Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Granted many of the usual suspects who traditionally vie for the scoring lead on the MacEwan men's hockey team are no longer with the program, but a glance at the Griffins' current offensive leaders reveals an unfamiliar dark horse in the sniper pole position.
Ryan McKinnon leads the team with seven goals in eight games.
It's a surprise considering he produced just two goals and five points in limited ice time during 11 appearances in his rookie Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference season last year.
But those who know McKinnon best say his shot is a lethal. Combine that with more opportunities to shoot and voila!
"Ryan's always been a guy who can really shoot the puck, so it's not really a surprise to me that he's got a lot of goals," said MacEwan interim head coach Sean Ringrose. "He showed that certainly against Briercrest and even the weekend before he was able to get on the scoresheet a couple of times.
"That line has found some chemistry together with (Joseph) Karpyshyn and (Chase) Miller. They didn't have a whole ton of success offensively early, but they continue to work hard and have really reaped the benefits of their hard work lately and have been able to get on the scoresheet quite a bit."
In fact, the trio combined for an otherworldly 19 points in MacEwan's lopsided 15-3 and 11-3 wins over Briercrest last weekend. McKinnon produced five goals and an assist to run his season totals up to seven goals and eight points in as many games.
"I think just getting into the lineup helps," said the second-year Business Management student-athlete. "In the summer, I just worked on getting my shot off quicker. Obviously, it's helped out during the season. I think it's been going well. And confidence is up, so that helps."
Humbly, McKinnon describes his contributions to his line's success as simply being the triggerman.
"They're two skilled players," he said of Karpyshyn and Miller, who have nine points each so far on the season. "They put up a lot of points in junior. Miller's fast and Karypyshn's smart with the puck. He works for it. Honestly, they give me the puck and I just shoot the puck."
However it's happening, the production is undeniable. McKinnon wasn't a big scorer as a junior journeyman, playing a defensive forward role during Alberta Junior Hockey League stops in Spruce Grove, Whitecourt, Calgary (Canucks), Sherwood Park and Camrose. But he's finding a lot of confidence in his shot right now.
"We had a pretty veteran team last year and maybe Ryan didn't have as much of an opportunity to get into the lineup with all of the veteran forwards we had last year," said Ringrose. "This year, having a little bit of turnover there, he's been able to take advantage of his opportunities.
"Ryan's the type of guy who's really well liked in the dressing room. He works hard and he does the little things and has a solid commitment to the game. He's a guy we use on the penalty kill. He's not afraid to block shots and do the little thing defensively.
"He's worked hard on the offensive part of the game and playing with a couple of offensive guys, he's able to mold his game a little bit and get himself into positions where he's able to shoot the puck. With the shot he's got it's not a surprise that a bunch of those are going in the net."
The Griffins (5-3-0-0) head into a home-and-home weekend series against SAIT (4-1-1-2) with Friday's game in Calgary (7 p.m., ACAC TV) and Saturday's tilt at home (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena, ACAC TV).
The Trojans are one of the biggest and most physical teams in the league.
"I think their average height is about 6-2 and I think our tallest forward is 5-11," said McKinnon. "But I think we're fast enough and smart enough and our systems are pretty good, so I think as long as we play and stick with the systems and don't get into their physicality after the whistles, we'll be fine."
MacEwan is coming into the weekend off a bye week, so they'll need to remember what they did so well to score 26 goals against Briercrest on Nov. 1-2.
"We know we've got to crank up the intensity going into this weekend," said Ringrose. "SAIT's a big, physical team that competes hard and has a skilled group of guys, and we need to make sure we're ready to compete this weekend and be able to work in those hard areas of the ice."