Gryphon lacrosse men edged by Western

Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal

GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons yielded a pair of goals by Thomas Masterson in the final 90 seconds of the game as they were edged 7-6 by the Western Mustangs in Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association play Sunday afternoon at the Gryphon Soccer Complex.

“That’s a hard loss. That’s a hard, hard loss,” Gryphon coach Sam Kosakowski said. “We didn’t play well in the first half and to be in the game and to battle back after not being in the game, that showed a lot of heart, a lot of grit. The guys worked really hard.”

The Gryphs had taken the lead with 2:13 to go on a goal by Liam Corbett.

Masterson tied it for Western 57 seconds later and fired in the winner with 27 seconds to go. Both goals followed face-off wins by Western.

“We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of unforced errors – throwing balls out of bounds, bad shots,” Kosakowski said. “We put the ball in the goalie’s stick four or five times. Those have to be goals. They have to be goals. In the end, losing a couple of face-offs hurts us. Not coming up with possession hurts a lot – to give them possession in our end and they’ve got a solid offence.”

A slow start proved critical for the Gryphs as they trailed 2-1 at the end of the first quarter and 4-2 at half time before battling back to tie it 5-5 by the end of the third quarter.

“We played hard. Defensively, when you hold a team to seven goals, you can hang your hat on that,” Kosakowski said. “You need your offence to say ‘Hey, we need to step up and do something on the offensive side of the ball.’”

The Gryphs did get the final possession of the game, but didn’t manage to get a shot on net.

“Not getting the last shot there, getting stripped, that’s tough. But that’s a one-play thing, that’s not the game,” Kosakowski said. “It’s important, too, that the guys have to realize that it’s not about the last two or five minutes of the game. That wasn’t the game. The game in my mind was lost in the first quarter and the second quarter. If we can change that and come out a little bit more stable, a little bit more sure of ourselves, then the whole game is a different game.”

The Gryphons have had a bit of a turnover from last year with 11 players not back.

“I lost eight starters and I have another three from last year’s team who didn’t come back to play. That’s a lot of guys and key guys,” Kosakowski said. “I lost eight starters so I’m very proud of the guys who came in who are in their first year and stepped in.”

Those not back include midfielders Brett Ulbikas (30 goals-16 assists), Todd Greer (8-8), Brendan Vogan (6-4) and Blaze McCullough (6-4), attack Brent Layton (6-7), longsticks Matthew Lyons, Nicholas Wordtmann and Brett Scullion and goalkeeper Michael Lalani (9.26 goals-against average).

They do, however, have midfielder Alec Simons (8-12) and attacks Michael Cavanagh (23-13), James Short (21-13), Liam Corbett (14-6) and Zach Luis (11-1) back.

Mike Berger had a pair of goals for the Gryphons while single goals were scored by Short, Corbett, Cavanagh and Mitchell Ogilvie. Short assisted on two of the goals while Corbett, Ben Heidecker, Jackson Nishimura and Adam Kromer each had one assist.

Masterson finished with four goals for Western while Nikolai Farrus, Jackson Hulbert and Cole Davis added one apiece. Getting one assist each were Farrus, Cody Ward, Ben Mercey, Keagan Croley and Rowan Kelly.

Manraj Nijjar was in net for Western and Hayden Walsh was in net for Guelph.

“He stood on his head,” Kosakowski said of Walsh. “He played well, he played spectacular. We can’t lose games for him like that. If he’s going to stand on his head like that, we can’t lose. It’s as simple as that. He’s given us a chance to win – the whole defence has given us a chance to win.”

The result leaves the Gryphs at 1-1-0 and Western at 2-0-0.

“It’s a loss and it hurts, but it’s a long season,” Kosakowski said. “We’ve still got some room to go. We’ll be OK. The next time this team sees us we’ll be a different team. We’ve got to change gears and we’ve got to think about what we’re doing. We’ve got Brock coming up next weekend and we’ve got to be ready to go. That’s what our focus is.”

The Gryphs are to play the Brock Badgers (2-0-0) at Brock Saturday at 4 p.m. Western and Brock finished the regular season last year with identical 11-1 records, the only teams to finish ahead of the Gryphons (8-4) in the West Division.

“It’s good to play them early and it’s good to get a sense of the competition,” Kosakowski said. “A 7-6 loss is a whole lot different than 10-4. Last year in the first game of the season, they beat us by four or five goals and that sends you home with a different message. This message is that this could’ve and should’ve been our game. I think the boys recognize that.”