Playing key role for Griffins, two-way centre Boyle leads MacEwan vs. Saskatchewan this weekend

Brendan Boyle lines up for a faceoff against Calgary's Connor Gutenberg during a game earlier this season (Rebecca Chelmick photo).
Brendan Boyle lines up for a faceoff against Calgary's Connor Gutenberg during a game earlier this season (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The nuances of how to win a faceoff include leverage, anticipation, hand eye and speed. 

They also include a deep dive into who you're going to be facing on the other side of the dot.

The best faceoff artists have a book of information in their head about the tendencies of their opponents as they scheme for the best ways to beat them.

It's fair to say Brendan Boyle is one of those guys, which is why he's managed to be above 50 per cent in winning draws since he joined the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team in 2022.

Now in his second season, he's been thrust into the important position of centering one of MacEwan's top lines, playing alongside leading scorer Ethan Strang and captain Kole Gable.

"In my opinion, lines need different aspects to them," said Griffins head coach Zack Dailey. "If you have the exact same player on a line, it usually doesn't go super well. Boyle's someone on that line who gets to the net, causes some traffic, and can find some of the dirty goals. He wins faceoffs, so that line can start with possession and that's a positive. 

"He's also someone who goes and gets pucks if they chip pucks in. He goes in the corners and creates second and third opportunities. He's a very important piece of that line and I think a lot of their success has to do with Boyle's work ethic."

Boyle will lead the Griffins into weekend action vs. Saskatchewan on Friday (7 p.m.) and Saturday (4 p.m., both Downtown Community Arena, Canada West TV).


After scoring a highlight-reel spin-a-rama goal against UBC last Saturday, Boyle is now up to seven points in 20 games this season. He tallied MacEwan's second of the game in a 7-2 loss to the Thunderbirds on a rebound off Strang's initial shot.

"I just kind of chucked a grenade," he said. "I had no clue where I was shooting it. The rebound was sitting there after Strang-er made a really nice play to take it to the net and get a shot off. I just found the puck, sent it with a prayer and found the back of the net."

Nevertheless, it looked pretty good on film.

Any offence that Boyle creates is a bonus because he's such a strong defensive forward. Going back to his youth hockey days in Calgary with Bow River and the Calgary Flames Bantam AAA squad, he has always prioritized a 200-foot game.

"I see myself as a two-way player, so obviously I take a lot of pride in the D zone," said Boyle. "I just want to be as good of a two-way player as I can. There's not a lot of point being super good offensively if you can't be just as good in the D zone. 

"I feel like I have some strides I need to take in the O zone, but I feel like my D zone is definitely there."

Boyle's family moved to Lake Country, B.C. after his Bantam AAA days, but he continued his development by playing in the CSSHL in Kelowna before graduating to the WHL where he played three seasons with the Prince George Cougars.

"We were never really the best team," he said. "The one year we would have made playoffs was the year Kelowna was hosting the Mem Cup. I don't know how many weeks in the season were left, but we were on the way to Victoria, and we were maybe four hours from the ferry, and they told us the season was being put on hold (2020-21), so we just turned around and headed back to P.G. 

"But my time in P.G. was good. I was mostly used as a PK and defensive forward. I think I kind of found my offensive game again when I went to Okotoks."

That was his overage season in 2021-22 when he wore an 'A' for the Oilers and put up 28 points in 29 AJHL games, adding seven more in 12 playoff contests.

"I was hurt for a lot of it, but I did find a lot of confidence that I used to have when I went back there," he said. "I have them to thank for that. They put me in every position you could want to play in."

He's getting those opportunities at MacEwan now, too, even seeing some powerplay time as a guy who creates traffic in front of the net. More importantly, said Dailey, is the entirety of what he brings to the program on and off the ice.

 Brendan Boyle has always prioritized becoming a strong two-way player (Derek Harback photo).

"He's a guy who we depend on for faceoffs all over the ice," he said. "He's someone who sets the tone in terms of work ethic. He also leads by example – a pretty quiet kid, but he does everything correctly on the ice. 

"He's a really important piece for what we're trying to build. He's pretty much what we're looking for. We're looking for people who care a whole bunch, who do things correctly, who work hard and want to get better."

Boyle and the Griffins are looking to do that as a group as well, trying to lock up the program's first-ever Canada West playoff berth. 

Including this weekend's games vs. Saskatchewan, they have six regular season contests remaining and are three points ahead of Regina for the sixth and final post-season spot in the conference.

"I think we continue to take strides," said Boyle. "That's another thing with the team is we're finding that overall group confidence. I think we're getting there. We're getting close. 

"U of S is obviously a pretty talented team, but we've just got to play our game. I think if we stick to the game plan, we should be in good hands."

Added Dailey: "We're looking to take another step and play good hockey. When we do that, we put pressure on teams, and anything can happen. Of course, we want results, and we want wins – that's what we're trying to do – but the most important thing is the process in how we're doing that. If we're playing good hockey and losing games, eventually that's going to even out. We need to worry about playing good hockey and I think the wins will fall in place after that."