Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. – Whether it was the afternoon tilt or the quick turnaround in preparing for a different opponent after battling hard against SAIT on Wednesday night or just plain fatigue from an exhausting stretch drive, the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team had trouble finding their legs against Red Deer College in a rare Friday matinee contest.
As a result, they lost 3-0 in the makeup game from a postponed Feb. 2 tilt.
RDC goalie Arik Weersink made 31 saves for the shutout as the Kings improved to 16-7-1-1, pulling to within three points of the Griffins (18-6-1-0) for second place in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference standings.
"I thought their goaltender was good, but I don't think that's why we lost the game," said MacEwan head coach Michael Ringrose. "We looked a little bit tired today. We were mentally tired, we made a lot of mental mistakes. Physically, we just weren't prepared to compete or skate. Those are things you need to do if you're going to be successful.
"It was ultimately not our best effort and we'll regroup and get ready to go for Wednesday."
The teams will meet in the rematch next Wednesday in Edmonton (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena) – a makeup date from Feb. 1. MacEwan will then finish off the regular season with a home-and-home against NAIT (20-6-0-0) on March 1-2 – a showdown for first place.
On Friday afternoon at Sylvan Lake Arena, the Griffins were unable to carry over the great effort they had on Wednesday in tuning up the SAIT Trojans 4-1. That doesn't mean they didn't have chances, but they didn't take control of the game.
"We had our opportunities to score," said Ringrose. "I didn't think it was our best game. I thought we left a lot out there, but we had our chances and their guy was good when he needed to be."
Marc-Olivier Daigle was solid for MacEwan in earning player of the game honours for 29 saves on 31 shots.
"Daigs was good," said Ringrose. "When you're tired and you're fatigued and you make mental mistakes, the end result of that is you give up opportunities that you shouldn't. He was very good."
The Kings opened the scoring late in the second period right after a penalty expired when the Griffins turned over the puck in the neutral zone and Ryley Smith went in alone, beating Daigle.
"We made a terrible effort on a puck through the neutral zone and it ended up coming back the other way for a breakaway," said Ringrose.
Scott Ferguson potted a back-door rebound 1:48 into the third period to put the Kings up 2-0 – another tally that Ringrose felt was avoidable.
"We had an opportunity to push a puck deep into the offensive zone and we turned it over, attacking the offensive blueline," he said. "They came back, generated some offensive zone time and ended up putting it in the back of the net."
With Daigle out for an extra attacker, Lynnden Pastachak hit an empty net with 1:32 remaining for the 3-0 result.
"Both their goals, in my opinion, can be traced back to soft plays that we made in neutral ice," said Ringrose. "Those weren't isolated incidents. That was the game for us. We weren't very good through the neutral zone and we weren't very sharp mentally. The end result is what you see – a 3-0 loss."