Griffins recover from slow start to rout Voyageurs 7-1 in home opener

Dallas Smith gets a chance in front of Portage goaltender Jordan Brant on Friday night (Melbourne Disbrowe photo).
Dallas Smith gets a chance in front of Portage goaltender Jordan Brant on Friday night (Melbourne Disbrowe photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Like a giant 18-wheeler with a full load trying to pick up steam taking off from a stoplight, the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team took a full 40 minutes to chug into top speed on Friday night.

Once they did, though, they were like a runaway truck in a downhill lane, using four third-period goals to steamroll the Portage Voyageurs 7-1 in their ACAC home opener at the Downtown Community Arena.

"Obviously, I'm happy with the result tonight," said MacEwan head coach Michael Ringrose. "I didn't particularly like the process. I didn't like our game. I thought our attention to detail, our compete and our willingness to play the right way in the first two periods was not there.

"I thought that as the game went on, credit to our guys," he continued. "They started playing the way we need to play to be successful and the puck started to go in for us.

"All in all, I thought we left a lot out there."

Which is scary, considering the Griffins did manage to net seven goals on 55 shots and post their third-straight blowout win to open the 2018-19 season. They've now scored 27 goals in their first three games.

"We're shooting," said forward Jacob Schofield, who led the Griffins with two goals on Friday. "We're just shooting the puck and going to the net. We've got a lot of high-end scorers. Our forwards are moving good and we're getting the puck in the net. That's good to see. Hopefully we keep scoring."

Celebrating their second-straight ACAC championship before the game with a 2017-18 banner unveiling, the Griffins started slowly, conceding the game's first goal just 2:51 into the contest. Portage's Taylor Ansheim found a loose puck in the slot and, with traffic in front, ripped it over Marc-Olivier Daigle's shoulder.

"That's a great moment for the guys that were involved in that," said Ringrose of the banner unveiling. "My message to them before the game was enjoy the moment and then let it pass and focus on the task at hand. I didn't think we did a great job of that.

"I thought we were slow out of the gate. I'm not going to try to figure out if it was the banner-raising or whatever, but we weren't ourselves for two periods tonight."

MacEwan managed to get out of the first period tied 1-1 when Schofield scored his first of the game 4:14 into the first.

In the second period, the Griffins, picking up steam, began to look more like themselves. Garan Magnes tipped Stefan Danielson's point blast past Portage goalie Jordan Brant at 16:41 of the middle frame before Sean MacTavish converted Magnes' nifty little back pass in the slot at 7:21.

With the Griffins finishing off a powerplay to start the third period, they were fully back to their championship-calibre selves, taking complete control of the contest when Schofield's wrister as the man advantage ended eluded Brant 1:03 into the frame. When Nicolas Correale made it 5-1 just 20 seconds later, it took the wind out of the Voyageurs' sails.

Schofield narrowly missed the hat-trick when he put a shot off a partial breakaway over the net in the dying minutes. Linemate Kaelan Holt had two assists.

"My line, right from exhibition, me Holt and Smitty, we kind of just have a connection," said Schofield. "We have a lot of speed going up ice, and we use our speed in the corners and battle hard to get the puck back. To be honest, that just kind of paid off for us. Last year and this weekend, that paid off for us. We've been moving hard and getting some goals."

Nolan Yaremchuk and Dallas Smith added late goals to turn it into a 7-1 result.

Daigle stopped 31 of 32 shots and had to be sharp on several Portage chances, including off a second-period powerplay when he robbed Eli Jarvis on a cross-crease one-timer down low and stopped Trevor Posch, who had a wide open shot from the slot, moments later.

Eventually, though, his teammates just took over on offence, turning in another of their trademark third periods.

"That's last year, too, to be honest," said Schofield. "We're a third-period team and that's kind of what we need to be. If you're a first period team and the next two aren't very good, you're not going to win games."

So, they did it in the right order. Now it's a matter of doing it for 60 minutes – the challenge that great hockey teams take on and master.

MacEwan (3-0-0-0) will travel to Lac La Biche, AB on Saturday to meet Portage (0-3-0-0) in the rematch (7 p.m., ACAC TV).