Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Memories of one of the biggest nights of their hockey careers will come flooding back for the MacEwan Griffins on Friday evening.
Prior to puck drop for their home opener against the Portage College Voyageurs (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena), MacEwan's 2017-18 ACAC Championship banner will be unveiled.
"It's exciting for sure," said goaltender Marc-Olivier Daigle, who led the Griffins to their second-straight title last March with a tour de force performance, netting the ACAC playoff MVP award. "It brings all the memories back and you get those goosebumps again. (You remember) the work it took to get that banner.
"But as soon as the puck drops, it's a new year," he continued. "We've got to put that one in the back of the mind and go and work for the next one."
By all indications, the Griffins are up to the task. Their opening weekend on the road at Briercrest College was about as dominant as you'll see as they rolled to 9-1 and 11-1 victories.
There's no doubt they'll face tougher tests as the season goes along, but it's a positive start.
"My first two years as a Griffin, I'm pretty sure both times we lost the first game there," said Daigle of the annual trip to Caronport, Sask. "That was fun to finally be able to sweep them. I think they've been our nemesis there.
"The guys came, they knew what the job was, they knew what to expect when they got there, and everybody was excited to get the season started. And that showed in those scores. It was really good."
A scoresheet error credited Daigle with scoring a goal in the season opener, which set his phone ablaze. The goal actually belonged to forward Brett Njaa.
"I got a couple of texts after," Daigle chuckled. "Guys were like 'did you score?' "
Thankfully, they don't need their star goalie to handle the offensive duties; with 20 goals in their first two games, it's clear the Griffins have their offence dialed in to start the season.
Daigle is needed on the other end and he's on point as well, stopping 21 of 22 shots in Friday's game before rookie Eric Szudor had the same stat-line in Saturday's win.
"Everyone's having fun playing hockey and we're all working hard," said Daigle. "The chemistry's really good, so it's just to keep that going. Moving forward, I don't think we'll win every game 11-1, but it's just to keep that chemistry and keep having fun playing hockey and I think everything will work itself out."
Marc-Olivier Daigle celebrates after leading the Griffins to the 2017-18 ACAC Championship with an MVP performance at NAIT Arena last March (Matthew Jacula photo).
There's no doubt when the banner is unveiled on Friday, there will be memories the Griffins players can lean on as they vie for the first three-peat in program history (and only the fourth in the 53-year history of ACAC men's hockey).
Daigle's one of 17 Griffins players with championship experience that you can't teach.
"I think the goal is still the same," he said. "We've shown as a team that the first year wasn't just luck, we're really at the top of our league. We're trying to come back again and do it all again this season.
"It's the same thing for me. I want to help the team as much as possible. I want to be that guy again that can push a team to the next level and help them win games."
ICE CHIPS … Portage is coming into the contest with an 0-2-0-0 record, having lost 2-1 and 8-1 to SAIT last weekend … Following Friday's game, the teams will meet again in Lac La Biche, Alta. on Saturday (7 p.m.) … Cam Gotaas leads the Griffins in scoring after four goals and three assists on the opening weekend … Five players share Portage's scoring lead with one point each.