Griffins in driver's seat for a playoff spot as they get set to conclude the regular season at Manitoba

Vincent Scott celebrates after scoring against Regina last Saturday. The Griffins will finish the regular season at Manitoba this weekend (Rebecca Chelmick photo).
Vincent Scott celebrates after scoring against Regina last Saturday. The Griffins will finish the regular season at Manitoba this weekend (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – One. Point. Away.

That's how tantalizingly close the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team is to clinching their first-ever Canada West playoff berth.

Of course, they've been here before, falling one point short of making the post-season a year ago, so don't expect them to take anything for granted as they head into their final weekend of the regular season.

MacEwan (8-17-1) will visit Manitoba (4-19-1) on Friday (6 p.m. MT) and Saturday (2 p.m. MT, both Canada West TV).

The biggest thing is they're in the driver's seat. The playoff spot is theirs for the taking if they can even just get to overtime in one of the two games.

"That's what we worked all season for was to be able to take care of things on our own terms," said head coach Zack Dailey, whose team is seven points up on Regina (4-18-2) for the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference. "We're in the driver's seat, which is great. Now we need to take care of business.

"If we do make it, obviously, this is our last tune-up before the playoffs as we have a bye week next week. So, we want to be playing our best hockey this weekend and have our confidence being high going into playoffs."

Regina has remaining games vs. Trinity Western (2-19-1) this weekend before concluding the regular season at Calgary (19-5-2) on Feb. 9-10. If they even lose one of those games in regulation, they can't catch the Griffins, who beat them 7-2 and 6-2 last weekend.

Manitoba also still has a faint playoff chance as they enter the weekend eight points back of MacEwan but are the longest of longshots. 

Not only would they have to sweep the Griffins this weekend and outscore them dramatically, they also would have to win both at Saskatchewan (16-5-1) on Feb. 9-10. And even then the math might not add up for the Bisons, who were swept by the Griffins earlier this season (5-0 and 4-2) and currently trail them by 21 in the GF/GA third tiebreaker after season series and wins.

None of those scenarios interests Dailey, though, because if it comes down to that, they will have fallen victim to letting other teams help them get into the playoffs instead of taking the spot themselves.

"There's definitely that concern that Regina plays a tough team next weekend and we're relying on other people to do that for us," he said. "So, we're just trying to stress the importance of 'this is our last tune-up, and we need to be at our absolute best.' 

"When you're your best and you're playing well, it's not a guaranteed win all the time, but I do believe the more you're playing your best the better off you're going to be. Our focus is always on the process and what we can do to be successful. I think the results will take care of themselves."

Griffins assistant coach Ryan Benn talks with the team during a timeout last Saturday (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

The Griffins are coming off their best offensive weekend of the season against Regina on Jan. 26-27 when they outscored the Cougars 13-4 combined in the series.

"I thought we were quite good," said Dailey. "That weekend was certainly the best we've looked offensively. I thought we generated lots of chances. I thought that we had much better net-front presence. I thought we took pucks to the net a lot better, so offensively that was our best weekend. 

"Defensively, there's still some stuff to clean up. We gave up a lot of odd-man rushes and breakaways – things we don't want to do on a consistent basis. We can definitely do better there, but it was the best offensive weekend I've seen from our group."