Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Three weeks ago, a hush came over the Downtown Community Arena crowd when veteran MacEwan Griffins forward Dallas Smith wiped out attempting to throw a hit, collided hard into the boards and remained down on the ice for several minutes.
On Friday night, he made a triumphant return to the lineup for the first time since the scary accident and led the Griffins to a 5-1 victory over the Concordia Thunder with a goal and two assists.
"It doesn't happen very often. It was a bit of a fluke," he explained of the Oct. 26 fall into the boards against Red Deer College. "I went to hit a guy and he side-stepped me and I tripped over his foot."
To say the Griffins are pleased to have him back is an understatement. On a night when not every player had their best stuff, Smith was the driving force MacEwan needed to improve to 8-2-1-0 in the ACAC standings.
His goal was a thing of beauty, scored on a short-handed breakaway late in the second period after Smith picked off a D to D pass and then had all day to bear down on Tanner McCorriston before tucking it five-hole.
"We were right by the blueline. I kind of read (the defenceman) and he gave a pass to one of his guys and I just stepped up in time," said Smith. "There was one move that I always do in practice and I was like 'I'm doing it.'
"It works pretty well. You open up the goalie and try to slot it five-hole. It worked out today."
Smith also assisted on two first-period goals – Kaelan Holt's snapshot five minutes in that opened the scoring and then Jacob Schofield's eventual game-winner 1:29 later. The latter was an absolute gem of a tic-tac-toe passing play between Smith, Holt and Schofield.
"We get along quite well in practice and there's a lot of times we do three-on-ones and three-on-twos in practice," he said. "We always like to throw the extra pass in. I know our goalies sometimes don't like that."
Andrew Kartusch made it 3-0 for MacEwan off a power-play point blast midway through the middle frame before Smith's short-handed tally put the game out reach.
Ryan Baskerville increased his team points lead to 15 in 11 games with his fifth goal of the season, scored from doorstep to top shelf on the PP early in the third to ice it.
Concordia broke Marc-Olivier Daigle's shutout bid with less than eight minutes left when Phil Dillon tipped one off the post before chipping his own rebound in. Daigle made 29 saves for MacEwan in the win.
McCorriston made 35 stops for Concordia in a defeat that drops their record to 2-7-1-1.
Griffins head coach Michael Ringrose noted the win was important for a MacEwan team coming in off a loss to UAlberta-Augustana their last time out, but it wasn't exactly one they'll frame and hang in the dressing room.
"I think we can still be better than that," he said. "I thought we struggled at times tonight to play the game with a ton of pace. In my mind we weren't skating and that's a big thing for us: we need to skate all the time.
"Credit to our guys, though," he continued. "They did a good job of finding ways to score goals. That was an important win for us to get back on track. It was good. Tomorrow night we're going to need to build on the things we did well tonight and add the pace we like to see from our group on a nightly basis."
The teams will meet again on Saturday night (7 p.m., Bill Hunter Arena).