Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bison blur kills with speed, smarts

U of M sniper Macaulay makes the most of his assets

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Blair MACAULAY knows a thing or two about exceeding expectations.

After all, the 24-year-old went from fourth-line grinder in his first season with the University of Manitoba men's hockey team to the country's goal-scoring leader last season to alternate captain this season.

"My job used to be to skate 100 miles-an-hour and cause a disturbance," said the Bison speedster, who last season led the CIS with 23 goals in 28 games. He was also the 2011-12 Canada West most valuable player and the conference's nominee for CIS Player of the Year. "I didn't have the major junior career I hoped to, but I accepted the role of an energy guy and enjoyed it. But I always thought I had it in me to put the puck in the net at this level."

By the end of his first Bisons season, he worked his way up to one of the top two lines, where he's continued to play.

"Blair leads by example and shows every day, in his training on and off the ice, how committed he is," said Bisons head coach Mike Sirant, who first scouted Macaulay with the Winnipeg Saints, formerly of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

"Blair has exceptional speed but he's able to execute at top speed and makes good decisions with the puck. He puts so much pressure on opposing defences, he forces them to make mistakes or just beats them on the outside and drives to the net."

The Winnipeg Jets also noticed Macaulay and invited him to participate in their development camp last summer.

So far this season, Macaulay and linemates Tyler Dittmer and Ian Duvall have accounted for 33 per cent of the Bisons goals. Duvall leads the team in scoring with three goals and 14 assists for 17 points. Dittmer and Macaulay each have six goals.

"Coach Sirant and the Bisons gave me that chance, they saw that in me," Macaulay said. "You have to keep working and keep challenging yourself to contribute in the biggest way possible."

A big challenge awaits the No. 10-ranked Bisons (8-4-2) this weekend, when they play host to the No. 1-ranked Alberta Golden Bears tonight and Saturday night at the Max Bell Arena. Alberta swept the Bisons earlier this season in Edmonton

"We've come a long way since that first week. We think we're better and we want to show it at home," said Macaulay. "Our team has been playing a lot more consistently in the past month."

Manitoba has won eight of its last 12 games with two losses in overtime. Though the Bisons have a 5-1 record at home, the Bears are on a 10-game winning streak.

Being a gritty grinder is still part of Macaulay's game and it'll be there this weekend. A regular on the both the power play and penalty-killing units, he draws opponents into a fair number of infractions with his speed as they'll hook and hold to slow him down.

"They can keep up or take the penalty," Macaulay said. "It is fun (to draw a guy into an infraction) and it's a lot better than being on the other side (in the penalty box)."

NOTE: Leading the Bears and Canada West in scoring is Winnipeg's Johnny Lazo, with 22 points in 16 games.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

On campus

TODAY

Men's hockey: Manitoba vs. Alberta, Max Bell Arena, 7 p.m.

Volleyball: Manitoba vs. UBC, Investors Group Athletic Centre, women at 6 p.m., men at 8 p.m.

SATURDAY

Men's hockey: Manitoba vs. Alberta, Max Bell Arena, 7 p.m.

Basketball: Manitoba vs. UBC Okanagan, Investors Group Athletic Centre, women at 1 p.m., men at 3 p.m.

Basketball: Winnipeg vs. Thompson Rivers, Duckworth Centre, women at 1 p.m., men at 3 p.m.

Volleyball: Manitoba vs. UBC, Investors Group Athletic Centre, women at 6 p.m., men at 8 p.m.

SUNDAY

Basketball: Winnipeg vs. UBC Okanagan, Duckworth Centre, women at 1 p.m., men at 3 p.m.

Basketball: Manitoba vs. Thompson Rivers, Investors Group Athletic Centre, women at 1 p.m., men at 3 p.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2012 C6

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