Rookies factor big into 6-2 triumph as Griffins knock another team off undefeated perch

Ryan Hartman celebrates his first ACAC goal - the game-winning goal on Friday night - in a 6-2 win over Red Deer College (Matthew Jacula photo).
Ryan Hartman celebrates his first ACAC goal - the game-winning goal on Friday night - in a 6-2 win over Red Deer College (Matthew Jacula photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Rookie Cameron Reagan got the party started, rookie Ryan Hartman brought the fireworks and veteran goaltender Marc-Olivier Daigle put the icing on the cake in a 6-2 MacEwan Griffins victory on Friday night that sent another ACAC team tumbling from its undefeated perch.

Six days after handing the SAIT Trojans their first loss of the 2018-19 campaign, the Griffins did the same thing to the Red Deer College Kings at the Downtown Community Arena.

With the result, MacEwan moves to 5-1-1-0 on the campaign, joining the Kings (5-1-0-1) in top spot in the standings.

"I think we just have a veteran group," said Hartman, who scored the winning goal in the second period off a high-skill tic-tac-toe play. "They've won the past couple of years, so they know what it takes to win. Us rookies just follow what the veterans do. I guess we wanted it more than they did."

Impressively, the Griffins beat a hard-charging physical Kings team with only five defencemen for most of the contest after Tyler Morrison was handed a five-minute penalty and game misconduct on his second shift.

"I thought they were great," said MacEwan head coach Michael Ringrose. "It's not easy to defend the way we want to defend either. You've got to lean on guys, you've got to play a hard, physical game. I asked a lot of those five guys and tonight they answered the bell."

One of the fab five, Reagan, went beyond the call of duty by filling the net, too. The rookie scored MacEwan's first goal just 2:24 into the contest when his wrist shot from the right circle eluded RDC goalie Troy Trombley.

After the Kings tied the game at 14:14 on a nice deflection from Trevor Costello, Reagan struck for his second at 4:42, ripping a one-time slapshot from the point through traffic.

"He has the ability to be an offensive game-changer from the back end for us and tonight he certainly was," said Ringrose. "He certainly got our offence rolling. He does a lot of great things in both ends of the rink. He was a big reason why we had the success we did."

With the game in doubt for much of the second period, the Griffins scored a goal that belongs on their season highlight-reel. Brett Njaa whipped a pass across the seam down low to Stefan Danielson, who immediately sent a hard pass through the crease to Hartman, who somehow one-timed a sharp-angle shot off Trombley and in.

"It was just a good pass," said Hartman of the first goal of his ACAC career. "I think anybody could put that puck in, so I just got lucky that my linemates made some good passes and I was able to find a hole."

Modest words to describe a goal that was probably the turning point in the game for the Griffins. After that, the ice seemed to open up.

Just over a minute later, Njaa zipped down the right side and sniped one under Trombley's blocker.

MacEwan romped after that, getting a fifth goal 7:48 into the third period when Andrew Kartusch sent a pass practically from corner to corner down low on the power play for Brett Smythe to one-time into the cage.

Donovan Lumb got one back for the Kings midway through the third, scoring off a rebound when Dylan Baer hit the post off a point shot. But Jacob Schofield gave the Griffins the last laugh when he struck for their sixth tally of the contest with 7:17 left, charging onto his own rebound and jamming it past Trombley.

Daigle, meanwhile, proved to be the difference at the other end for the Griffins, playing a positionally-sound, hyper-aware game in making 32 saves to snuff out the Kings.

"Every night he is," said Ringrose. "There's a reason that he has the reputation he does. He shows up, he's prepared to play. He's a very good goalie. With him in the net we have a chance to win every night."

The teams will meet again on Saturday in Red Deer (7 p.m., Canada Games Arena).