Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The new kids on the block are playing in Langley, B.C. this weekend.
While they won't be singing Hangin' Tough or Step by Step, those easily could be the mottos of both the MacEwan Griffins and Trinity Western Spartans women's hockey teams, who are both learning the rigours of a higher level in their inaugural Canada West campaigns.
For the first time since joining the conference, they'll go head to head in regular season action when the Spartans host the Griffins on Friday (8 p.m. MT) and Saturday (2 p.m. MT, both Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
"I think it's exciting in a sense where you're not playing a team with that storied history and you have another new kid on the block," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine, whose squad has run a gauntlet of veteran Canada West programs, facing Regina, Calgary, UBC and Mount Royal University so far. "I think both teams are really going to push to make a statement of who their programs are coming into their first year in Canada West."
MacEwan (3-5-0-0) and Trinity Western (2-6-0-0) are both coming into the contest off big victories; the Griffins knocked off Calgary 4-3 in their last meeting Nov. 6, while the Spartans beat Regina 4-3 on Nov. 20.
You read that right: the Griffins haven't played since Nov. 6 – a full 20 days prior to Friday's game, so knocking off the rust will be a real challenge.
"It's tough to manage a bye week, let alone two in a row," said McAlpine. "Credit to our players. They've done a good job staying the course and knowing these are two significant games for us, not just in the standings, but just for program pride coming up against Trinity.
"I'm going to guess we'll have to weather a bit of a storm in that first 20 minutes getting our legs going again, but I think the girls are excited to be back playing."
No matter the opponent, the Griffins will always be leaning on their MO, which is outworking the opposition.
"That's been a big push for us all year," said McAlpine. "At the outset, I told the girls it's rare when we're ever going to out-skill a team in this Canada West grouping. But we have the choice always to outwork and it will be no different (this weekend).
"Against a team like Trinity, I think they're going to push hard. They play a strong, physical game and we're going to expect the best out of them."