After record-setting season at MacEwan, Strang has goals in each of his first two pro games in the ECHL

After recording 27 points in 28 games with the Griffins this past season, Ethan Strang turned pro last week and has two goals in two games so far with the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays (Jacob Mallari photo).
After recording 27 points in 28 games with the Griffins this past season, Ethan Strang turned pro last week and has two goals in two games so far with the ECHL's South Carolina Stingrays (Jacob Mallari photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Griffins hockey fans have seen it over and over when Ethan Strang gets some time and space.

His rocket of a shot is off his stick like lightning and nearly unstoppable.

Which is what a crowded house of South Carolina Stingrays fans were treated to last Saturday when Strang scored a trademark bar down beauty off a one-timer in his ECHL debut to help his new team beat the Florida Everblades 5-2.

"I was super fortunate to score my first game," said Strang, who turned pro by signing a contract last Thursday and was on a flight to Charleston, S.C. the same day. "Couldn't have had a better feeling, obviously. It was in the third period. I think it was my first or second shift of the third. We were just entering the zone, I just got the puck wide and got a nice one-timer off. It ended up going top shelf, right where I like it."

The only way to top that is to also score in your second pro game. Strang did just that last Sunday, opening the scoring against Florida and helping his team secure a 3-2 victory.

"The second goal was just going hard to the net," he said. "I ended up tipping the puck, it went off the goalie's pad and I got my own rebound and put it in. Two different goals, but both very exciting."

Even if it's fairly incredible for a U SPORTS player to score two goals in his first two pro games in a league that's only two levels below the NHL, we shouldn't be too surprised. 

Strang is coming off a terrific second season at MacEwan where he led the Griffins in scoring with 12 goals and 27 points in 28 games and showed off one of the best shots in Canada West on a regular basis.

"I'm happy to see him being successful, but I'm not surprised at all," said Griffins head coach Zack Dailey. "Goal scoring is something he does very well, so I'm not surprised to see him doing it at the next level.

"I saw he scored (on Saturday) and I sent him a text after," he added. "He said, 'let's see if we can keep it going tonight' and apparently he did. That's awesome to see. 

"We're super proud of him. He did a lot for our program in terms of leading by example, working hard in the gym and on the ice. We're proud of him and it's great to represent our program to show we push people to the next level."

Strang, who recorded 42 points in 52 regular season games over two seasons at MacEwan, noted playing for the Griffins helped prepare him to turn pro.

"I think this season was a pretty good season," he said after producing the most goals, assists and points by a Griffin in a Canada West campaign. "It definitely got my confidence up. I felt like U SPORTS was a very underrated league. 

"I think there's a lot of guys in that league who are pro-calibre players. So, just playing against those guys all the time and having a pretty good season set me up for where I am today."

Ethan Strang became the first Griffins player to score a hat trick in a Canada West game when he potted three against Manitoba on Oct. 20 at the Downtown Community Arena (Derek Harback photo).

There's no doubt the Griffins will miss him next season, but Dailey noted helping players grow on and off the ice is what they're here to do.

"Obviously, we're going to miss him and it's going to be hard to replace him, but at the same time I want people who are passionate about moving to the next level," said Dailey. "I want guys who want to get better and improve, so that's kind of the risk you take when you take a bunch of driven people that maybe they will leave. 

"Again, we want to be known as a program that pushes guys to the next level and helps them succeed at anything they want to do in life. We'll take that. Hopefully not every guy leaves early, but that is something that will happen when you have highly motivated people who are working hard and want to get better."

Strang spent his first weekend in a great situation, playing on South Carolina's top line with Austin Magera – the team's leading scorer – and Ivan Lodnia, who has previously played in both the KHL and AHL. The Stingrays are the ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals, below the AHL's Hershey Bears.

"Going into that first game, you could call it nerves, but I think it was a lot of excitement," said Strang. "Obviously, your first pro game, it's a dream come true to score my first goal in my first game. It was really exciting."

He was able to share the moment with his former Grande Prairie Storm teammate, goaltender Garin Bjorklund, who picked up the win in goal for the Stringrays and was named first star.

Strang will experience his first pro road trip this weekend when the team heads to Georgia for games against the Savanah Ghost Pirates (Vegas affiliate) and Atlanta Gladiators (Nashville affiliate).

But first, beyond practice sessions this week, the Cochrane, Alta. native has taken some time to soak it all in.

"It's honestly a dream come true," he said. "The place I'm at now in Charleston is like pretty much a resort getaway with a pool, palm trees and it's +25 weather, so you really can't complain about that."