Concordia transfer Ward adds competition to Griffins' goaltending stable

Eric Ward is joining MacEwan this season after playing for the Concordia Thunder in 2022-23 (Courtesy, Concordia Thunder).
Eric Ward is joining MacEwan this season after playing for the Concordia Thunder in 2022-23 (Courtesy, Concordia Thunder).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The pattern is common enough to lock it in: Eric Ward is a big-game performer in the playoffs.

Transferring from the Concordia Thunder (ACAC), the Edmontonian will join MacEwan's goaltender stable for the 2023-24 Canada West season, head coach Zack Dailey announced Friday.

"If you look at his stats in the playoffs every year, his numbers are outrageous," said Dailey, who has known Ward since he was a student at Vimy Ridge Academy, where he also coaches. "He lives for the big moments."

Ward's Elite Prospects profile shows that in five post-season runs in his career, he had significantly better numbers in the playoffs than the regular season. The most dramatic is his playoff run with the AJHL's Drayton Valley Thunder in 2019-20 where he improved on a 2.92 goals against average and .906 save percentage in the regular season by going 1.31 and .960 in the playoffs.

"He moves well, is patient in the net, is good at making the first save and competes on all the rebounds," said Dailey.

"We're hoping he can help us win, but also create competition in our goalie department. I feel everyone plays their best when there's competition, they're being pushed and they're not comfortable. I think he's going to come in and do that with our goalie group."

Ward will join incumbent fifth-year starter Ashton Abel – the reigning MacEwan Athletics Male Athlete of the Year – and fourth-year veteran Thomas Davis in a battle for crease minutes.

"We talk about the culture and wanting to make sure we bring in hard-working people who are also very respectful and he fits that for sure," said Dailey. "Eric's a great person, a really good teammate and he's a big-game player. 

"(Kurtis) Mucha's our goalie coach and I trust everything he says about goalies, and he vouched for him. It was an easy choice for me."

Ward, who grew up in the KC and CAC elite hockey programs locally and made Hockey Alberta's Alberta Cup showcase, played 56 games for the Drayton Valley Thunder (2019-21) and finished his junior career with AJHL Drumheller in 2021-22, starting 53 games for the Dragons where he was a teammate of fellow Griffins' 2023 recruit Samuel Simard.

Last season, Ward posted a 4.05 GAA and .868 save percentage in 17 regular season games with Concordia before improving his stats to 3.15 and .910 in the ACAC playoffs.

"I definitely watched a bunch of video," said Dailey. "I think that he played better than his numbers. You can't always go by the numbers. You have to watch and see what's going on. 

"After watching a bunch of games, I was happy with his play. I thought he looked really good and Mucha said the same thing."