Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
CALGARY – So short-handed due to injuries, the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team was forced to play defenceman Cameron Reagan as a centre against the Calgary Dinos on Saturday night.
That's saying something because if the entire Griffins' roster was healthy, they would have enough forwards for six full lines.
"It's been challenging, for sure," said MacEwan head coach Mike Ringrose, whose club has also gone through a COVID situation where they were shut down and quarantined for a week. "We haven't played with our full lineup yet. That's tough.
"On our roster, we don't have much U SPORTS experience, so we have a whole bunch of guys who are trying to find their way at a new level. Then adding those additional things to your plate, without a doubt it's challenging."
All of that preamble isn't meant to be an excuse after the Griffins suffered their sixth-straight loss on Saturday – a 6-3 setback to the Dinos – but it does give context to a challenging first five weeks of play in the Canada West conference.
For the record, Reagan thrived in his new position on Saturday, scoring two of MacEwan's three goals.
"Cam did a good job stepping into a tough situation," said Ringrose. "He had to do it a couple of years ago for us, so we knew that he could. Credit to him for being able to do that and finding a way to contribute offensively as well."
Other than that there weren't many positives for the Griffins, who got off to a slow start and had to try to dig themselves out of an early 4-0 deficit.
"We gave up 21 shots in the first period," lamented Ringrose, whose club found themselves trailing 3-0 after 20 minutes. "We were not prepared to play.
"Hockey's a simple game sometimes. Before anything else, you need to be willing to win races and you need to be willing to win battles. Tonight, for the first half of the game, we were completely unwilling to do those things and it showed."
Jaeger White, Noah King and Josh Rieger scored to put the Dinos up 3-0 after the first and Arjun Atwal made if 4-0 11:33 into the second.
Reagan finally got the Griffins on the board on a late second-period powerplay and also scored with the man advantage midway through the third after Riley Stotts tallied Calgary's fifth goal.
Sean Comrie drew the Griffins within two with 2:24 remaining, but Calgary hit an empty net with 58 seconds left to ice the result.
"In this league, it's too late when you start chasing a game and you're down three," said Ringrose. "The teams are too good.
"We started to win some races and battles in the second half. Credit to them for being able to turn the page and do that, but at that point it's a big hole and we just didn't have enough to climb out."
James Porter made 43 saves for the Griffins in defeat.
With the result, the Griffins fall to 2-6-0 on the season, while Calgary – with their third win over MacEwan in the span of eight days – moves to 5-3-0.
The Griffins return home to a bye week, crucial to getting some guys healthy for a home matchup with fellow Canada West newbie Trinity Western (0-6-0) on Nov. 26-27 at the Downtown Community Arena.