Graduating Griffins lead the way on Senior Night as MacEwan beats Regina 6-2 to bolster playoff spot

Griffins players celebrate Ethan Strang's goal late in the second period (Rebecca Chelmick photo).
Griffins players celebrate Ethan Strang's goal late in the second period (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – With the game hanging in the balance following a Regina pushback in the second period, Jordan Taupert ripped a one-timer under the bar in what would prove to be the game-winner and the turning point in MacEwan's huge 6-2 win over the Cougars on Saturday.

It was a fitting moment on Senior Night when Taupert, Kole Gable, Ashton Abel and Thomas Davis were celebrated for their contributions to the program in a special pre-game ceremony.

Taupert finished with a goal and two assists, Gable also scored, and Abel made 35 saves as the Griffins moved seven points ahead of Regina for the final playoff spot in the Canada West men's hockey ranks.

"That obviously means a little something extra on Senior Night," said Taupert, who is the program's career Canada West scoring leader, now with 42 points in 70 CW games. "The boys came out hard and we battled hard all night. Gabe ended up getting one and one went in for me eventually, so it was good."

While the result doesn't officially lock up a playoff spot for the Griffins (8-17-1), it puts their odds up above 90 per cent of earning the first Canada West post-season berth in program history. Regina (4-18-2) is seven points back, while Manitoba (4-19-1) is eight behind – with both teams having two games in hand on MacEwan.

The Griffins' final series of the regular season is next weekend at Manitoba.

"It's just nice to have control of it," said Griffins head coach Zack Dailey. "We are in the driver's seat. We don't have to rely on others to do something for us, so that's a good feeling. We've put ourselves in a good spot. 

"We'll enjoy this and then focus on a really big weekend in Manitoba against a team who's fresh off a couple wins and playing good, and will probably going to want to play spoiler, so we've got to be ready to go."

The Griffins were game and ready to go all night on Saturday against Regina in a contest that was essentially a playoff tilt.

With battles being fought tooth-and-nail all over the ice, MacEwan took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on tallies by Gable (off a rebound) and Carter Chorney, who finished off a wicked power-play passing play from Taupert and Loeden Schaufler.

Regina cut the lead in half with 4:10 left in the second period as Kade Runke's rebound tally finally solved Abel.

Ashton Abel was locked in for the Griffins, stopping 35 of 37 shots in his final home game at MacEwan (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

"I thought we were really good to start," said Dailey. "I thought the second period, we were on our heels a little bit. They're a good team and they made a push. 

"But I really liked the response by our group to end that period. We got a couple goals there, got some momentum and I thought the third period we were pretty darn good, as well."

Taupert's one-timer at 17:09 came after Kadyn Chabot won a battle in the corner and fed him in the slot. Then Taupert fed Ethan Strang for another laser one-timer that Regina goalie Ethan Anders had no chance on with 18 seconds left in the middle frame.

"Exceptional," said Dailey of Taupert's play. "He's someone we've relied on offensively and I thought tonight the two assists he had were great and that goal obviously was a big catalyst in us winning. He's been someone who's been relied on all year and has come through time and time again."

Vincent Scott made it 5-1 with the highlight goal of the night, blocking a shot, going in alone and putting a filthy move on Anders before going upstairs. He later added a second goal into an empty net.

"It's great when guys get rewarded directly after doing something hard and sacrificing, so that's perfect," said Dailey. "I thought that line (Scott with Samuel Simard and Marc Pasemko) this weekend set the tone for us. I thought all weekend they were very good, were skating, they were competing and making good decisions with the puck. 

"So, it's perfect that we get a good block and then we get to use our skill. I tell the guys if you do the hard stuff in the D zone, you get to go use your skill and that's a prime example of that."

After Regina's Carson Whyte got the Cougars back within three, the Griffins put a capper on the night with tremendous defensive play in the waning minutes. With the Cougars on a 6-on-4 powerplay after pulling Anders, they enjoyed tons of zone time … only to be blocked by Griffins sacrificing their bodies over and over.

Brendan Boyle, Gable, and Jack Parker all had key blocks to shut the door, while Abel refused to allow another goal.

"That's what we need if we want to be successful," said Dailey. "It's great to see when we're up 5-2 and guys are absolutely sacrificing for their team – guys taking it off the back. I think a Parkie took it off the chest, as well. It's great. That's what we need to be successful. 

"It's hard. I'm asking guys to do stuff that's hard, but they've accepted it and they're performing and putting their bodies on the line for the team."

Ashton Abel receives his graduating senior photo prior to the game (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Captain Kole Gable receives his graduating senior photo prior to the game (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Jordan Taupert receives his graduating senior photo prior to the game (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Thomas Davis receives his graduating senior photo prior to the game (Rebecca Chelmick photo).