Graduating Gryphons survive to play again

GUELPH – The graduating Guelph Gryphons just weren’t going to be denied at least one more game.

And they certainly weren’t going to be eliminated on their home ice.

That was the attitude the veteran Gryphons had heading into the second game of the best-of-three OUA men’s hockey league West Division final Saturday night at the Gryphon Centre. And there were plenty of them in the lineup, eight in all who aren’t expected back next season – seven because they’ve used up their five years of eligibility and one because he’s graduating.

The result was one of their finest efforts of the season as they dropped the Western Mustangs 6-1 to force the series to its three-game limit. The third game is slated for Sunday at 7 p.m. at Western’s Thompson Arena.

“We needed a bigger response after the game on the road the other night where we thought we played too loose and we gave up too many chances after we had scored goals and had the lead all night until the third period,” Gryphon coach Shawn Camp said. “Tonight we tightened it up a bit and the guys really played well.”

“That was a great way to bounce back,” said fifth-year Gryphon Tryg Strand who scored Guelph’s second goal of the game. “We didn’t feel we gave our best effort on Thursday. To come here at home for our last game at home no matter what, it couldn’t have gone better for us.”

It was evident from the start when the Gryphs came out and applied pressure throughout the opening period when they limited the Mustangs to two shots on goal.

“We were jumping early and we were playing the right way,” Camp said. “We were on the right side of the puck all night. We got pucks to the net, too, offensively and it started to roll the way we wanted once we got our forecheck going and started to get pucks deep.”

Yet despite the effort put in by the Gryphs, the pressure didn’t ease up until late in the second period when they scored twice in less than three minutes to go up 3-0. Before then the hosts had scored the only goal of the first period and a bad bounce could have left the game deadlocked.

“We were outshooting them quite badly at the time and not finishing,” Camp said. “We just had to trust the recipe that if we keep working the right way that it would eventually go our way.”

“We were keeping the message on the bench to play the same way,” Strand said. “We knew eventually they had to bend and finally break. We just had to keep playing that right way of our end out first and really playing smart, hard hockey.”

The pressure eased up an awful lot more in the third when they scored twice in nine seconds just shy of the period’s five-minute mark.

Such was the defensive commitment and smothering play by the Gryphs in the first two periods that Western was held to a total of six shots on net through 40 minutes of play. They took twice that many in the third and connected for their only goal, a power-play marker by Stephen Desrocher that was set up by Ethan Szypula.

“We weren’t very happy with our five-on-five game on Thursday,” Strand said. “We gave up four. That’s been one of our stronger parts throughout the year so we wanted to get back to that and be dominant five-on-five and I think we did that tonight.”

Mikkel Aagaard scored twice for the Gryphs while single goals were netted by Strand, Ryan Valentini, Connor Bramwell and Marc Stevens. Cody Thompson assisted on four of the goals while Valentini had two assists and Reilly O’Connor, Seth Swenson, Aagaard and Stephen Templeton had one apiece.

In the end the Gryphs outshot Western 30-18 and went 1-for-3 on their power play while the Mustangs were 1-for-5.

Andrew Masters had 17 saves to get the win while Luke Peresinni took the loss in Western’s net. He had 22 saves before being relieved by David Ovsjannikov at 4:56 of the third after Guelph’s fifth goal. Ovsjannikov faced three shots the rest of the way.

The big question for the Gryphs for Sunday’s game might be if they have enough energy left for a repeat performance.

“We think so,” Camp said. “We’re excited now. Now it’s right in front of us and it’s within grasp if we want to play the right way again (Sunday) night. We know Western will be better at home, too. It won’t be easier, that’s for sure. It will be a lot harder, but that’s what the playoffs are all about in the final.”

“We’ve got lots left,” Strand said. “There’s lots left in the tank.”

Winner of Sunday’s game will face the Queen’s Gaels in the Queen’s Cup OUA championship match Saturday at the Kingston Memorial Arena. Queen’s gained its berth in the final by completing a sweep of the Carleton Ravens Saturday in Kingston.

Winner of Sunday’s game also gets a berth in the U Sports national tournament in Lethbridge later this month.

 

Gryphons 6 Mustangs 1
Western     0-0-1–1
Guelph       1-2-3–6
First Period
1. Guelph, Aagaard (Valentini, Thompson), 13:04
Penalty: O’Connor Gue (kneeing), 13:38.
Second Period
2. Guelph, Strand (O’Connor, Swenson), 14:09
3. Guelph, Valentini (Aagaard, Thompson), 16:56
Penalties: Kopstals Gue (high sticking), 3:45; Olynek West (cross checking), 11:10; Szypula West (unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:56.
Third Period
4. Guelph, Bramwell (Templeton, Thompson), 4:46
5. Guelph, Aagaard (Valentini, Thompson), 4:56
6. Western, Desrocher (Szypula), 8:53 pp
7. Guelph, Ma.Stevens (unassisted), 13:51 pp
Penalties: Ma.Stevens Gue (roughing), 2:15; Brooks West (slashing), Templeton Gue (slashing), 4:56; O’Connor Gue (cross checking), 5:28; Huether West (cross checking), Lemcke Gue (cross checking), 6:27; Raycroft Gue (slashing), 7:32; Fitzmorris West (abuse of official game misconduct), Brooks West (cross checking), 13:28; Boyer Gue (roughing), 15:32.
Shots on Goal
Western     2-4-12–18
Guelph       9-14-7–30
Goalies: Peresinni (L, 44:56, 27 shots-22 saves), Ovsjannikov (15:04, 3 shots-2 saves), Western; Masters (W, 18 shots-17 saves), Guelph.
Power Plays (goals-chances): Western 1-5; Guelph 1-3.

 

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