MacEwan Athletics and NAIT Athletics
EDMONTON – It took the MacEwan Griffins 40 minutes before they began to dictate the play against the cross-town rival NAIT Ooks on Friday night at NAIT Arena.
By then, it was too little, too late.
Needing some great third period saves by goalie Brenden Jensen, the Ooks hung on for a 2-1 victory in the opening contest of a weekend series that will continue Saturday in MacEwan's home barn (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).
"We were pretty tentative in the first two periods," said MacEwan head coach Michael Ringrose. "That's a good team and I thought we maybe gave them a little bit too much respect and too much time and space. They have good players and when you do that, they'll make you pay for it.
"We made an error and gave them one on the first one. As the game went on, it was a tight game and could have gone either way."
NAIT opened the scoring on a late first period power-play goal from Tanner Younghans and netted the winner short-handed in the second period when Brayden Harris beat Marc-Olivier Daigle along the ice.
MacEwan's Ryan Baskerville cut the Ooks' lead in half midway through the third period on the powerplay, but it's as close as the Griffins would get.
Both goalies made 26 saves. NAIT head coach Tim Fragle credited Jensen as the difference-maker, especially late in the contest.
"We played a very solid first 40 minutes, but in the third, we got into some penalty trouble and began to sit back and let them dictate the play," he said. "Brendan Jensen made some key saves for us down the stretch when we needed him most."
As is the norm in a heated rivalry between two programs separated by an LRT stop who have battled each other in the ACAC finals the past two seasons, there was plenty of extra-curricular activity after whistles as physical play came to the fore.
"It always is against them," said Ringrose. "It's a cross-town rival, so emotions run high. I thought it was feisty, it was physical. They had a strong physical game, finished a lot of checks and eliminated our time and space. Those are all the things we talk about doing to them and their best players.
"We had to work for everything we got tonight," he added. "Credit to them. They did a good job defending. Full marks on the win and we'll regroup and get back at it tomorrow."
The loss drops the Griffins out of top spot in the ACAC at 9-3-1-0 after Red Deer College (9-2-1-1) leapfrogged them with a 12-2 pasting of Briercrest. NAIT is now tied for third at 9-4-0-0.