Griffins head to Regina for crucial series vs. team they're competing with for final playoff spot

Sean Comrie battles for puck possession behind the net with Mount Royal's Kasey Hiemstra last Friday (Jefferson Hagen photo).
Sean Comrie battles for puck possession behind the net with Mount Royal's Kasey Hiemstra last Friday (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – It was just over 10 months ago that the Griffins men's hockey team boarded a bus bound for Regina with their playoff fate still very much in their hands.

Instead, they left the city with no points after getting swept by the Cougars – a moment that would go down as the turning point in MacEwan's season. 

A month later, the Cougars clinched the final playoff spot on a tiebreaker over the Griffins after both teams tied for sixth place.

Yes, it's a new season, but it's hard for the returning Griffins players to not have that as motivation in their minds as they visit the Cougars for the first time since that fateful January weekend. 

MacEwan will play in Regina on Friday (6 p.m. MT) and Saturday (4 p.m. MT, both Canada West TV).

"I think the over-arching message is they just wanted it more than we did," said head coach Zack Dailey. "They were willing to do the little stuff – it mattered more to them. So, we need to care a whole bunch this weekend. 

"I think we proved the teams are quite even and it's going to come down to who's willing to work harder. Who's willing to do the little stuff more?"

The scenario isn't far off of last season as both teams are battling for the final playoff spot again. Thanks to a weekend split with Mount Royal on Nov. 17-18, the Griffins (5-8-1) are three points ahead of Regina (3-9-2) for sixth in the conference.

That sets the stage for an incredibly important series, even though there's still 12 games left in the 2023-24 regular season after this weekend.

"Preparation is always the same, no matter your opponent," said Dailey. "This is a team that works extremely hard. They're very committed to doing the little things – blocking shots, being physical, back-checking – so if we want to have any type of success, we need to make sure our fundamentals are there, we're winning one-on-one battles, we're moving our feet, we're winning races to pucks and our compete and physical play is there."

MacEwan beat MRU 3-2 last Friday with one of their most complete efforts of the season before losing to them 5-1 a night later in Calgary.

"I really liked a lot of stuff that we did," said Dailey. "I thought we took some steps. Obviously, the overall effort on Saturday wasn't what we were looking for, but our biggest thing is we need to have a short memory. We need take away the positives and build upon the negatives and have a better effort for the whole weekend."