Toronto, ON- What’s the best way to earn respect from your opponents? Win.
If you’re looking for a U SPORTS Men’s Hockey team to make some headlines in their first season, look no further than the MacEwan University Griffins. Joining U SPORTS after years of planning, the Griffins have taken a bombastic approach to recruiting ahead of their first season in Canada West, giving every reason to think they can be successful.
In their final season of ACAC action, the Griffins had an average age of 22.5 years old, and while that is not the youngest team, bringing in a recruiting class of 20-year-olds out of junior would have kept them inexperienced. However, the program has brought in six experienced collegiate players, three of whom are joining from established U SPORTS programs.
The three U SPORTS veterans joining the program are Riley Brandt, a forward from the RMC Paladins, Cameron Trott from the now-defunct Lethbridge Pronghorns and Ethan Price from the Brock Badgers. The trio is an instant injection of experience, bridging a combined 110 U SPORTS games to the young team.
Aside from the U SPORTS players, Head Coach Michael Ringrose brought in three players from former Alberta collegiate rivals, all players who have been in the league’s upper echelons, and should find U SPORTS success. Defenders Curtis Roach and Jordan Davies are transferring from the NAIT Ooks, while forward Chase Thudium joins from Red Deer College.
“For us, it was a big part of our strategy heading into the off-season,” said Ringrose to the Griffins website. “It was identifying those players from other institutions at the ACAC level and U SPORTS level to see if they were going to be a fit.
While the players from former rival teams seems odd at first, Ringrose was pretty sure that U SPORTS provided an irresistible opportunity for some of the best in the ACAC. “At the end of the year, we reached out to coaches around the ACAC and had general conversations about the opportunity we could provide moving from the ACAC to U SPORTS,” he said to Griffins communications.
All the players, especially the three from U SPORTS have lofty expectations as they approach their first Canada West season with MacEwan, which could begin in January, and 49 Sports is breaking down each new face.
Ethan Price: Forward, Brock Badgers
Price officially joins the team after transferring last year and spending the 2019-20 season as a redshirt, but playing in games will offer another level of positivity. In his first year, in 2018-19 with Brock, the Nebraskan scored 11 points through 28 games, but that production could be a lot higher on a team and system he already knows.
The former Badger offers skill and speed, two characteristics which are important at any level of the game, but his biggest asset is his versatility. He is confident playing both a centre and on the wing, and will be an important piece to a Griffins team that only had 2 players above a point-per-game in 2019-20 ACAC action.
Price will also be playing against many former WHL oppnenets of his, after his 273 games he split in the league between the Victoria Royals and Portland Winterhawks. Adding any player into your top six is an advantage, but an older, experienced player who has been around the team already is a near perfect addition for the Griffins.
Riley Brandt: Forward, RMC Paladins
Riley Brandt is an exciting player. He spent three years at RMC, but faced injury trouble in all but his rookie year. However, if he can rekindle his play from his rookie season, (2017-18) he could be MacEwan’s leading scorer.
In 2017-18, Brandt led the country in rookie scoring with 21 goals and 33 points in 28 games, but since then, he has only hit U SPORTS ice two times. Since he did not play a single game in what would have been his sophomore season, the native of Trail, BC has three years of remaining eligibility, rather than two.
In speaking about the former BCHL forward to the Griffins website, Head Coach Ringrose said, “Obviously, any time you lose a couple years to injury, it’s going to take time to get back to the level you want to compete at. In all the conversations with me, he’s excited to get a fresh opportunity at a place that’s a little closer to home and we’re excited to add someone of that pedigree.”
A major charectersitc that comes with Bradnt is leadership. He captained the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers, before going to RMC where leadership is part of the school’s character. There is a big “if” when it comes to Brandt, but there is reason to be extremely hopeful as he begins his time in burgundy.
Cameron Trott: Defenceman, Lethbridge Pronghorns
An unfortunate circumstance for the University of Lethbridge becomes a welcome opportunity for Cameron Trott and the MacEwan Griffins. After two years with the Pronghorns, Trott is leaving the university due to the suspension of their hockey program back in the spring. With 47 Canada West games already, he adds conference experience, compared to the U SPORTS expereince Brandt and Price will provide.
Briefly a teammate of Brandt while in the BCHL, Trott is not known for his offensive prowess on the blueline, rather his astute work in the defensive end. Although he is transferring from within U SPORTS, he brings 10 games of NCAA experience that he got in 2017-18 with the University of Alaska Anchorage. Not only is he used to the conference, but he has adjusted to the league from another league before, something the majority of the MacEwan roster will be doing.
While his addition to the Griffins came at the unfortunate cost of a team in U SPORTS, his experience on the back end will be invaluable to a fairly green group of players.
ACAC Transfers: Jordan Davies, Curtis Roach, Chase Thudium
For all three of the players, the opportunity to join U SPORTS was just too good to give up, and they know they are taking a big next step in their hockey careers. Each one of them have been among the best players in the ACAC, and the Griffins are hoping their skills can transfer to the next level.
Thudium has led the Red Deer College Kings over the past two seasons, scoring 36 points in 28 games last season, for 104 points through just 90 games. He is a goalscorer, a playmaker, and one of the most prolific players in Alberta, making him a potential diamond in the ruff for MacEwan.
Jordan Davies and Curtis Roach
A pair of two-way defenders who already have strong familiarity with the other. Davies and Roach are both transferring from the NAIT Ooks, where they proved themselves as some of the best defenders in the league, not only defensively, but on the scoresheet as well.
Each had over forty points through their time with the Ooks, while Davies leads with 60 though 83 games over three years. Davies was also named to the ACAC second all-star team in his second season, while Roach never reached those heights through his two years.
Both are unlikely to electrify Canada West, however, they will be strong additions to the backend of Edmonton’s newest U SPORTS team.
With a group that is still very young, bringing in cooler heads who have been in situations before is bound to help. While the incoming U SPORTS players lead this charge having played at this level, the ACAC players also bring veteran leadership to the rather fresh-faced Griffins. For the ACAC players, they will want to prove that they belong at this next level and that it was no mistake by MacEwan to bring them in, I fully expect them to come out of the gates hungrier than any other players in the league.
All the players added have experiencedI good play at different levels of the game, and will want to make a good first impression at their new school. Lastly, switching teams has become second-nature for most of the recruits, making them affable to a new locker room.
Cover Photo: City of Edmonton/MacEwan University