Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – After an emotional pre-game ceremony to retire teammate Nakehko Lamothe's No. 28 jersey on the one-year anniversary of his passing, the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team set out to honour his memory with the type of performance he would have loved.
They were gritty, hard-working, relentless and thorough in completing a 6-0 win over the visiting UAlberta-Augustana Vikings for their sixth-straight Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference victory on Saturday night at the Downtown Community Arena.
"It's incredible," said goaltender Marc-Olivier Daigle, who made 34 saves for the shutout. "We all wanted to play for him. Before the game we said 'you know what? If there's 20 guys in this room playing like Nakehko, we're going to come out on top.'
"I wanted to make sure I gave my best effort and I'm happy with the result. That shutout is for him, for sure."
The pre-game ceremony, which included a minute of silence to reflect on Lamothe's impact on the program, galvanized the Griffins early. They shot out of the gates like out of a cannon, scoring twice within the first five minutes as former Calgary Mustangs teammates Joseph Karpyshyn and Chase Miller hit the twine.
"It was a great ceremony before the game," said interim head coach Sean Ringrose. "I think it was an emotional time for a lot of guys. That's something that's very important for us.
"I think the guys responded well at the start of the game. Yesterday's game we didn't come out the way we wanted to in the first two periods. We've been battling some sickness a little bit, but we were able to find our game here right off the bat and I thought we had a lot stronger effort tonight."
The Vikings ended up outshooting the Griffins 16-15 in the opening frame, but Daigle was his spectacular self, flashing the leather on Jack Hambly to deny a point-blank chance before coming up with his defining save of the game. With 5:02 left in the first period, he flat-out robbed Ryan Groom off a crafty redirect from the middle of the slot by flashing next level reflexes and body contortion.
"It's something that we've kind of almost come to expect from Daigs is solid goaltending like that all the time," said Ringrose. "He's been so consistent and rock solid.
"In a game like yesterday where we didn't have our best game, he kept us right in that and gave us a chance to win. Again tonight, he came back and it was great to see the guys battle and be able to get the shutout."
For as well as Daigle was playing, Karpyshyn was equally brilliant in the other end, finishing with two goals and an assist.
"Joe's a guy who can make plays out there," said Ringrose. "He's a skilled forward and he's got a nose for the net. He showed his ability to make some plays, some high-end skill plays out there tonight – not just on the ones that went in, but on a couple others as well that could have gone in. He definitely had a great game tonight."
MacEwan went up 3-0 less than four minutes into the second period when Zach Webb sent a brilliant behind-the-back pass on a tee for Colin Schmidt to wire low past UAA goalie Zach deGraves.
The Griffins turned the game into a rout in the middle of the frame when they scored twice within 16 seconds – Spencer McLean redirecting a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play off his skate and in, and Nicolas Correale firing a spin-around snapper under the bar from 10 feet out.
Karpyshyn then finished off the 6-0 result by walking out of the corner and beating Curtis Skip, who played the last 32:07 for the Vikings in relief of deGraves, who allowed five goals against on 22 shots. Skip finished with 17 saves.
"That's a good team over there and we proved once again that if we all buy in the same way and compete hard, we're going to come out on top," said Daigle. "Props to these guys in here for battling so hard and for 60 minutes.
"It's easy sometimes when you go up by a few goals early … to slack off and try different things, but we stuck to the system. It's a great team win."
With the result, the Griffins improve to 15-5-0-0 and are tied for second place in the ACAC standings with Red Deer College (14-4-2-0). Both teams are six points back of first place NAIT (17-3-0-0).
MacEwan will head out on the road next weekend to Caronport, Sask. for their annual doubleheader road trip to Briercrest.