolding, us coaches just looked at each other like 'wow.' She had a couple of games where we knew we were watching something truly special – those two four-point performances – and she didn't even play the full 90s in those games."

Mwasalla tied a program record with four goals in a game at Winnipeg on Oct. 2.

"She's a special talent, but more importantly, she's a special individual," said Cordeiro. "She's already one of our captains. She brings this team together and has the pulse of this team. 

"She brings that energy. Every time that whistle blows, she's ready to go. She's determined, she's fierce and it's going to be fun to watch her these next couple of years."

Ashton Abel was the biggest reason the Griffins knocked off three top U SPORTS teams in October, including No. 1-ranked Alberta (Don Voaklander photo).

Abel has been outstanding for the Griffins men's hockey team since their season began Sept. 30. The transfer from Boston University finished October as the top workhorse goaltender in Canada West with 409:38 to his credit so far. 

In that time, he led the Griffins to four wins, three of them against U SPORTS national championship contenders as they knocked off Alberta 4-3 on Oct. 7, Mount Royal University 3-2 on Oct. 21 and UBC 3-2 on Oct. 29.

His save percentages in those contests were sparkling – .941, .933 and .957, respectively.

"Huge for us," said interim head coach Zack Dailey of his impact in those games. "I thought we played hard, we played a great team game, but there were still some breakdowns he was there to cover up for us. Without him, I'm not sure if we would have gotten any of those wins."

Abel's overall numbers in October – a .903 save percentage, 3.60 goals against average – were solid considering the Griffins were outshot in four of his six starts.

"The one thing that sticks out is just talking to him when he first got here – 'I'm happy to have you here' and he was just like 'yeah, I'm just excited to play,' " said Dailey of the Boston University transfer. "I think he's a kid who didn't get the opportunity he wanted in (NCAA) Division 1, but he's hungry to play, he's proven that he deserves our starting job right now and he's done a really great job."