Great moments overshadowed in Griffins' wild 8-5 loss to cross-town rival Golden Bears

Ethan Strang scored twice against Alberta on Saturday to break his own program record (Derek Harback photo).
Ethan Strang scored twice against Alberta on Saturday to break his own program record (Derek Harback photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Whack-a-mole sure is a lot of fun in the arcade.

But on the ice, it's not a game you'd like to be playing.

Unfortunately, for the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team, they were caught in a game of catch-up all evening against their cross-town rival, the Alberta Golden Bears. 

Just when they solved one problem – like coming back from an early 2-0 deficit to tied it 2-2 late in the first period – another would crop up … like an unwanted mole.

Alberta took a 5-2 lead, fought off another two-goal rally by MacEwan and eventually won 8-5 in a wild contest that closed out the first semester for both teams.

"It was a very strange game," said MacEwan head coach Zack Dailey. "For times we were good and other times we just made really, really bad mistakes. It was a weird one for me. 

"Again, we've talked numerous times about the consistency piece, so that was an issue. I know guys are tired, I know it's the last game before break and guys are stressed out about exams, they're excited to get a little bit of rest. But I'm definitely disappointed overall with the weekend. I thought with a more consistent effort, we could have got some points out of it."

Unfortunately, the Griffins got nothing out of the weekend series with Alberta even though they were the better team for stretches. They'll finish the first semester at 6-11-1, still three points up on Regina (4-12-2) for the final playoff spot in the Canada West men's hockey ranks.

Alberta improves to 12-4-2 and sit third. In other words, if the playoffs started today, the Edmonton rivals would be facing off in the first round.

The Griffins have certainly closed the gap against the Golden Bears, but they know there is more work to do.

"I think it's just a mindset thing," said forward Ethan Strang, who scored twice for the Griffins on Saturday, completing a four-goal weekend. "We compete with these top teams, and I think we get in our heads a little bit that they're a little bit better than us when I don't think that's the case here. 

"I think it just comes down to mindset. We need to act like we're the top dogs in this league. That's what we're trying to be, and we need to start acting like it."

Strang, who scored twice for MacEwan on Friday, got the Griffins on the board  5:41 into the contest when he converted a rebound off Rylan Lefebvre's shot. 

Strang scored again midway through the second off a net-front scramble for his team-leading 10th of the campaign, which breaks his own program record from last season for the most goals by a Griffin in a CW season.

"He moves his feet," said Dailey. "That's all we ask of these guys. The guys that move their feet consistently and put pressure on other teams usually have success and I was happy to see him leading by example. 

"It's something he's been doing all season. We just need more guys on board."

Jordan Taupert scored twice for the Griffins in Saturday's 8-5 loss (Derek Harback photo).

Jordan Taupert also lit the lamp twice for the Griffins, while Ryley Appelt also scored.

Alberta got two from Tyler Preziuso and singles from Josh Prokop, Alex Thacker, Noah Boyko, Jakin Smallwood, Josh Paterson before Adam Hall scored an empty-netter. Smallwood finished with three points.

Matt Berlin earned the win with 25 saves, while Thomas Davis stopped 34 for MacEwan.

Despite the loss, the Griffins have plenty to build off of as they look towards the second semester.

"The thing I like about our group is the effort is there and guys clearly care about their teammates and about the program," said Dailey. "That's a step in the right direction. That's the foundation of our team. We need people here who care and who compete hard. 

"The next step now is the execution piece, being able to do our systems all the time, not turning pucks over. 

"But overall, there's been a lot of good things. We've shown when we play our game we can be competitive with teams. There's obviously a lot to work on, but there's definitely positives to take away from the first half."