Gotaas scores winner - his fifth goal in four games - as Griffins shade Thunder to sweep weekend series

Cam Gotaas scored for the fourth-straight game late in the third period as the Griffins defeated the Thunder 3-2 (Joel Kingston photography).
Cam Gotaas scored for the fourth-straight game late in the third period as the Griffins defeated the Thunder 3-2 (Joel Kingston photography).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Cam Gotaas continued his nuclear goal-scoring pace to start the ACAC men's hockey season, potting the game-winner with 5:38 left to give the MacEwan Griffins a 3-2 triumph over the Concordia Thunder at the Downtown Community Arena on Saturday night.

The captain cruised through the slot and tipped Austin Yaremchuk's powerplay point blast past Tanner McCorriston, allowing MacEwan to seal a weekend sweep of the cross-town rival Thunder.

"The guys were razzing me because they thought it went straight in and I was trying to steal one," said Gotaas, who has five goals in MacEwan's first four games of the season. "Austin threw a great shot and we were just talking about getting some bodies and pucks to the net. Luckily, it went off my stick and changed direction."

MacEwan (3-1-0-0) also got goals from Ryan McKinnon and Brett Smythe, while goaltender Marc-Olivier Daigle made 33 saves.

While the Griffins never trailed in Saturday's contest as the teams traded tallies, they were outshot for a second-straight night to the Thunder (this time 35-23) as their cross-town rivals proved they will be a tough battle for any opponent this season.

"They bring it this year," said Gotaas. "There's no quit in them. Not that there was last year, but I think we got out ahead in some games and it's a testament to their new coaching staff and players. They're tough to play against. All the credit to them. They were good tonight."

Concordia (2-2-0-0) had goals from Matt Benko and Connor Manegre and were especially strong in a late second period push.

"I think if you look at the chances in the game, they were pretty equal," said interim head coach Sean Ringrose. "We had a ton of chances early in the game and we didn't necessarily put pucks towards the net. It didn't result in shots on the score clock, but we definitely created a lot early and could have been up a couple after the first period.

"They had a strong push in the second half of the second period and came at us. They threw a lot of pucks towards the net and were able to weather the storm a little bit. We took a few too many penalties, more than we would have liked."

McKinnon opened the scoring for the Griffins with 3:52 left in the first period when he whacked a rebound past McCorriston off Riley Perka's shot.

The puck flies over Tanner McCorriston during a scramble on Saturday (Joel Kingston photography).

Concordia drew even on the powerplay with just 17 seconds left in the opening frame, though, when Benko beat Daigle low glove side.

Smythe one-timed a Jordan Taupert pass into the net to restore MacEwan's lead 3:09 into second period. Manegre tied it again early in the third before Gotaas played the hero.

"We talked about keeping it simple," said Ringrose. "It was just a pass moved up to the point and it was about establishing a shot toward the net. Cam was coming through the middle and was able to tip it into the net. Sometimes on the powerplay, keeping it simple is more effective than anything."

Four games into the season, MacEwan is beginning to find its game, but it remains a work in progress for a team acclimating 12 rookies to the ACAC level.

"It was more of a consistent game today," said Gotaas. "We still have some lulls in our game, but we'll figure that out.

"There's some younger guys and this is like their fourth game in the league. I think they're doing awesome. I know my first year was definitely an adjustment to about my 10th game. It's a tough league to get used to, but I think they're doing great and I expect them to keep climbing the mountain."

The Griffins next host UAlberta-Augustana on Oct. 25 (7 p.m., DCA).