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Griffins women’s hockey team taking home the ACAC championship last season.  (Len Joudry)

Griffins aiming for one more win

Women’s hockey team has a final shot at the crown
before they move on to a bigger league
By Austin Connelly

THE MacEwan Griffins women’s hockey team will be aiming for an unprecedented fourth Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference Championship in a row this weekend, when they reignite their rivalry against the NAIT Ooks for the final time, before moving into Canada West next season.

This will be the final chapter in an epic Edmonton sports rivalry as it will be a rematch from last season’s finale where the Griffins bested their crosstown rivals in overtime to capture their third consecutive title.  

The Griffins rolled through the regular season with a 21-3-0-0 record while ending the season on an ACAC record 14 game winning streak before sweeping SAIT in the first round to set up a final clash between the Ooks.

“This is the last time in history, very likely, that we’ll end up playing NAIT and have been our biggest rivals,” Griffins head coach, Lindsay McAlpine, said.

“Obviously there’s an Edmonton piece to it and I think beyond that we arguably have been in those kind of top two positions for a significant number of years competing for that ACAC championship belt.”

Dominating the league with identical three-peat championships from both the men’s and women’s sides, the teams will be moving up to the premier Canadian university U-Sports conference where they will be in unfamiliar territory.

They will not be the top dogs anymore moving into a more competitive league, but they also will not be unknowns with their extensive pedigree over the past few seasons.

“I think we’ve earned respect as a program as a whole, and not just in our success with the ACAC, but in you know, our success against Canada West teams and preseason games – we’ve come a long way playing, the U of S’s, the Mount Royals, the U of C’s, and U of A’s of the world,” McAlpine said.

“Do I think we’re going to walk in and when Canada West in our first year? Absolutely not, but it’s going to be a huge learning process for us and a big growth year for us and the girls are well aware of that.”

Among many of the new changes will be fiercer competition, longer travel days and moving from a five to a 10 team league, but it also opens the door for more exposure and the chance at larger crowds each night.

“That would be the hope, and I think it stems from the fact that the Canada West brand is a little more visible,” McAlpine said on the potential increase in attendance next season.

“So hopefully that kind of ups it, and we’ve got a new crosstown rival in U of A, so we still get that hometown crowd that we have with NAIT.”

However, their potential new rivals have been dominating the league winning the past two Canada West championships securing their most recent title a few weeks ago. 

To combat the many challenges, the Griffins have been hard on the recruiting trail locking down nine new players for either next year or the following season. 

“I would just say that the players that I was engaging in conversation with changed, so I was maybe tapping into a higher level of recruit,” McAlpine explained.

“For instance, we’ve got more players coming or coming into future years that are part of the provincial teams, where in the past that hasn’t been the case for us.”

The hope is that some of these rookies will be able to step in right away for the six departing players who will be aging out.

On March 5 the Griffins won against NAIT. After winning a tightly contested first game 1-0, they need just two more wins for a record fourth straight championship. Game two will be held on March 7 at the NAIT Arena at 6 p.m.

Regardless of how the season finishes the coaching staff and players turned the Griffins into a force over the past four seasons and will be looking to make a mark in their first year in Canada West. 

A pre-season photo of the Griffins women’s hockey team. (Griffins website)

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