Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – There have been many adjustments returning MacEwan Griffins women's hockey players have had to make as the club levelled up to the Canada West ranks this season.
Time and space are at a premium.
Goals are hard to come by.
Goalies are bigger and better.
There are, however, several key elements in Chantal Ricker's game that instantly translate from her days starring in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
The fifth-year forward can still crash the net with the best of them and get under an opponent's skin as well as anyone in the women's hockey ranks.
Maybe that's why the 2019-20 ACAC Most Outstanding Player has two goals and three points in four Canada West games so far.
"It's her style of play," said Griffins head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "She loves getting to the hard areas of the ice. She practices like she plays offensively. She tracks pucks well. She's got a dangerous shot and quick release. All of those things are transferable skills.
"She's just had to learn to execute on all of those things quicker at this level. And she's done that. She's dangerous every time she's on the ice."
Ricker, who wears an 'A' for the team in this, her final university season, will lead the Griffins (1-3-0) into home weekend action vs. UBC (3-1-0) on Friday (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena) and Saturday (2 p.m., DCA, both Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
"I still am trying to crash the net," said Ricker, who had 12 goals and 22 points in 24 ACAC games in 2019-20 by playing the same way. "It is harder because the goalies are bigger and better. Also even with the defence, they don't give you a lot of room in this league. They're always on you, they swarm at you quick."
Ricker has goals on consecutive weekends for the Griffins, scoring in a 2-1 win over Regina on Oct. 16 and also on the road at Calgary on Oct. 23. But MacEwan's offence has largely been snake-bitten so far with only five goals in four games.
If anything, McAlpine feels the younger players on the squad can look up to the example Ricker shows of how to score tough goals.
"We are a really young team," said McAlpine. "I have to constantly remind myself having 17 first-year players playing in arguably the best league in U SPORTS is going to be a daily challenge.
"Ricker's wearing a letter for that exact reason where our younger players need to look up to her and emulate those habits offensively. You've started to see glimmers of it throughout our lineup. There are a few players that are close and I think as their play evolves throughout the year you'll see some offensive production out of many more."
Chantal Ricker has goals on consecutive weekends for the Griffins (Eduardo Perez photo).
Ricker noted the Griffins are hungry to prove people wrong in their inaugural Canada West season. They were ranked eighth out of nine teams in the coaches' poll.
"We're expected to do poorly from what everyone's saying and we want to prove everyone wrong," she said. "It really pushes me to want to compete every game and prove everyone wrong. We're rated low because we're coming in as a new team, but that definitely gets the girls going."
She also has personal motivation. Already she's went against former Calgary Fire teammates Zoe De Beauville and Tianna Ko of Mount Royal University in preseason.
"I am so happy we switched over in my last year," she said. "I feel I have a lot to prove to players I played with in midget hockey, seeing that I went to a college (league) and they all went to a university one."
Ricker and the Griffins will have their hands full this weekend as they welcome UBC.
"UBC's an excellent team," said McAlpine. "They're one of the deeper offensive teams our league. Their powerplay is potent. I'm hoping our penalty kill, which has risen to the occasion thus far, can do that again. We're going to need to stop them.
"Prep is the same. We're focusing a ton on our development as a group right now, so it's always new coming into the weekend. That's been the exciting part in this transition to Canada West is we have a new opponent every week. I think it will be nice to face UBC at home instead of in their rink."