Vikings tripped up by Griffins in weekend sweep
University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings Mitch McMullen is tripped up by MacEwan University Griffins Brett Njaa during Alberta Colleges Athletic Association hockey action in Camrose on Saturday. MacEwan won 6-0. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian
The University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings men’s hockey team is in search of consistency.
The club went toe-to-toe with the defending Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference champion MacEwan University Griffins (8-4-0-0) in a 2-1 loss in Edmonton on Friday but then no-showed in a 6-0 loss on home ice to the Griffins on Saturday.
“We made a couple of big mistakes and spotted them a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period and MacEwan is just too good a team right now,” said Vikings head coach Blaine Gusdal. “You just can’t spot teams like that a three-goal lead in the first period and expect to be successful.”
The Vikings (7-4-1-0) were coming off of a dominating road sweep over the Briercrest College Clippers (1-10-0-1) the previous weekend, but their performance this past weekend was less than encouraging.
The biggest issue is the lack of support they have shown for starting goalie Curtis Skip. He has arguably been the best goalie in the ACAC to this point, but his team has been unable to pick him up on the rare nights when he has an off game. This weekend he made 45 saves in the 2-1 loss on Friday, but was chased after 40 minutes after allowing five goals on 28 shots on Saturday.
“He’s been our backbone,” said Gusdal. “We had some opportunities … early in the game, and if we cash in on those opportunities it’s probably a different 60 minutes. But when we didn’t cash in, then we had to makes sure we really bared down defensively and we didn’t do that.”
The sweep also represents a missed opportunity to climb into the all-important second place in the ACAC, instead are in a dog fight for positioning in fourth place in the league. Two points separate second place from fifth, while NAIT (10-0-1-1) runs away in first place.
“We could have set ourselves up well to finish off this first half,” said Gusdal. “As it stands now we’ve embedded ourselves in a real battle.”
They close out their first semester this weekend with a home-and-home with the Concordia University Thunder (4-7-1-0), who have improved this season over last year and have the ability to surprise. They are the only team to hand NAIT a defeat this season with a 3-2 overtime win on Nov. 3.
“They’re much improved and they’ve surprised some teams,” said Gusdal. “The guys they’ve recruited over the last year or two are putting up some numbers. Their back end is probably more mobile than it has been in previous years, and that’s the game — if you can get the puck up to those speedy forwards, things can happen.”
They are in Camrose on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and in Edmonton on Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
• The Vikings volleyball teams had a tough weekend as both teams were swept by the NAIT Ooks. The women lost 3-2 (25-20, 18-25, 25-16, 25-27, 15-9) on Friday in Edmonton and then 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 29-27) in Camrose on Saturday. The men fell 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-17) on Friday and 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21) on Saturday. This weekend they have a home-and-home with the Lakeland Rustlers, hosting on Friday with the women at 6 p.m. and men to follow, and in Lloydminster on Saturday. Basketball was off this weekend, but they also have a home-and-home with the Rustlers. They are in Lloydminster on Friday and host on Saturday, with the women playing at 6 p.m. and the men at 8 p.m.