Smythe completes six-point weekend, leads Griffins to sweep of Portage

Brett Smythe (#14) and teammates celebrate one of five goals against Portage on Saturday night. Smythe had a six-point weekend in a sweep of the Voyageurs (Matthew Jacula photo).
Brett Smythe (#14) and teammates celebrate one of five goals against Portage on Saturday night. Smythe had a six-point weekend in a sweep of the Voyageurs (Matthew Jacula photo).

Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Rookie Brett Smythe capped a six-point weekend with two goals and an assist on Saturday to lead the MacEwan Griffins to a definitive 5-1 win over the visiting Portage Voyageurs in ACAC men's hockey action.

The St. Albert product also had two goals and an assist in a 5-2 win over Portage in Lac La Biche on Friday.

"He's got a high hockey IQ," said Griffins interim head coach Michael Ringrose, who also coached Smythe last season at the helm of the Spruce Grove Saints. "He thinks his way around the rink and puts himself in good spots all the time. He does things right consistently and is rewarded for it.

"I had him last year and he earned my trust then and he's certainly earned my trust at this level now. I would expect his game to continue to grow."

After Jacob Schofield opened the scoring for the Griffins just 1:18 into Saturday's game – roofing one over Portage goalie Ben Dennis – Smythe struck for his first of the contest at 17:16. He was sent in alone on the end of a tic-tac-toe passing play between Tyler Morrison and Sean MacTavish and made no mistake.

"Honestly, my linemates helped me out a lot and everyone on the team," said Smythe of the big weekend. "It's definitely not an individual stat. Everyone's pitching in and it makes my job a lot easier."

In between those first-period Griffins goals, Dallas Smith rang one off the crossbar and Brett Njaa hit two posts. Late in the period Nakehko Lamothe was robbed by Dennis on a point-blank chance in front.

Unlucky to not be ahead by a larger margin in the contest, the floodgates finally opened for MacEwan midway through the second period when Nolan Yaremchuk and Dallas Smith scored goals a minute apart. The former was on a pinpoint shot off a right wing rush that grazed the post and in, while the latter was a one-timer off a gorgeous seam pass by Smythe.

"That was a great setup by Danny (Stefan Danielson) there," said Smythe. "He drove in and I wasn't really expecting that. Then Smitty drove in and found good ice. He buried it. It was nice."

With MacTavish off on a double minor for spearing late in the second period, Cole Berreth got the Voyageurs on the board, roofing it over an outstretched Marc-Olivier Daigle, who made 16 saves for the win.

Smythe then salted the victory away by potting a powerplay goal on a rebound at 7:51 of the third period.

"It was a good weekend for us," said Ringrose, whose team lost twice to SAIT – including their home opener – a week ago. "Last weekend, we didn't get the start we wanted to the season and we had a determined group in practice that was focused and set on getting things right this weekend. It was nice to see and we got what we deserved."

Both MacTavish (a goal and three assists) and Danielson (four assists) wound up with four-point weekends for the Griffins.

"What's nice to see is the depth throughout the lineup," said Ringrose. "You look at our roster, you look at the four lines we rolled out tonight, I'm not sure you could number then 1 through 4. We had a good balanced attack.

"Any time we called guys off the bench we knew we were giving ourselves a chance to generate offensively. For a coach, it's a good feeling to have."

The Griffins (2-1-1) will next play against cross-town rival NAIT (4-0-0) on Oct. 20-21. Saturday night's game with be at the Downtown Community Arena (6 p.m.).