Gryphon hockey women blank Windsor to open playoffs

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – Guelph Gryphons goaltender Valerie Lamenta had a big smile on her face following her shutout performance Wednesday night as the Gryphs opened their OUA women’s hockey playoffs by blanking the Windsor Lancers 3-0 at the Gryphon Centre.

The shutout was one Lamenta earned, not one where she watched the game from afar and had few stops to make.

“That’s what I enjoy,” she said. “It keeps me in the game as well. It keeps me on my toes and I feel that I’m more a part of the game.”

While Lamenta picked up the shutout, she was quick to praise her teammates for their efforts in keeping the puck out of her net.

“They have some very, very skilled players but I think for the most part my defence was keeping the shots to the outside,” Lamenta said. “The girls were lifting sticks in front of the net and that made my job easy, as well.”

“They’re a really tough team to play,” Gryphon coach Rachel Flanagan said. “We know we have to get pucks to the net as often as we can. When they get opportunities in our offensive zone, they’re really hard to play against and they’ve got a couple of lines that are very offensively minded. They gave us a bit of trouble and I thought that Val played a good game today and our defence really had to step up and block some shots.”

The Lancers usually have a lot of offensive talent as Windsor players have won the scoring race three of the last four years including this season when Krystin Lawrence had a league-high 23 goals and 32 points. She also led the league with 31 points in the 2015-16 season.

Windsor scored 68 goals this season, bettered only by Guelph’s 77 and Western’s 69. However, the Lancers also gave up 68 goals, the highest amount yielded by a playoff qualifier. Only non-playoff teams York Lions (71), UOIT Ridgebacks (75) and Laurier Golden Hawks (75) gave up more.

“We know that they are very skilled offensively, but by no means do we think they’re weak defensively,” Lamenta said. “We just stuck to our game plan and did the things we wanted to do and made sure we were solid from the D zone to the offensive zone.”

The Gryphs might have been excused if they had had trouble getting psyched up for the game as they had dropped the Lancers 7-1 in league play at the Gryphon Centre

three days earlier. However, that wasn’t the case.

“It was the start of playoffs so for us it was the start of a completely new season and we wanted to make sure that we were getting off to good habits and starting off strong,” Lamenta said.

The Gryphs scored once in the first period before they added a pair of power-play markers in the second.

The Lancers, though, weren’t a pushover as they buzzed around the Guelph net and outshot the Gryphs 27-17, including a 21-9 advantage in the final two periods.

The Gryphs scored on both of their power plays and kept Windsor scoreless on three power plays to preserve the shutout for goaltender Valerie Lamenta.

Kaitlin Lowy had two goals for Guelph while Katherine Bailey scored the other one. Claire Merrick, Mackenzie Wong, Brittany St. James, Kelly Gribbons and Bailey each had an assist.

Game 2 of the best-of-three quarter-final is set for Friday night at the South Windsor Arena.

“We’re still getting into that playoff mode and it’s hard because we kind of have that mentality that we just beat this team,” Flanagan said. “We know that when we go into Windsor on Friday, (it’s) a smaller rink, much more difficult to play in. When we played them down there in season, the score didn’t really reflect the game. It was a really hard game for us and we had a hard time getting out of our zone. We’ll work on a few things in practice and if we can, we’ll switch the Red rink for practice and see if we can get some time in the smaller rink.”

The Gryphs won 5-2 at Windsor Nov. 26 in their final game before the exams and Christmas break. They needed three goals in the third to secure the win and were outshot 24-16.

If the Lancers win Friday, the third game is to go Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Gryphon Centre.

In other quarter-final playoff games Wednesday, the Toronto Varsity Blues edged the Queen’s Gaels 3-2 and the Nipissing Lakers downed the Laurentian Voyageurs 5-2.

If the Gryphs win their series with Windsor, they’ll play the quarter-final survivor that finished the lowest in the standings in the best-of-three semifinals.

If the Gryphs reach the league final, they’ll host the single-game McCaw Cup championship match.