Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Returning all but three players from last season's ACAC championship squad, the MacEwan Griffins women's hockey team heads into preseason play in solid shape.
They kick off their 2018-19 exhibition slate this weekend at a tournament in Red Deer as the Red Deer College Queens test out their brand-new facility on campus– the $88M Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
MacEwan will play a whirlwind three games in less than 24 hours: Friday against RDC (8 p.m.) – a rematch of the 2017-18 ACAC final – and Saturday against SAIT (12 p.m.) and Olds College (5 p.m.).
"We get to look at the rest of the teams in our league, minus NAIT," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "I think it will be good."
The Griffins have been back on the practice ice since the last week of August and the rust has already been knocked off. Still, there's no substitute for game action.
"I think they're excited," said McAlpine. "It's really nice for both the girls and for me that coming back into practices the last week and a half, we can get going on things a little bit quicker, rather than reteaching everything.
"We only have three new players this year; it's more of a returning group. So, I think they've come in and … I don't want to give them credit that they're exactly back where they were at the end of last year … but they're definitely closer than a lot of teams I've had at the start of September."
The Griffins will host their own preseason tournament from Sept. 14-16 and get a taste of U SPORTS competition when they travel to meet Mount Royal University in Calgary on Sept. 21-22.
Even with so many returning players, preseason will be useful to McAlpine and her coaching staff, who will be experimenting with various permutations on the ice to help set them up for success in the regular season.
"I think in preseason, we're just feeling things out – finding different line combinations, looking for D pairings, giving girls an opportunity to prove themselves maybe in different roles," said McAlpine. "There will be an opportunity to play in different scenarios that they may not have had when we were more solidified last year."
MacEwan's 24-game regular season schedule kicks off on Oct. 5 when the Griffins welcome SAIT for their home opener (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).