Strang first Griffin to net a CW hat trick, Abel gets first shutout as Griffins blank Bisons

Ethan Strang is the first Griffin to score a hat trick in Canada West competition (Derek Harback photo).
Ethan Strang is the first Griffin to score a hat trick in Canada West competition (Derek Harback photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — Sometimes you just have to get back to the basics and simplify the game.

Searching for their first win of the season, the MacEwan Griffins set the tone early, were committed to the little details and it resulted in a commanding 5-0 win over the Manitoba Bisons on Friday night at the Downtown Community Arena.

Ethan Strang became the first Griffins player to record a hat-trick in Canada West play, while Kole Gable and Loeden Schaufler added singles.

Ashton Abel made 29 saves for his first-career U SPORTS shutout as MacEwan improved to 1-5-1 this season.

"I asked our guys to really focus on our foundation, which is winning races to pucks, and then when we're in battles, winning battles. Simple as that. I asked them to get back to basics, and I think we were successful, because of it," said Griffins head coach Zack Dailey.

"We chipped a lot of pucks in. We skated hard and put a lot of pressure on them, and we scored some good goals and had really great goaltending tonight. It was a great team win."

Right from the opening puck drop, the Griffins looked to be on a mission. They controlled the bulk of the play and put all kinds of pressure on Bisons goaltender Kolby Thornton, who made 23 saves in the loss for Manitoba.

MacEwan hit two posts within the opening seven minutes but were finally rewarded when Strang scored his first of the game on a breakaway at the 8:59 mark when he ripped a shot over the glove of Thornton to give MacEwan the 1-0 lead.

The shots were close in the opening 20 minutes as MacEwan outshot Manitoba 9-8, but the Bisons were lucky to get out of the first period, down just one goal.

"Not to bring up the past, but last year, they really ran us out of their building, and the guys remembered that, and wanted to come with a great effort," said Dailey.

"They're a team that works exceptionally hard, and if we want to be successful, we have to match their work ethic, and we did a good job doing that tonight."

The Bisons showed some push back in the second period, outshooting MacEwan 15-9, but Abel wasn't going to allow Manitoba to get back in the game.

He made a crucial save in the early stages of the second period when he denied Hayden Ostir on a breakaway.

Not long after, MacEwan made it 2-0 when Gable converted a pretty feed on a 2-on-1 with Jordan Taupert at the 3:47 mark of the second.

Abel then made another strong save off the stick of Ostir later on in the second to keep it a two-goal game.

Ashton Abel made 29 saves for his first career Canada West shutout (Derek Harback photo).

"We came in with a mindset that we're a desperate hockey team and we needed to get that win," said Abel."I just try to be a calm presence behind the guys. The guys played great, and I just tried to be calm, and I know they have a lot of confidence in me.

"The shutout feels nice, but it's a better feeling that we put one in the win column. The two points mean more than anything."

The Griffins certainly weren't going to take their foot off the gas pedal with a 2-0 lead going into the third period.

Schaufler's blast from the point through traffic made it 3-0 just 2:05 into the third period, and then Strang scored his second of the game with an empty-netter, and then got the hat-trick goal on another breakaway with 2:20 remaining.

"I did the same thing the first time (on his first goal). I went over the glove. It seems to be my signature move, and if it's working, I'm not going to change it," smiled Strang.

"I think every goal I've scored this year has been on a breakaway. Even the empty-netter I'll claim as a breakaway.

"Scoring goals is the most exciting part of hockey, and to get my first hat-trick, it's such a great feeling."

The Griffins can breathe a sigh of relief with their first win of the season, but now they want to build on it and try to gain some momentum.

"So far, this year we've had some good periods, or good stretches of play, and then we'd shut down," said Strang.

"It's been up and down, but I thought tonight we played well in all three phases, stuck to our structure, and played to our capabilities, and you can't ask for more. We need to build off this effort tonight and keep pushing forward."