Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – It's often said if you want to get better, play against better competition.
While the MacEwan Griffins men's hockey team has reached the pinnacle of their conference the past two seasons – winning 2017 and 2018 ACAC Championship banners – they're still striving to be better.
So, why not cue up a home-and-home series against the University of Calgary?
That's exactly what the Griffins will be doing as they kick off 2018-19 preseason play this weekend against the Dinos, who finished fourth in Canada West last season and had three players win conference honours.
MacEwan will travel to Calgary on Friday (7 p.m.) before hosting the Dinos on Saturday (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).
"Without a doubt they're one of the premier programs in the entire country, so to get an opportunity to test ourselves against them early on is something we're certainly looking forward to," said Griffins head coach Michael Ringrose.
"I expect they'll play with a ton of pace. I know their coach (Mark Howell) very well. He's a very good coach. They're going to play with pace and structure and will challenge us to compete," he added. "We need to be ready to answer the bell. We can play with pace, too. We can play with structure, too. And we certainly know how to compete. All those things are going to need to be in order for us to have success this weekend."
Following the weekend, the competition gets even tougher as MacEwan will combine with NAIT to form a team that plays against the Edmonton Oilers Rookies on Sept. 11 (7 p.m., Rogers Place).
All excellent tests to ramp up for the 2018-19 ACAC regular season, which begins on Oct. 5. MacEwan first travels to Briercrest for a pair of games Oct. 5-6 before returning for their home opener Oct. 12 vs. Portage (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).
Already, Ringrose likes the compete level he's seen from his players, who have been back practicing since Aug. 27. There's a healthy mix of veterans and newcomers, leading to a competitive environment.
"We have some really good players coming in and they'll be pushing for important minutes right from the get-go here," said Ringrose. "That's added a competitive atmosphere to the camp that as a coach I've really appreciated and enjoyed.
"Being that this is my first year having returning players who know the systems and know what's going on, it's been a nice transition to have so many people back that understand what we're trying to accomplish. They've been a big help onboarding the first-year athletes as well."