Austin Connelly, For MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – An injury in the last game of the preseason sidelined rookie defencemen Cale Chalifoux until late November, but he made his long-awaited Alberta Colleges Athletics Conference debut on Nov. 22.
It certainly wasn't easy to be sitting on the sidelines.
"It was pretty tough at first just coming to terms with how long it actually was going to be because we weren't too sure," he said.
Chalifoux says the semester break was huge for his recovery and he's ready to make a big impact for the second half of the season. After being a mainstay in the AJHL for the past four seasons with the Calgary Canucks and Camrose Kodiaks, he was eager to get back onto the ice for his first ACAC season.
"For recovery, I've been seeing the athletic therapist at school and a couple of the doctors at the MacEwan clinic and then I've been dealing all the time with our trainer, Paul (Trevor), and he's been a big help for me."
Chalifoux leads the Griffins into their first action of the second semester on Friday at Red Deer College (7 p.m., ACAC TV). They will then host the Kings in Saturday's rematch (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena, ACAC TV).
Jumping into the lineup has been a seamless transition for Chalifoux, who has been paired with long-time teammate Zach Aston. The two played together when they were 11 years old.
"I think him, and I have complemented each other nicely," he said. "We mostly just try and get out there and execute the way our coaches want us to, while playing to our strengths and keeping it as simple and efficient as possible."
In just four games back, Chalifoux has already displayed his fearless style of play, laying down his body often and showcasing what he can bring to the table for MacEwan. That was highlighted in his first game back with the team when he frequently got into the dirty areas and blocked multiple shots, one of them sending him limping off the ice. But the young defender wouldn't miss a shift.
"That's just something that any one of us are willing to do to help the team win," he explained.
With the strengths of Chalifoux's game coming on the defensive side, the Edmonton native wants to focus on rounding out his contributions by hitting the scoresheet more.
"Just in practice and with this group of guys, with Sean (Ringrose) and Dales (Zack Dailey) I've been feeling very confident in my game," he said. "So, I'd like to try and improve my numbers this year when I'm out there."
Interim head coach Sean Ringrose knows how hard his rookie D-man has worked to get back into playing shape.
"I know it's been tough for him for getting back in things skating again and trying to work his way back," he said. "He had a few other little nicks that ended up giving him setbacks and it's been a bit of a tough first half form in terms of injury stuff."
But his willingness to play the right way has been huge for the coaching staff.
"He's solid in the in the defensive zone he's got a good stick out there and you know he's definitely helps move pucks in transition for us on the back end," said Ringrose.
Coming back from injury isn't easy for any athlete, especially one who's coming into a brand-new league where the players and bigger stronger and faster, but Chalifoux continues to adjust quickly. With an extra month of recovery for his injury over semester break, he's refreshed and ready to make a big impact for the Griffins to kick off the second half of the season.
MacEwan (9-5-0-0) trails Red Deer College (12-1-1-0) by seven points for second place in the standings, which mean it's a massive four-point swing weekend either way. Best-case scenario with two wins would put the Griffins just three points behind and back in the conversation for one of the coveted top-two positions, which represent byes past the opening round of the playoffs.