Griffins score historic first Canada West win over Golden Bears with 4-3 OT triumph

Ejiah Brown breaks up Josh Prokop's rush on Friday night (Don Voaklander photo).
Ejiah Brown breaks up Josh Prokop's rush on Friday night (Don Voaklander photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – History was made at the Clare Drake Arena on Friday night … by the scrappy visitors from across the river.

The MacEwan Griffins went into their cross-town rivals' storied barn – home of the defending Canada West champions and 2021-22 U SPORTS silver medalists – and rode away with a historic 4-3 overtime win.

It's the first time MacEwan has beaten Alberta since joining the Canada West men's hockey ranks prior to the 2021-22 season. 

And you'd have to go back a full 5,509 days to find the last time the Griffins defeated the Golden Bears in any match – Sept. 7, 2007 when MacEwan topped Alberta 4-3 in a preseason contest.

"Just proud of our group this evening," said MacEwan interim head coach Zack Dailey. "The term 'bend but not break' comes to mind. 

"Obviously, that's a very good hockey team we're playing against, but it was nice to see the guys stick together and commit to doing the hard stuff that it takes to win. Just proud of our guys for their effort tonight."

Veteran defenceman Curtis Roach ended the proceedings with a 4-on-3 powerplay goal 3:15 into overtime. He stepped up the middle and launched a shot through traffic that eluded Alberta goaltender Nick Schneider to seal the historic result.

The MacEwan celebration was huge.

"It was something I haven't actually seen since winning a championship," said Dailey of the team's reaction when that goal went in. "Guys were quite happy. It's a big moment for our program. 

"I think it instilled a little bit of confidence in our guys, just belief that we're a good hockey team and we can compete with the top schools. Very ecstatic and very happy.

"I told them to enjoy it for tonight, but we've got to be ready to go for tomorrow. It's going to be an uphill battle again tomorrow night. It's going to be a tough game and we're not satisfied with just one win. We want to make sure we're pushing for two."

Ashton Abel stopped 48 of 51 shots the Alberta Golden Bears threw at him on Friday (Joel Kingston photo).

Alberta outshot MacEwan 51-25 in Friday's contest, but the play of Griffins goaltender Ashton Abel was nothing short of exceptional. His 48 saves jumped off the page on the scoresheet.

"He was incredible," said Dailey of the Fort McMurray native who transferred to MacEwan this season from Boston University. "He definitely helped us win this game and was a very big part of it. 

"His presence in net was very calm, very structured and he was good positionally. I was very impressed with his play, and he was a big reason why we won tonight."

Abel particularly shone on the penalty kill with multiple big saves to help MacEwan hold Alberta to just a 1-for-5 mark with the man advantage. That's big, considering the Griffins allowed seven powerplay goals against in a series split with Regina last weekend.

"I was just impressed," said Dailey whose squad worked hard on the PK in practice all week. "Our guys had a tough weekend on the penalty kill last weekend. We made some adjustments and guys were just putting a little more pressure on people and blocking more shots. I was really impressed with how the guys responded to a not great effort on the penalty kill last weekend."

Brendan Boyle, who scored twice in MacEwan's last game, opened the scoring for MacEwan 1:47 in before Alberta took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission on a pair of tallies by Tyler Preziuso.

Sean Comrie tied the game in the second period and Ryley Appelt scored with 5:39 remaining in the final frame as the Griffins took a 3-2 lead into the final few minutes of regulation. But Alberta's Matt Fonteyne found the back of the net on the powerplay with 2:47 left to force OT.

The teams will meet again on Saturday (5 p.m., Downtown Community Arena, Canada West TV).