MacEwan Griffins end championship season with touching tribute to former player

The MacEwan Griffins hockey team finished the season with a championship over the weekend, and a touching tribute to a former teammate who died of a heart attack.

On Saturday night, the Griffins were down 4-0 against the NAIT Ooks in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championship.

Not only did the team come back to tie the game, they won it in double overtime with a goal by Ryan Baskerville, sending the home crowd into a frenzy at the Downtown Community Arena in Edmonton.

"It's still a little surreal right now," said Cam Gotass, team captain. "Everything happened pretty fast. It was a great moment in front of our crowd."

When head coach Mike Ringrose was presented with the championship trophy, he handed it first to the family of Nakehko Lamothe.

"I think we're a big part of their lives now, too," said Gotaas. "I think the smiles on their faces tell the story."

Lamothe, 23, died in January after suffering a heart attack after a game in Calgary. The family of the third-year player, a bachelor of science student, previously told CBC News he was healthy and didn't have any pre-existing medical conditions.

"We went through a lot this year, and losing him was very tough," said Gotaas.

"He was our inspiration this year. We did it for him and he was with us there on the ice. I think he might have pulled a few strings to get that win for us."

Matthew Jacula Photography

To watch the team bounce back in a season where the players were grieving, and to share the championship with the Lamothe family was special, Ringrose said.

"For [the players] to work as hard as they did to get that glory, that moment, and then to turn around share with the family was pretty special. He certainly won't be forgotten. I can assure you that."

The Griffins are the fourth team in ACAC history to win three championships in a row.