Griffins come out rusty during first game in 41 days, falling 3-0 to Bisons

Amanda Murray battles with a Manitoba player for positioning on Friday night (Joel Kingston photo).
Amanda Murray battles with a Manitoba player for positioning on Friday night (Joel Kingston photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — Teams can either be sharp or rusty. 

That always seems to be a factor after a long layoff.

After 41 days between games, the MacEwan Griffins were caught shaking off the rust in a 3-0 loss to the visiting Manitoba Bisons on Friday night at the Downtown Community Arena.

Julia Bird, Kylie Lesuk and Sarah Dennehy supplied the goals for Manitoba, while goaltender Kimberley Davidson made 22 saves for her first career shutout.

Brianna Sank made 23 saves in the loss for MacEwan as they fell to 5-8-0 in the Canada West season. 

"I thought both teams were a little rusty if I'm being honest. The energy level was low in general," said Griffins head coach Lindsay McAlpine.

"There were some fleeting moments of urgency, and that was something we have to address. We have to push the energy and the pace, it's what our program has built our legacy on, and I didn't see it for a full 60 minutes tonight."

The Griffins came out of the gate a little slow, not garnering their first shot on goal until midway through the opening frame, but MacEwan started to find their footing in the later stages of the first period.

But, a costly turnover in the neutral zone by MacEwan opened the scoring with just 11 seconds left in the period as Bird flew in on a breakaway and beat Sank with a nice deke for the 1-0 lead.

Manitoba was opportunistic in the victory as they pounded on every mistake that MacEwan made.

Lesuk made it 2-0 at the 5:39 mark of the second period as the freshman forward took the puck strong down the wing and beat Sank with a backhand over the shoulder, for her fourth goal of the season.

"I thought in terms of grade A chances, the game was even. If we can change those few moments where we had some missed passes and missed plays, we can turn it around," said McAlpine.

"They capitalized on those point blank chances and we struggled. Their goaltender made some really big saves for them when they had some breakdowns and that was the difference in the game."

MacEwan had some quality scoring chances of their own in the second period, but Davidson stood tall.

Veteran forward Chantal Ricker was open in the slot, but misfired on her shot. Joie Simon had a partial breakaway, but just missed the top corner. Mila Verbicky had a great chance on a two-on-one, but Davidson was able to get a piece of her shot that was labeled for the top corner.

Late in the second period, Amanda Murray split the Bisons defence, and in alone on the freshman netminder, but her shot was denied by the stick of Davidson.

Dennehy put the game away in the third period when Sank misplayed the puck behind the net. The Bisons pounced on the miscue and Dennehy was left all alone to deposit the puck in the wide open net.

"It was a frustrating game. I think we played a pretty even game with them, but we just couldn't put the puck in the net. They seemed to capitalize on all their chances," said Murray.

"We know we can compete with a team like Manitoba, but we have to bare down on our chances and outwork them, and we didn't do that enough."

MacEwan and Manitoba will finish off their weekend series on Saturday at the DCA, puck drop is 3 p.m. (Canada West TV presented by Co-op).