Abel's fantastic 56-save effort holds Griffins in before high-flying UBC eventually skates off with win

Ashton Abel makes one of his 56 saves on Friday night (Bob Frid / UBC Athletics).
Ashton Abel makes one of his 56 saves on Friday night (Bob Frid / UBC Athletics).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

-With files from UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER – It took one of the best goaltender performances since MacEwan joined Canada West for the Griffins to finish only two goals back of the UBC Thunderbirds in a 3-1 loss on Friday night.

Ashton Abel made 56 saves – the second-most ever by a Griffins goaltender in a Canada West game – but it still wasn't enough for a MacEwan team that didn't do enough to contain the high-flying Thunderbirds, who skated to their sixth-straight win.

"He's the only reason we were in it at the end there," said Griffins head coach Zack Dailey. "We did not play well in front of him for about 50 minutes of that game and he held us in. 

"Down the stretch here, he's going to need to play like that if we want to win hockey games, but our focus now is helping him out. We can't waste those efforts. We have to play a little bit better in front of him."

The final shots were 59-18 for UBC, who by rights should have won the game in a landslide. But Abel's effort had the Griffins within two for most of the night.

"He was outstanding in there, he made it look easy," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon in praise of MacEwan's netminder. "His angles were perfect, he anticipated all the plays. I still think we were not great with our finish. I loved our energy, I loved our grittiness, I loved our work ethic, I loved our preparation mentally. Just, if you had to pick one thing we didn't have it was that last touch around the net. But credit to him, he was outstanding and it's a good lesson for going into tomorrow."

Abel is now up to 397 saves on the season, the third-most in Canada West.

After UBC took a 3-0 lead in the third period on goals by Scott Atkinson, Sasha Mutala and Tian Rask, Jordan Taupert broke up Cole Schwebius' shutout bid when he sniped a powerplay marker on him with 1:52 remaining for MacEwan's lone goal of the contest.

Ultimately, the Griffins didn't do enough to slow down UBC's vaunted attack that comes at teams in waves – a big reason why they're ranked fourth in the country.

With the result, UBC is now 17-4-0, while MacEwan drops to 6-14-1. The Griffins remain in sixth in the conference, three points ahead of Regina for the final playoff spot.

The teams will meet again on Saturday (4 p.m. MT, Canada West TV), and the Griffins will be looking for a better effort.

"I thought we didn't put enough pressure on them through the neutral zone and that allowed them to enter with possession," said Dailey. "It's my job to watch video and figure out a game plan to make them chip more pucks and have to skate through us to get the puck back."