Griffins show strong stretches against Thunderbirds before wheels fall off late in 7-2 loss

Sean Comrie wheels away from UBC's Chris Douglas on Saturday (Jacob Mallari / UBC Thunderbirds).
Sean Comrie wheels away from UBC's Chris Douglas on Saturday (Jacob Mallari / UBC Thunderbirds).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

-With files from UBC Athletics

VANCOUVER – Although the score doesn't reflect it – a 7-2 loss to the UBC Thunderbirds – the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team had some strong stretches of play against the first-place team in Canada West on Saturday.

The shots weren't lopsided (38-36 for UBC) and MacEwan had their share of chances to score more, but the wheels fell off for the Griffins late in the contest when they allowed three late goals to seal the result.

"I thought that we were quite good for the first two periods," said Griffins head coach Zack Dailey. "We skated with them, put pressure on them and defended pretty well. 

"We maybe ran out of gas in the third period there. We didn't give up a lot of shots, but the chances we gave up were pretty A+ chances. And our special teams kind of died out at the end there."

UBC's last two goals, scored in the final two minutes, were both short-handed as Carson Miller scored on a penalty shot and Sam Huo made it 7-2 56 seconds later.

Also, MacEwan's powerplay was held to 1-for-8 and was shut down completely during two different 5-on-3 man advantages in the second period.

"We came out and had a great start again, had a lot of pace to our play and then ran into some penalty trouble and that really affected the flow of the game," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. "It was just tough sledding out there. But I'm super proud of the guys for staying focused and sticking to the task at hand. The penalty kill did a great job against that 5-on-3 in the second period and it was just nice to see the guys break through after a bit of a slower type paced game."

With the result, UBC improves to 18-4-0, keeping them a point ahead of Calgary for first in Canada West. MacEwan falls to 6-15-1 and remains three points ahead of idle Regina (4-14-2) for the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference but the Cougars now have two games in hand.

Carter Chorney opened the scoring for MacEwan, one-timing in a pretty pass from Kole Gable to get the Griffins on the board on the PP 8:33 into the contest. But Scott Atkinson's first period tally kicked off four unanswered goals by UBC (Chris Douglas had two of them with Jake Lee getting another).

"I think we definitely need to focus on breaking pucks out," said Dailey. "That was an issue all weekend where we turned over pucks on our breakouts. So, we need to make sure we're working on that this week."

Brendan Boyle pulled MacEwan within two with 12:17 left in the game on a spin-a-rama shot from the slot off Ethan Strang's great rush to start the play.

But Liam Kindree scored less than two minutes later to restore UBC's three-goal lead before the late tallies turned the result into a rout.

Eric Ward made 31 saves for MacEwan, while Cole Schwebius stopped 34 for UBC.

Despite the finish, for portions of the game, the Griffins competed with the Thunderbirds, again proving they're right there, they just need to put it together for longer.

"Trying to take a positive, if we skate, we can play with teams," he said. "They're a very, very good team. I thought for two periods, we hung with them. We'll take some positives, get to work, fix some stuff. Our special teams, particularly powerplay need a little bit of work, as well. If we fix those things, I think we'll be OK for this upcoming weekend."

MacEwan returns home to host Saskatchewan on Jan. 19-20.