Men's Championship Hockey Update

MacEwan Griffins’ Brett Njaa battles for the puck against Red Deer College in Game 1 on Friday. The Griffins won 4-1 then and 4-2 on Saturday night to sweep the Kings and advance back to the ACAC final that they won a year ago (Matthew Jacula photo)
MacEwan Griffins’ Brett Njaa battles for the puck against Red Deer College in Game 1 on Friday. The Griffins won 4-1 then and 4-2 on Saturday night to sweep the Kings and advance back to the ACAC final that they won a year ago (Matthew Jacula photo)

by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips

The Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) men's hockey semi-finals are over and there were no real surprises as the No. 1 seeded NAIT Ooks and No. 2 seeded MacEwan Griffins disposed of their opponents two straight in the best-of-three semi-finals.

University of Alberta Augustana Vikings vs. NAIT Ooks Recap

Saturday March 10, 2018 NAIT Ooks 4 University of Alberta Augustana Vikings 1

Despite the Vikings getting on the scoreboard first with an opening period goal by Cody Fiala (17:21), his second of the series.  it was two goals in both the middle period  Matt McNeil (3:52) and Colton Waltz (13:06) along with third period scores by Ty Stanton (1:33) and Jarid Hauptman (1:43) that sets up a return championship match-up from last year in which the Griffins beat the Ooks.

Nathan Park made 29 stops in the win with Curtis Skip stopping 36.

"We were down 1-0 after the first and I thought Augustana had a good start," said Ooks coach Tim Fragle. "We found our game in the second."

Friday March 9, 2018   NAIT Ooks 4  University of Alberta Augustana Vikings 3 (2OT)

It took three hours and 10 minutes as the NAIT Ooks needed double overtime to take Friday night's game on home ice by a score of 4-3. Brandon Ralph getting the winner at 7:49 with assists going to Devon McAndrews and Jarid Hauptman.

Ooks lead 1-0 after 20 minutes with Devon McAndrews scoring halfway through at 10:07.

Two second period goals by Ooks' Francis Menard at 5:40 and 8:49 gave the host team a 3-1 edge with Vikings' Travis Mayan  having opened the middle frame, scoring at 5:18.

A Vikings power play goal by Mitch McMullin at 8:42 made it a one-goal game with teammate Cody Fiala tying the game at 19:00, sending it into overtime.

Nathan Park made 33 stops to earn the win. . His counterpart Curtis Skip had 43 stops.

NAIT was whistled for 35 minutes on eight infractions while Augustana had 21 on five calls.

'We had our fair share of chances to win in the third," said Fragle. "I thought in the first overtime we had control of the play and we were fortunate to get a bounce in the second overtime."

Red Deer Kings vs.  MacEwan University Griffins Recap.

Saturday March 10, 2018 MacEwan University Griffins 4 Red Deer Kings 2

Red Deer took a 2-0 lead into the locker room after 20 minutes thanks to goals from Austin Hunter (5:05) and Tanner Butler (10:56)

Griffins came back to tie the game at 2-2 after two periods with Sean MacTavish (2:55) and Nolan Yaremchuk (18:30) scoring.

MacTavish scored the go-ahead goal at 8:23 of the third with a Ryan Baskerville empty netter rounding out the final score.

Marc-Olivier Daigle claimed the win with 31 stops.

"To make it to back-to-back finals is difficult," said Griffins interim head coach Michael Ringrose in an interview with Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics. "To go through a long season in a competitive league like this and grind it out all the way through the regular season and first round of the playoffs, it's obviously something we're proud of, but we're definitely not content either. We're looking forward to getting going next weekend and picking up that rivalry where we left it."

Friday March 9, 2018   MacEwan University Griffins 4 Red Deer Kings 1

MacEwan opened their series with a convincing 4-1 verdict Friday with first period goals by Sean Mactavish (2:51) and Cameron Gotaas  (17:35) followed by second and third period scores by Nolan Yaremchuk (14:19) and Jacob Schofield  (1:45) respectively.

Kings lone goal was scored by Lynnden Pastachak in the middle frame at 9:27.

Kings goalie Troy Trombley made 28 saves while Marc-Olivier Daigle turned away 33 attempts.

"I thought we started very well," said Ringrose. "We were really good. We were hungry coming off the bye week and that's exactly what we wanted to be.

"We were able to get ourselves a bit of a cushion. The game tightened up as the game went along. They pulled their goalie late and applied some pressure, but ultimately, I thought we got what we deserved this evening. It's time to refocus and prepare and get ready for tomorrow."

NAIT vs MacEwan Rematch

Last year in the 2016-2017 ACAC Men's Hockey Championships the best-of-three pitting the Griffins against the Ooks it went in favour of the Griffins 2-1.

Both games were overtime victories 3-2 an 4-3 while the Ooks sole win was a convincing 4-1 final.

During the 2017-2018 rivalry the Ooks claimed three of the four games outscoring the Griffins 16-5.

Ooks special teams were in full force with four power play goals an one shorthanded goal.

Ooks Tanner Dunkle marksmanship was evident with four goals in the series.

"It's exciting," said Ringrose. "It's not a cross-town rival, it's a close proximity rival that there's a history with. They're a premier program in the ACAC and have been for a long time. We certainly put ourselves in that category, too, so it will be exciting to get going and prep this week. I know our guys have been looking forward to the opportunity to see those guys again."

Fragle "anticipates that it will be just as good as a series, we had last year."

NAIT has claimed 16 ACAC men's hockey banners while Griffins have managed two.

The 2017-2018 ACAC Men's Hockey Championship dates March 16-18, 2018