Gryphon hockey men open 2018 with win
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons got back to their winning ways Thursday night at the Gryphon Centre as they opened the 2018 portion of their OUA men’s hockey season with a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Varsity Blues.
“We felt that Toronto worked really hard and they forced us to get better and better as the game went on,” Gryphon coach Shawn Camp said. “We were a little bit slow in the first period, picked it up a little better with more momentum in the second and in the third period we started to find our legs again. We’re going to have to win some games like this in the second half that are going to be low scoring where we grind it out rather than high scoring like we were in the first half in some games.”
“We just kept working hard and over the course of the game we started getting the bounces,” Gryphon forward J.P. Villeneuve said.
As usual, the scoring was spread around as Todd Winder, Mathieu Henderson and Villeneuve had a goal apiece for the Gryphs while assists were awarded to Scott Simmonds, Cody Thompson, Trevor Morbeck, Manny Gialedakis, Reilly O’Connor and Mark Raycroft.
“We’re very, very balanced and we’re very fortunate that we have four lines that can play and we get balanced scoring,” Camp said. “On different nights hopefully it’ll be different groups, but tonight it was spread again.”
“We have four solid lines and it keeps us fresh, especially in a playoff round when we don’t have to rely on one line,” Villeneuve said. “We’re going to be just shooting four lines and it’s hard to defend against that.”
Aidan Wallace scored for Toronto with assists going to Matt Campagna and Max Lindsay.
The Gryphs outshot Toronto 30-29 and Andrew Masters picked up the win in net for the hosts while Frederic Foulem took the loss for Toronto.
The win vaulted the Gryphs to the top of the West Division at 12-4-1. They’re two points up on the Ryerson Rams (11-4-1) and York Lions (11-5-1), three ahead of the Laurier Golden Hawks (10-4-2) and six up on the Bock Badgers (8-5-3). Toronto is 10th in the 10-team division at 4-12-1.
It also left the Gryphs feeling good about the second half of the season as they’ve become known as a second-half team during Camp’s time as head coach. In their Queen’s Cup OUA championship season of 2014-15, the Gryphs won eight of 11 games after the Christmas and exam break after winning three of 16 games before the break.
“This is my first year on the team, but I have a sense that we have a lot more to improve and a lot more to show,” said Villeneuve, a Georgetown native who sat out last season after being the lone Canadian on the AaB 2 squad of the Danish league’s first division. “I’m just excited to keep working hard as a team and see what happens.”
The Gryphs warmed up for the start of the 2018 portion of their season with a pair of games in Thunder Bay against the Lakehead Thunderwolves during the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
“It gave our young guys a chance to play more so that they’re ready, but it also gave everybody a chance to be ready for the second half,” Camp said. “It was a great team builder and a great trip for us.”
“That was great,” Villeneuve agreed. “For one thing, just getting on the ice with the guys and getting our hands back and our feet back under us. It’ll give us a bit of a jump coming into the second half. We have big expectations. And also just being together as a group, team bonding was pretty good.”
With a change in the scheduling format this season, the match was the third between the Guelph and Toronto and the Gryphs have won all three. They’re to play one more time Jan. 26 at Toronto.
“It’s a great rivalry because when you see them as often as we do this season, you get to know each other’s tendencies so there really are no surprises in terms of what you’re doing technically,” Camp said. “Then it comes down to just execution and who gets a lucky bounce here and there.”
For the players with junior experience, four games against a single team in a season is no big deal.
“A lot of us are used to playing major junior and junior A hockey and in some cases we play a team six times in a season so I don’t think (this) bothers us too much.”
Last season the Gryphs played each West Division team twice and each East Division team once. This season the Gryphs are to play the Varsity Blues and Brock four times apiece, Ryerson and York three times each and the other teams in the West twice each. They’re also to play the East Division’s Concordia Stingers, Laurentian Voyageurs, McGill Redmen and Nipissing Lakers once each and not play the East’s UQTR Patriotes, Carleton Ravens, Ottawa Gee-Gees, UOIT Ridgebacks, Queen’s Gaels or RMC Paladins at all.
Next game for Guelph is slated for Saturday against Brock at the Seymour-Hannah Centre in St. Catharines. Game time is 7:15 p.m. Of the four meetings between those teams this season, three are to be played at St. Catharines.
The Gryphs have 11 games left on their regular-season schedule with four of them at home including the Jan. 18 Frosty Mug game against Laurier at the Sleeman Centre.