Fast start allows Griffins to put heat on No. 3-ranked Dinos before falling 6-4

The Griffins celebrate one of their four goals against Calgary on Friday night (Calgary Dinos photo).
The Griffins celebrate one of their four goals against Calgary on Friday night (Calgary Dinos photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

CALGARY – Teams talk about a fast start being crucial to success.

Well, it doesn't get much faster than the goal Kole Gable scored to kick off Friday's game at the Calgary Dinos.

Just 11 seconds after the opening puck drop, the MacEwan captain banged in the rebound off Ethan Strang's shot to tie for the third-fastest goal to start a game in Canada West history.

The Griffins continued their hot start, taking a 3-0 lead into the second period before the U SPORTS No. 3-ranked Dinos bit back with a vicious rally that resulted in a 6-4 victory.

The turning point happened quickly and devastatingly early in the second period when the Dinos rattled off four unanswered goals in just over eight minutes to turn a 3-0 deficit into a lead.

"It's crept up here and there with us this year – just losing focus for small stretches in this league," said Griffins assistant coach Ryan Benn, elevated to acting head coach for the contest after Zack Dailey was unable to make the trip south. "Especially against one of the top-ranked teams in Canada, you can't lose your focus even for two minutes. 

"It's still something we're obviously trying to learn from, but it was definitely a tough lesson tonight, for sure."

With the result, the Dinos stretch their Canada West-leading record to 15-3-1, while MacEwan falls to 6-12-1. The Griffins are still three points ahead of Regina for the sixth and final playoff spot in Canada West, but the Cougars, who were idle on Friday, have a game in hand.

Gable's goal came so quickly it necessitated a trip to the conference record book, which revealed Alberta's Johnny Lazo holds the record, scoring seven seconds into a 2011 win over Manitoba. Saskatchewan's Michael Sofillas is second, tallying 10 seconds into a 2015 win over Regina and Gable is now tied for third with Donovan Neuls (11 seconds into Saskatchewan's win over Manitoba in 2021).

"It was exactly what we needed at the time," said Benn. "It was a huge goal just to get the group going. That was big for us."

Kole Gable watches his goal go in the net just 11 seconds into Friday's game - tying for the third-fastest to start a contest in Canada West history (Calgary Dinos photo).

Marc Pasemko made it 2-0 MacEwan before the first period was out, converting on a two-on-one pass from Vincent Scott. And Loeden Schaufler put the Griffins up 3-0, sifting a power-play point shot through traffic and into the top corner 4:34 into the second period.

"Our group definitely came ready to go and ready to work, which has become a staple with this team," said Benn. "It was great to see that. It was exciting to get out to that lead, for sure."

Colson Gengenbach and Noah King scored just 26 seconds apart not long after that, though, and suddenly it was a game. Brendan Lee tied the game just over six minutes later and Tyson Upper put Calgary ahead on a bobbled pass from MacEwan goalie Ashton Abel from behind his net.

However, the Griffins needed just 33 seconds after that for Brendan Boyle to tie the game back up again on centring pass from Strang.

"We showed some good resiliency to push back and make it 4-4," said Benn. "At the end of the second, there were some powerplay opportunities that we'd probably like to have back where we were a little bit unorganized and just lacked a bit of execution. We'd like to have that back and maybe we get a different fate. But that's the way it works. You've got to be ready in those moments to execute."

That's because the Dinos did execute in the third with Jake Gricius scoring the winner at 5:49 and Max Patterson netting an insurance marker at 17:51.

Gable led the Griffins with a goal and two assists, while Strang had three helpers. Abel made 34 saves for MacEwan.

The teams will meet again on Saturday in Edmonton (5 p.m., Downtown Community Arena, Canada West TV).

"I was really happy with the effort," said Benn. "The effort with this group is becoming very consistent. 

"It's now just something where we need to execute at a high level because that's what you need to do in this league. It was certainly not for a lack of effort, and we definitely made them earn it. But that doesn't get you any points."