Gryphon hockey men fall to Laurier after unfurling banner
GUELPH – On the night that they finally got to unfurl their banner for winning the Queen’s Cup as OUA men’s hockey champions of the 2019-2020 season, the Guelph Gryphons surrendered a pair of goals in the final eight minutes to start their current season with a 5-3 setback to the Laurier Golden Hawks.
The Gryphs never led in the game and replied to every Laurier goal with one of their own until the visitors shot ahead with the game’s only power-play goal with 7:34 to go in the third.
Laurier 5 Guelph Gryphons 3
“There were big chunks of the game where we controlled the pace, controlled the tempo and had good chances and outshot them, but we got nothing for it,” Gryphon coach Shawn Camp said. “There was no reward. They’re a very patient team as we’ve seen in the past and they just wait for their chances and to their credit they capitalized on our turnovers and a couple of our mistakes. We have a couple of things to clean up in our game, but we have so many rookies that are playing and playing in big roles for us that there’s going to be a bit of an adjustment period for them. Tonight was the first taste of regular season OUA play and it’s a learning curve for sure for many of our new players.”
While there was a lengthy ceremony before the drop of the puck to start the game to honour the reigning champions. While they did stand on the ice throughout it after having each player introduced, it didn’t slow the Gryphs down.
“It’s an emotional time,” Gryphon captain Ted Nichol said. He scored the winning goal in the third overtime in the Queen’s Cup win. “We had to wait a long time for that, but at the end of the day it shouldn’t bother us too much. We’ve got to be ready before that and after that. It doesn’t affect us too much. We had a nice ceremony, but we’ve got to move on and look forward from there.”
Laurier scored the only goal of the first period and led 3-2 at the end of the second.
With the 2020-2021 season cancelled, the Gryphs and every other team in the league have the equivalent of two seasons worth of rookies on their roster.
“More than half our team are rookies. It’s a different situation than we’re used to where we’re replacing a few veterans at a time,” coach Camp said. “With COVID, we had so many of our veterans go pro, as they all will anyway, but they didn’t wait until they finished school. With COVID they had opportunities to play pro in Europe so many of them left to do that. They still had eligibility left so leaving early means that they’ll finish their schooling online, but it also meant that we had to replace a lot more players than we would normally replace in any given year.”
The newcomers came through for the Gryphs as all three goals were scored by players who were in their first ever OUA league match.
“There’s lots of turnover, for sure,” Nichol said. “They all played at a high level and they’re moving into the OUA, which is another good league. Throughout the training camp and exhibition games the rookies have handled themselves well and three of them got our goals tonight so that’s a nice little monkey off the back for some of those guys. (We’ll) continue to move forward as a group and as a leader you’ve got to make sure that they’re ready for every game.”
The Gryphs had 10 players in Thursday’s game who were members of the championship-winning squad.
Aidan Brown, Duncan Penman and Luke Bignell scored for the Gryphs while assists went to Jaxon Camp, Liam Ham, Zach Roberts, Nick Isaacson and Nichol.
Justyn Gurney (right after he served a penalty), Caleb Rich, Anthony Sorrentino, Jake Payette and Bair Gendunov each had a goal for Laurier. Zack Dybowski set up two of the goals while Gendunov, Rich, Conor Ali, Matt McJannet and Sorrentino each had an assist.
The Gryphs outshot the Golden Hawks 29-23.
Gabe Mollot-Hill had 18 saves in the Gryphon net in taking the loss while former Guelph junior B goalkeeper Christian Propp had 26 saves to get the win for Laurier. Propp had OHL stints with the Barrie Colts, North Bay Battalion, Soo Greyhounds and Kingston Frontenacs after playing the 2015-2016 season with the now-defunct Guelph Hurricanes.
This season the OUA has split its league into four divisions, three of them (Far West, West and Far East) containing five teams and the other (East) having four and each has a 20-game regular season.
The Gryphs and all the Ws (Waterloo, Windsor, Wilfrid Laurier and Western) are in the Far West and play each other five times which will add to some already strong rivalries.
“This was the start of one. There was a great crowd here tonight to honour the team for their accomplishment for winning the Queen’s Cup and just a great rivalry with Laurier,” coach Camp said. “It’s going to be tight and tough all year. We’ve said that there’s so much parity in the OUA, but so much within our division especially that anybody can beat anybody on any given night. A mistake here, a mistake there, a lucky bounce here or there and it makes the difference when teams are so close like this. Give them credit, they played well tonight. We’re learning as we go and we’ll certainly get better as we go, too.”
“You saw a little bit of that tonight,” Nichol said of a rivalry with Laurier. “We have an emotional group and if we play those guys four more times, it’s going to get pretty emotional between the two of us and with the other three teams in the division. We’ve got to make sure we handle our emotions properly and get the job done at the end of the day.”
The Gryphs are to be back in action Friday night with a game against the Waterloo Warriors at the Waterloo CIF Arena. The Warriors were edged 1-0 at home by Windsor Thursday after they dropped all six of their preseason matches, only once scoring more than a goal in the game, that being a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Nipissing Lakers at North Bay last weekend.
Game time Friday is 7 p.m.
- Guelph Sports Journal