Austin Connelly, For MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Stung by a heartbreaking goal with 1:54 left, the MacEwan Griffins fell 2-1 to cross-town rival NAIT on Saturday night at the Downtown Community Arena.
Tyler Robertson scored a late dagger that gave the Ooks a weekend sweep of the Griffins after also beating them 3-0 on Friday night.
"We didn't really have our best effort either night, but it was encouraging to know that they were two tight games," said Griffins Interim head coach Sean Ringrose.
"We are still a young group and we've made a lot of progress so far in the first half, but we've still got a long way to go get to where we want to be, and we'll get there in the second half."
After closing out the first semester with a pair of losses, the Griffins (9-5-0-0) have fallen eight points back of the Ooks (13-1-0-0) for top spot in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
In the first game between the rivals in the DCA – scene of MacEwan's thrilling championship-clinching overtime win in Game 2 of the finals last March – there was no love lost between them with plenty of penalties in a hostile contest.
MacEwan couldn't find any puck luck to start the game as Kole Gable had a goal disallowed because of a controversial kicking motion and a minute later Chase Miller rang one off the iron from the slot.
Marc-Olivier Daigle continued his strong play this season with 50 saves on the night.
"I'd rather have five saves and win the game than 50 and lose, but we are going to learn from it and be better," said Daigle.
The Griffins couldn't get out of the box in the second period, forcing three superb penalty kills off the back of Daigle, who had to make 17 saves within the first 10 minutes of the frame, most of them on the ensuing powerplays.
Cam Gotaas and Miller came close to giving the Griffins the 1-0 lead but were unable to connect on the ensuing two-on-one break, with the pass just out of the reach for Miller.
The fourth penalty of the second period for the Griffins would be their undoing when Jake Mykitiuk's point shot went through multiple screens and past Daigle for the 1-0 lead with 6:29 left in the second.
The Griffins came close once again to tying the game on the powerplay in the third period when Gable stole the puck behind the net and fed Ryan McKinnon in front, but he was robbed by the blocker of NAIT goalie Brendan Jensen.
MacEwan once again couldn't get the puck to bounce their way when Miller shed his defender in the high slot and wired a shot that clanged off the post.
Joseph Karpyshyn would finally get the Griffins on the board, tying the game with 9:06 left in the third. He finished off a beautiful sequence as Miller kept the puck in the zone and fed Austin Yaremchuk, who drove to the net and found Karpyshyn in tight who made no mistake.
"I thought we had a great third period, but ultimately our second period killed us," said Karpyshyn.
Robertson scored late – a shot that Daigle got a piece of before it trickled by him and just over the goal-line. Complaints of goalie interference
"As a group the first half (of the season) we are pretty satisfied where we are at, but we are going to come in after the break and be better," said Daigle.
The Griffins return to action on Jan. 10-11 against Red Deer College.