Griffins out-battled by cross-town rival Golden Bears in 4-1 loss

The Griffins had trouble with the Golden Bears' speed in the final two periods as a 1-1 game turned into a 4-1 loss (Joel Kingston photo).
The Griffins had trouble with the Golden Bears' speed in the final two periods as a 1-1 game turned into a 4-1 loss (Joel Kingston photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Whatever was said during the first intermission on Friday night turned the visiting Alberta Golden Bears from friendly Yogi into a full-on 700-pound Grizzly.

They kicked up the speed, won most battles and turned a close game into a 4-1 win over the MacEwan Griffins in Canada West men's hockey action.

"Their speed was the biggest thing," said MacEwan interim head coach Zack Dailey. "They were moving their feet, they were first to every single puck and when we were engaged in battles, they won all of them. 

"Any time you're second to pucks and you're losing battles, you're probably not going to be successful."

With the result, the Golden Bears improved to 12-4-1 and the Griffins fell to 6-9-0 after their fourth-straight loss.

Alberta opened the scoring just 27 seconds into the contest when Jakin Smallwood's cross-crease one-timer on a pass from Justin Hall trickled through Ashton Abel and over the line.

The early strike was not indicative of the opening frame, though, as MacEwan had more chances, including a breakaway by Ethan Strang midway through that Golden Bears goaltender Matt Berlin stopped. But on the ensuing puck battle in the corner off the rebound, Merritt Oszytko dug it out and sent it to Elijah Brown in the slot for a one-timer and the first goal of his Canada West career.

"It's actually really weird," said the first-year Cold Lake, Alta. native who hadn't scored in his first nine games. "This whole week – family, friends and teammates were saying 'it's coming, Brownie.' It sucks it had to come in a loss, but it did feel awesome to tie up the game and throw the monkey off the back. So, it was nice."

Added Dailey: "That was awesome. He's been working hard. I know he's been getting frustrated, so it was nice to see him get one. Hopefully it helps with his confidence, and he'll go up from here."

Elijah Brown celebrates his first Canada West goal with teammates Merritt Oszytko, left, and Ethan Strang in the first period on Friday night (Joel Kingston photo).

Jordan Taupert missed a golden chance to put MacEwan ahead with 2:41 left in the first period as he took advantage of a lobbed stretch pass that wasn't handled by the Bears' D and also fooled Berlin, finding himself in alone staring at empty net, but the tap-in attempt missed.

Nevertheless, the Griffins were in good shape still until the puck dropped on the second period. Alberta hemmed them in their own end for the first four minutes, setting the tone for what would become their game.

Dylan Plouffe scored the eventual game-winner 3:33 into the frame when Volcan's shot went off Abel's pad and he hit the open net from a tough angle on the rebound.

Josh Prokop gave the Bears an insurance marker before the period was out as Volcan stole the puck behind the net, won a battle up the wall and sent a one-timer to him in the slot that he trickled through Abel's legs.

Wyatt McLeod scored with 3:03 left on another one-timer, this time from the right circle off Prokop's pass from behind the net.

"We had some chances (early), and their goalie made some huge saves for them and kind of swung the momentum for them," said Dailey. "We weren't able to get our feet underneath us after that. 

"They're a very good hockey team, they skate very well. Any time you're behind the eight-ball against those guys it's really hard to right the ship."

Abel made 46 saves for MacEwan, while Berlin stopped 22 for Alberta.

The teams will meet again on Saturday (7 p.m., Clare Drake Arena, Canada West TV).

"I'm sure Dales will have a little plan for us," said Brown of the rematch. "It's our last game before we get a month off, so we just have to leave it all out there. It will be a lot of fun playing in their barn with that crowd. I'm excited."