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Rampton helps Griffins win third straight ACAC title

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When the MacEwan Griffins women’s hockey team won the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship last month, they made history. And they had a little help from a former Dauphin resident.
The Griffins finished the regular season in second place with a 17-5-2 record, with Dauphin’s Jessi Rampton contributing two goals and two assists in 20 games.
After beating Red Deer College in the semifinals, MacEwan swept the best-of-five final over NAIT, three-games-to-none, clinching the title with a 3-2 overtime win, Mar. 14, on the road.
It was the third straight championship for the Griffins.
Rampton said as long as the team keeps winning, the more pressure there is on to be victorious.
“Compared to our first year, we weren’t necessarily the underdogs, but we weren’t expected to win as we are now,” she said.
“Being able to come out on top after having this pressure on us, it makes it really special.”
The first two games of the final were played, Mar. 8 and 9, with a five-day break before game three.
“So we had that whole week up two games, which was nice to be up two games, but it also puts a lot of pressure. You just want to play that third game,” Rampton said.
Game three was in NAIT’s home rink, so the Griffins did not have home ice advantage.
The Griffins had a 2-0 lead three minutes into the second period. NAIT got one back before the period’s break and then, with the goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, they tied the game with 32 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
“Just watching that clock go down and then having them celebrate, everyone’s heart just drops. It’s hard to regain the momentum with 30 seconds left. It’s kind of hard to come back and fight back,” she said.
“But we just wanted to end it so badly and get the sweep.”
The Griffins had two chances on the power play in overtime after NAIT was called for an interference penalty 5-1/2 minutes into overtime. They killed that one off, but a roughing penalty 14 seconds later sent MacEwan back on the power play.
This time they took advantage when Morgan Casson scored the championship goal at 8:17 of overtime.
“We gained some momentum in overtime and then were able to finish it. It was exciting and stressful. That’s how playoffs go.”
Rampton said even in the third period, the referess were being pretty lenient, stating it would take something big for them to give either team an advantage.
“It was a good game. We always have pretty clean, good games against NAIT. But they ended up taking two in overtime. I’m a little biased, but they had to be pretty obvious calls for the refs to call something like in overtime of game three,” she said.
The MacEwan men’s team won its league championship, Mar. 23, sweeping their best-of-three series over NAIT.
Like the women’s team, it was the third straight championship for the MacEwan men’s squad.
Having both teams win three straight league titles is huge for the two programs, Rampton said, because teams are trying to get into the Canada West hockey leagues in the next year or two.
“It depends a lot on how we perform in our league and both the men’s and women’s teams being able to take three championships just shows that we’re ready to move up a league. It’s exciting for the programs,” she said.
The championship win for the men’s team was filled with emotion.
Teammate Nakehko Lamothe died following a game, Jan. 25, in Calgary after collapsing in the dressing room and going into cardiac arrest.
Lamothe, who played for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s OCN Blizzard, was 23.
His family was in attendance for the final game and were invited onto the ice following MacEwan’s victory.
When they accepted the championship trophy, the team captains skated to Lamothe’s parents to have them be the first to hoist the trophy overhead.
“It was emotional to say the least. I’ve never been a part of something like that. When he passed away we had a few games cancelled the following weekend. We were just taking some time as a team. We were the women’s team, so we knew him and he was a member of our Griffins family,” Rampton said.
“But I can’t imagine losing one of our girls. And really, our hearts went out to the men’s team and we really came together. For them to continue the season with that empty stall in the room, I can’t imagine.
“And then winning the championship. They had Nakehko’s sister and his parents out on the ice and they brought them his medal and the championship hat. And they got to hoist the trophy. Emotional is an understatement. But it was really special.”

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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