On wrong side of special teams battle, Griffins fall 5-1 to Bisons

Jennifer Andrash scored MacEwan's lone goal, but the Griffins fell 5-1 to Manitoba on Saturday (Timothy Matwey photo).
Jennifer Andrash scored MacEwan's lone goal, but the Griffins fell 5-1 to Manitoba on Saturday (Timothy Matwey photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – In a back-breaking combination, the MacEwan Griffins spent a third of the game in the penalty box on Saturday, while their normally reliant penalty kill caved.

The Manitoba Bisons won the special teams battle and skated to a comfortable 5-1 win in Canada West women's hockey action at the Downtown Community Arena.

The Bisons scored two powerplay goals on Saturday to go with the two they had in Friday's 3-2 victory as they completed a weekend sweep. 

"We finally scored a couple of powerplay goals, I guess is the plus side," said Griffins interim head coach Chris Leeming. "But up until the last few games, the penalty kill had actually been a strength of ours that allowed us to build momentum and that was not the case at all this weekend."

The second period was a particularly rough one for the Griffins as they were under siege for most of it, allowing 17 shots and three goals against that turned a close game into a rout.

"It was definitely frustrating and not the outcome we wanted," said forward Jennifer Andrash. "I think we've definitely got to reflect on this and see how we're going to bring it in because we have a bye weekend now.

"So, I think we've really just got to bear down and keep our energy throughout the whole game. That's really important."

Kate Gregoire opened the scoring for the Bisons 9:26 into the game when the puck squirted out to her on a broken play and she redirected it inside the left post.

Andrash tied it at 16:32 near the end of a powerplay with a snipe under the bar over Manitoba goaltender Meagan Relf's glove.

"There were a couple seconds left on the powerplay and Rylee (Gluska) went hard on the boards," she said. "The puck was loose, so I took it and I had (Jayme) Doyle with me. I heard her calling for it. The D committed to her. Then I took the shot and went top corner, which I'm pretty happy about."

The tally was Andrash's first of her Canada West career since joining MacEwan in 2021.

"When she came back to the bench, I said 'I've seen her do that in practice quite often.' So, it was nice to see it translate into a game," said Leeming. 

"Jenny works hard and had a great attitude every day. She's consistent with that and she got rewarded. It was nice to see."

Unfortunately, that was about it under the positive leger for the Griffins as it was all Bisons after that.

Ashley Keller took back the momentum for Manitoba just over a minute later when her bloop tip from the high slot on the powerplay floated up and over Griffins goaltender Lindsey Johnson and in.

Chloe Snaith, Sarah Dennehy and Molly Kunnas scored second period goals for the visitors to put the contest out of reach.

From there, the Griffins' rally attempt was either thwarted by an ongoing parade to the penalty box or their inability to generate quality offensive chances. Manitoba rarely allowed them into the middle of the ice as the majority of MacEwan's 20 shots came from the perimeter.

Relf made 19 saves for the win, while Johnson stopped 32 for MacEwan.

While both teams entered the weekend with a chance to get into the playoff picture in Canada West, it was Manitoba who seized it, now sitting at 6-8-0 and occupying the sixth-and-final post-season position. MacEwan falls to 3-10-1 and is now five points out.

"At the end of the day, it's a willingness to win and hate this feeling of losing," said Leeming. "It's taking ownership of our decisions as players and individuals to have a positive impact on the team. 

"We asked them to step up to the challenge today after how yesterday went. Some things were out of their control again – that was something that was present in the game today. We need to move forward because there's stuff we can control and that's our attitude and our work ethic and how we treat each other as teammates. I think we need to do a better job of that."

The Griffins head into a bye week before returning to action Dec. 2-3 in a home-and-home series vs. cross-town rival Alberta.