A year ago, the Griffins won men’s and women’s Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) hockey championships in the same season for the first time.
Now, they’ve both repeated as champions in 2018 to make MacEwan the first ACAC institution to win back-to-back hockey titles in both leagues. Since women’s hockey became an ACAC sport in 2000, no other institution has managed to achieve that feat.
“I think it’s a testament to the resources that the university has been able to provide us,” said Griffins men’s hockey coach Michael Ringrose, whose team beat the NAIT Ooks 4-1 on Sunday night to claim their second-straight title. “You look at where the program’s come over the past five years. We feel like we’re just scratching the surface.
“We’ve got a brand-new building, top-of-the line facilities and great support staff—from our medical staff through to our director of athletics. Everyone’s pulling in the same direction and it’s exciting to be a part of.”
Lindsay McAlpine’s Griffins women’s hockey team was in full attendance at NAIT Arena on Sunday, cheering the men on to victory nine days after winning their second-straight championship over the Red Deer College Queens.
“The camaraderie between the teams has been especially strong these past five years,” said McAlpine, who was named the ACAC’s women’s hockey coach of the year in back-to-back seasons. “I think a lot of the credit goes to the leadership duo of (captains) Ryan Benn and Sydney Thomlison. The programs push each other to be better while at the same time offering unbelievable support for one another. I’ve been involved in programs where that doesn’t exist.”
Ken Schildroth, MacEwan’s director of athletics, is proud of the character of both teams. “I’m humbled by the performance of the student-athletes and coaches,” he said. “They’ve been able to accomplish something that’s never been done before. It represents their overall commitment to the MacEwan ideals of academic excellence, sport excellence and giving back to the community. I think it was one of our coaches who coined the term ‘low ego and high output.’ That attitude percolates through all aspects of both these teams.”
In his inaugural season as Griffins men’s hockey bench boss—first on an interim basis before being named as the program’s head coach—Ringrose led the squad to second place in the ACAC standings with a 20-7-1-0 record. They finished five points behind NAIT in the standings, but they had a better record than the Ooks since November and finished the season winning 11 of their last 12 games—including two of three against NAIT—to win the championship. “I’m just proud that when we needed our best in the moment in game three, we were able to perform,” said Ringrose. “That’s a testament to the character we had in the dressing room. The group that we had there never ceases amaze me. They just seem to will themselves to get things done. The leadership and character is second to none.”
McAlpine’s squad has a similar story of character. They finished first in the ACAC women’s hockey standings with an 18-3-3-0 mark and were nearly unbeatable while working as a team during the playoffs, losing just once in six post-season contests. They celebrated a 3-1 best-of-five series win over RDC and a second-straight banner at Red Deer’s Enmax Centrium on March 9.
“I think yesterday being at the men’s game was, in a sense, reliving the excitement of our championship. The craziest part about being a student-athlete is you get to enjoy those moments and relish them and have that exciting championship week, but our athletes were back in class and midterms Monday morning,” said McAlpine. Ringrose noted that cheering section from the women’s hockey team made a huge impact on the men’s fortunes in a hostile NAIT rink.
“I come from junior hockey where you don’t have that family atmosphere,” said Ringrose, who previously coached in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. “You’re a family on your team, but you don’t have another team that plays the same sport that’s right there cheering you on. You don’t have a basketball team and a volleyball team.” “That has been one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most about my time at MacEwan. You’re part of a larger family and you support one another. We do our best to support our women’s team, and what they did for us in the finals was unbelievable. The support they showed helped push us over the top.”
The result is two hockey programs that were once regularly bounced out of the playoffs early—or missed them entirely—are now turning into juggernauts on the ACAC circuit.
“I think it’s a huge turning point in the program,” said McAlpine. “To go back to the leadership that Ryan and Sydney have brought to the program is arguably the biggest impact that we’ve had. They’ve both been with us for five years. That’s a huge feat in itself for MacEwan University sport. We don’t have a ton of five-year athletes and I think it’s the start of something great for us.”
Contributed by Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
- Men’s team: Len Joudrey, for MacEwan Athletics
- Women’s team: Tony Hansen, for Red Deer College Athletics