Leaders step up for Gryphons in win over Laurier
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – After cruising through the first two periods, the Guelph Gryphons got it going for a 3-1 victory over the Laurier Golden Hawks in OUA women’s hockey play Wednesday night at the Gryphon Centre.
“We played like garbage in the first two periods to be honest,” Gryphon coach Rachel Flanagan said. “Coaches don’t usually say that in interviews, but we were awful. We all know and the girls all know it and they responded better in the third period. We shortened up our shifts and we got our legs going and we were rewarded for it.”
“Our team struggles a little bit with complacency at times,” captain Kaitlin Lowy said. “It’s hard when you face a team that gives us a lot of time to not take too much advantage of it and I think we got caught holding on to the puck too long and just making careless decisions and not playing with urgency.
“It was unfortunate that it took a wakeup call like that for two periods for us to get going, but sometimes that’s just the nature of sports. As long as we can find a way, we’re just going to find a way to move on and get better and learn from that experience.”
During the second intermission with the Gryphs tied 1-1 with the league’s basement dwellers, Flanagan directed a speech solely at her team’s veterans.
“I actually went in and I called out our leadership group because how can we follow if we’re not leading,” she said. “It was a pretty strong message to them that they are our seniors and they’re supposed to be leading this group and it was right from the back end all the way up to the front. They certainly got better as the game went on. They take that stuff to heart. They don’t want to hear that and they don’t want to be called out in front of their teammates. Maybe they needed to hear it and we ended up with a pretty good third period out of it.”
“Leadership comes with a lot of responsibility and all of us accepting that role know we’ve got a lot of pressure on our shoulders,” Lowy said. “Ultimately it’s our job to carry the team and if we’re not doing it, it’s our job to lead them. It starts with us and our team follows our suit so when we’re not up to par, our whole team isn’t. You know we’re a group of leaders. It doesn’t take one person to lead the charge, it takes a group of us and with a little bit of confidence and a little bit of accountability being held, we all stepped up.”
The veterans emerged as leaders in the final period as the hosts scored twice for the win.
The Gryphs had opened the scoring in the final minute of the first period with a power-play goal by Lowy.
Laurier responded almost exactly a period later as Emily Woodhouse scored in the final minute of the second. Kaitlyn Hatzes assisted on the play.
The Gryphs responded with a solid effort in the third and Kelly Gribbons netted the eventual game-winner a little before the nine-minute mark of the period.
Ashlee Lawrence added an unassisted insurance goal seven and a half minutes later.
Katie Mikkelsen, Cyan Roepcke, Claire Merrick and Lowy each had an assist for the Gryphs.
The slow start might have been a little bit of overconfidence for the Gryphs who entered the game 17 points and nine places ahead of Laurier.
“I don’t know what it is,” Flanagan said. “There may be a little bit of that looking at the standings and saying ‘Well.’ I know they don’t mean to not work hard, but there was a little bit of we over-handled the puck and we were at about three-quarter speed and we were still getting away with it. The coaching staff kept saying ‘If you let this team hang around, they’re going to get one.’ And they did. That kind of woke us up. We had a really great shift right after that goal went in. Against a really, really good team, it’s a little too late. They’re going to find a way to beat you in those games. You can’t come back.”
Guelph outshot Laurier 30-13 and kept the Golden Hawks scoreless on four power plays. Guelph scored on one of its four power plays.
Valerie Lamenta was the winning netminder for the Gryphs while Hannah Miller took the loss for Laurier.
While Wednesday’s game was the first league outing since Nov. 25 for the Gryphs, they had shaken off the rust that gathered during the Christmas and exams break with a trio of games in Montreal in the final days of 2017.
“That was really good so I thought we were going to come into this game really game ready because our three games in Montreal, we got better as the tournament went on. I thought that was perfect and that we were going to come in and be game ready,” Flanagan said. “Sometimes those first games back, it’s really tight to come back from the break. They’re not even in school so there’s a lot of hanging around.”
“Having not played for the majority of December, it gets you back into that game shape,” Lowy said. “It was really valuable experience playing against some of the top teams and to just get your legs back playing at a pace we’re going to need going into the later stages of the season.”
The Gryphs had a loss to the Concordia Stingers, a loss in overtime to the NCAA’s Vermont Catamounts and a win over the McGill Martlets (in that order) in the games in Montreal.
Wednesday’s win leaves the Gryphs third in the 13-team league at 8-1-4-0 and Laurier 13th at 1-1-9-1.
Time was when the Gryphs and Laurier were the strongest of rivals with top spot and possibly a league title on the line. However, many of the current Gryphons hadn’t reached high school yet the last time the two teams met for the McCaw Cup championship trophy in 2010.
Now Guelph’s main rival in Waterloo is the Waterloo Warriors, fifth at 6-2-3-0, and those two teams are to meet Saturday’s at Waterloo’s Columbia Icefields arena starting at 2 p.m.
“We’ve just developed such a strong rivalry with this Waterloo team and we know that in their tight rink, nothing but a hard-battling, top-speed game is going to win,” Lowy said. “We know they’re going to bring it to us and we know that we’re going to have to bring three periods just like our (third period) here tonight if we’re going to have a fighting chance at winning.”
“We know if we go into Waterloo like (we played against Laurier in the first two periods), we’ll be in trouble,” Flanagan said.