Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Nolan Yaremchuk streaked down the right wing and wired a snipe bar down before celebrating with a triumphant pose – a scintillating insurance marker for the MacEwan Griffins late in the second period that sealed a 3-1 win over the UAlberta-Augustana Vikings on Friday night at the Downtown Community Arena.
For the record, the fifth-year assistant captain was rather self-deprecating in his description of the gorgeous goal.
"I don't think I knew it went in," he said. "I think I was making sure it went in beforehand. I kind of just shut my eyes and shot it. I don't have a shot like that. That was probably one of the nicest shots I've scored."
His teammates will probably disagree. The impact that Yaremchuk had on the game was huge; he was nothing short of a catalyst for the Griffins, who survived a slow start to post their third-straight Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference victory.
Earlier in the second period, Yaremchuk came flying down the same right wing and dished a pass in front that a streaking Sean MacTavish buried for the game-winner.
"He was definitely working hard," said MacEwan assistant coach Sean Ringrose of the man they call Yammer. "He stepped up. We were a little short on bodies – lost some guys to 10-minute misconducts – and I think we as a group really came together and were ultimately able to push through and get the win."
It wasn't looking pretty for the Griffins in the opening 20 minutes as they looked largely discombobulated – unable to string passes together, applying anemic pressure on two powerplays and relying on goalie Marc-Olivier Daigle to bail them out on a couple breakdowns.
Eventually, it led to the Vikings opening the scoring with 57 seconds left in the first when Jordan McTaggert swung wide down the left boards and sent a pass to Cody Young in front for a low one-timer past Daigle.
"It wasn't really the start we wanted," said Ringrose. "We know this team always comes out hard. We were prepared for that and I think we were on our heels a little bit in the first.
"We wanted to come out and try to dictate the game a little more, so we rallied as a group and came out harder and played a little better within our structure and I think that rewarded us a little bit there."
The Griffins looked like a different team – more like themselves actually – when the puck dropped on the second period. They took it to the Vikings with nine shots on an early second period powerplay, one of which was blasted under the bar from the point by Garan Magnes with Ryan Baskerville providing the screen on UAA goalie Curtis Skip.
MacTavish scored just 43 seconds later and Yaremchuk's bar-down beauty was part of a 20-shot middle frame onslaught that ultimately decided the game.
"I think we were just a little bit slow and were just lacking some of the details," said Yaremchuk of the first period. "Once we settled into the game, you could tell – every line was going, our D were pinching, we weren't getting hemmed in, we didn't spend much time in the D zone. It was great. Dags made some big saves in the first, which got us out of it and we just started playing our game."
Daigle finished with 29 saves for the Griffins, who improve to 16-5-1-0 in the ACAC standings, jumping ahead of SAIT (2-0 losers against NAIT) for second place. Skip stopped 48 for the Vikings (14-8-1-0).
The teams will meet in the rematch on Saturday in Camrose (6 p.m., Encana Centre).
Yaremchuk noted it's the type of victory the Griffins can build off of as they get back up to speed on the season and work towards defending their ACAC championship.
"I think this was a big character win for our guys," he said. "Moving forward, we can build off of wins like this because it took all of us to win. We were killing off five-on-threes, blocking shots – there were so many guys who really had a great game today."