Jason Hills, for MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON — Championship calibre teams don't usually stay in a funk for very long, and the MacEwan Griffins got out of their goal-scoring woes in a big way.
The Griffins would be the first to admit they haven't been playing like the team that's earned them back-to-back Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference titles as of late, but they made amends for their struggles with a big 5-2 victory over the SAIT Trojans Saturday night at the Downtown Community Arena.
Kaelan Holt scored the game-winning goal midway through the second period and the Griffins received a goal and an assist each from Nicolas Correale, Ryan Baskerville and Brett Smythe, while captain Cam Gotaas tallied the other marker for MacEwan.
Marc-Olivier Daigle was superb in the victory, making 31 saves.
Dean Allison and Parker Evans-Campbell replied for the Trojans, while Payton Lee made 35 saves in the loss.
"I thought we started a little slow tonight, but really got it going in the second and third period, and I really liked our pace and our skating," said MacEwan head coach Michael Ringrose.
"We certainly had lots left in the tank and that's nice to see. It's started to feel like the game we want to play moving forward."
The night started off on the wrong note for the Griffins as SAIT cashed in on an early power play just 1:57 into the contest when Allison crashed the net and deposited the rebound past Daigle for an early 1-0 lead.
But MacEwan did a great job of responding as Gotaas tied the game at 1-1 just a minute later on the Griffins' first shot of the game when the captain flew down the left wing and ripped a shot over the glove of Lee.
One of the concerns that Ringrose had with his team in their recent struggles was their commitment to go into the tough areas to score goals, and their special teams weren't clicking at a rate the coaching staff expects.
But the message was received. The Griffins scored three power play goals, breaking an 0-for-13 skid entering the contest and they weren't afraid to pay the price to score goals either.
Correale took punishment in front of the net to tip home a point shot to give MacEwan a 2-1 lead, and after Dallas Smith took the puck hard to the net forcing Lee to make a big pad save, Holt crashed the crease and jammed home the go-ahead marker.
"We had three power play goals. Last night the power play was stale, and we came back with a solid effort. We made some adjustments and we came through. Our penalty kill was very solid too, and I thought special teams were ultimately the difference in the game," said Ringrose.
"If you look at the goals we scored, they were almost all in the paint. Baskerville goes to the net and gets a goal, Correale and Holt go to the net and get rewarded with goals. We were more willing to get inside the dots and go to the hard areas, and it was nice to see them respond the way we need to play to be successful."
The Griffins' penalty kill was also outstanding. They gave up the early power play goal to start the game, but they didn't give the Trojans any opportunities to build any momentum on the power play.
In fact, late in the second period, MacEwan had to kill off six minutes in penalties after Baskerville took a four-minute high-sticking penalty and a roughing penalty.
SAIT couldn't generate any momentum on their marathon power play and the Griffins took over the game. Baskerville scored the insurance marker and set up another goal in the third period to make amends for his bad penalty.
"The game was back-and-forth up until that point and that kill was the turning point. It set us on a path where we weren't going to be denied. That's not an easy thing to do to kill off six minutes in a row. It takes an entire commitment from your bench," said Ringrose.
"He's (Baskerville) not a guy that does that. He's a team-first guy. Watching the play, it was definitely a penalty and he deserved to be in the box, but he responded with an outstanding effort the rest of the night."