MacEwan Athletics and UBC Athletics
VANCOUVER – In their first game back after multiple COVID cases forced the postponement of their home opener last weekend, the MacEwan Griffins started slowly and couldn't recover in a 5-2 loss to the UBC Thunderbirds on Friday night.
Head coach Mike Ringrose wasn't about to use that as an excuse, though, even if he also was forced to start a few guys who hadn't played yet this season.
"We were in a tough spot, for sure," he said. "No excuses from us, but we hadn't played in two weeks. We had a few guys that hadn't played yet this year in the lineup. It's hard to just jump in after not playing for that long and be prepared to compete at the level you need to compete at. Definitely a lesson learned for us.
"We need to learn to start better. All situations aside, we haven't started well this year, especially on Fridays and it's something we need to change in a hurry."
It's no fun to be chasing in a hockey game, but that's what the Griffins had to do after conceding three goals in a span of 3:13 in the opening frame.
Chris Douglas, Jonathan Smart, and Tian Rask made it 3-0 for the Thunderbirds just 11:49 into the game, chasing Griffins' starter James Porter from the crease.
And that's where a bright spot in the game emerged for the Griffins. Ty Taylor – the Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick – came on for his first action of the regular season and stopped 26 of 27 shots the rest of the way.
"Ty Taylor came in about halfway through the first period and was exceptional the rest of the way," said Ringrose. "For a guy who had battled an injury early in training camp to be able to step into a hostile situation like that and give us that kind of performance, that was a positive, for sure."
The Griffins got themselves on the board midway through the second period when Kole Gable scored his first Canada West goal, on the power play, to cut the 'Birds' lead to two.
It wasn't until the 10:51 mark of the third when UBC found the back of the net again when Scott Atkinson stole the puck from behind the Griffins' net on a miscue between Taylor and one of his defencemen. The former Edmonton Oil King carried it out front and roofed it to restore the T-Birds' three-goal lead.
GMU answered back three minutes later with their second power play goal of the night. Colin Schmidt pounced on a rebound and backhanded in his second of the season to give the Griffins some renewed life with six minutes remaining.
But with the net empty for the extra attacker, Smart hit the empty net from just inside his own blue line for his second of the game and third of the season, putting the game on ice, handing the Griffins their first loss of the season.
"They're a very good team," said Ringrose. "They come at you with a lot of speed and they had some good point-blank opportunities and (Ty Taylor) was able to shut the door and give us a chance to get our feet underneath us a little bit.
"We chipped away at it, but when you put yourself in that deep of a hole, it's a lot of work to climb out of it."
MacEwan (2-1-0) will try to earn a weekend split in the rematch against UBC (5-0-0), set for Saturday at 4 p.m. MT (Canada West TV presented by Co-op).