Short-handed Griffins run out of gas in 5-2 loss to UBC

Ty Taylor made 40 saves in a stellar effort for the Griffins, but the team lost 5-2 on Saturday (Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds).
Ty Taylor made 40 saves in a stellar effort for the Griffins, but the team lost 5-2 on Saturday (Rich Lam / UBC Thunderbirds).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

-With files from UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER – Running on fumes at the end, the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team completed a challenging first weekend back after COVID protocols forced the postponement of their home opener a week ago with a 5-2 loss to the UBC Thunderbirds on Saturday.

They were running just 11 forwards, had three guys on the ice who hadn't played a Canada West regular season game until this weekend and were all short a week of crucial practice when team activities were halted due to multiple positive COVID cases earlier this month.

"We looked like we ran out of gas today," said head coach Mike Ringrose. "Maybe that's a product of our circumstances with COVID. Maybe it's a testament to that team. They skate exceptionally well and they bring a ton of pressure.

"I thought our guys battled for as long as they could. At the end, we just didn't have anything left."

UBC outshot MacEwan 45-19 on Saturday afternoon and won 5-2 over the Griffins for the second-straight game to remain unbeaten at 6-0-0 on the season. MacEwan fell back to 2-2-0.

Ringrose reiterated that they weren't in the excuse business, even if the cards were stacked against them before the weekend even began.

"No excuses, that's not what we're about," he said. "We knew it was going to be a difficult weekend.

"I thought we started better and the commitment to the details of our game was better in the first half. We just seemed to run out of gas a little bit."

That left a large load on the shoulders of goaltender Ty Taylor, who came up with another outstanding performance for MacEwan, a night after looking stellar in relief. The Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick made 40 saves in a losing effort.

"He was exceptional again," said Ringrose. "I thought it was a really good weekend for him. Like I said last night, it was a tough spot to come into yesterday and he played exceptional, and followed it up with a great quality start today.

"It was nice to see a guy who's working hard in practice get rewarded and get things back on track after what was an unfortunate set of circumstances to start the season (an injury that led to a lost preseason)."

Captain Ethan Price gets in goalie Rylan Toth's face as a shot comes in on Saturday (Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds).

Down by two entering the second after UBC got first period goals from Chris Douglas and Tian Rask, MacEwan started the middle frame exactly how they wanted.

Riley Brandt notched his team-leading fourth of the season just 52 seconds in, sneaking the puck five-hole past goalie Rylan Toth on a play that was initially waived off by the closer referee but upon further discussion was announced as a good goal, giving the visitors some much needed life.

But on what turned out to be the game winner at 15:45 of the second, T-Birds captain Tyler Sandhu made a deft deflection in the slot off a Jonathan Smart shot for his third of the season, restoring the two-goal advantage.

Austin Glover (on a short-handed breakaway) and Jack Wismer (on a tip) made it 5-1 for UBC in the third period before Cameron Reagan got one back on a one-timer powerplay blast with just under seven minutes left.

Ringrose noted a bright spot for the Griffins on the weekend was their special teams as their penalty kill blanked the Thunderbirds on eight chances and their powerplay struck three times.

"It's nice to see our special teams go to work," he said. "If you were to look at the weekend and find parts of our game that were good – our penalty kills was, especially in zone.

"I thought that our powerplay, although we weren't clean – the goals we scored weren't necessarily the way we drew them up – we found a way to score goals. That's important. If we're going to be successful, our special teams need to be good. Both our goaltending and special teams were positive coming out of the weekend."

The Griffins now return to Edmonton and prepare for their postponed home-opening weekend vs. Calgary on Nov. 5 (2 p.m.) and Nov. 6 (8 p.m., both Downtown Community Arena, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).