Gryphons keep their resolution in first game of 2020
GUELPH – The Guelph Gryphons have made a resolution to be the best team they can be every time they step on the ice during the remainder of the OUA women’s hockey league season.
They got their first chance to show that they’re taking that seriously Sunday night when they posted a 3-0 blanking of the Toronto Varsity Blues at the Gryphon Centre.
“Pretty much what we’re focused on right now is winning games,” goaltender Aurore Beaulieu said after her 26-save performance. “We lost a couple in the first half that we probably should have won so it’s getting those points back and ending in a good spot going into the playoffs is our main focus.”
The Gryphs also left the game pretty pleased about their defensive performance as they were outshot 26-18.
“The message even in the back half of last year really was about cleaning up our play in front of our own net and really helping our goalies out because they’ve been getting some point-blank chances against them and that’s not fair,” Gryphon coach Rachel Flanagan said “So there’s a lot more lifting sticks and a lot less scrambles that we lost. It was a really good effort from our defence and our goalie tonight.”
“My team helped me out a lot,” Beaulieu said. “We talked before about desperation plays in front of the net and I think that played a huge part for us, both offensively and defensively. Our second goal was completely desperation and they helped me out — I had a lot of help on rebounds.”
It might have been surprising that the strong effort from the Gryphs came in their first game of 2020 and their first game since a 2-0 win over the Windsor Lancers at Windsor Nov. 30.
“Sometimes they just need that bit of time time to reflect on the first half and to really get a sense of what it’s going to take to win,” Flanagan said. “I think that they all kind of recognized that maybe we weren’t putting together our best games in the first half even though we came out over .500. I think the team feels that we’re a pretty elite group, we just haven’t been playing our best hockey. I think that was just a bit of a reminder and I think they feel pretty good now knowing that that’s probably the best team in the league and to come out with a 3-0 win, even though they outshot us, is a pretty good feeling.”
The Gryphs even withstood late pressure from the Varsity Blues who had possession in the Guelph end for most of the final seven minutes of the game.
“But they didn’t get that many shots,” Beaulieu said. “There was a lot of help from the defence, blocking people out and blocking shots and stuff and that made the difference, for sure.”
Most of Toronto’s shots came in the first period when they had 15.
Gabriele Underwood scored the first two goals for the Gryphs while Stephanie Gava added an empty-netter with 14 seconds to play. Cyan Roepcke had a pair of assists while Kristen Jay and Miranda Lantz each had one.
The win lifts the Gryphs into a tie for sixth place in the 13-team league. The Gryphs are at 7-4-1-2 while the Ryerson Rams are at 8-5-1-0. The Varsity Blues are second at 10-4-0-0.
In OUA women’s hockey, a win in regulation time is worth three points, a win in overtime is worth two points and a loss in overtime is worth one point.
While the Gryphs are five points behind the league-leading York Lions (10-4-0-1), they’re usually a little higher in the standings at the turn of the year.
“Every point, especially with the three-point game, you just can’t afford to get into those extra-time games because you’re giving up points and they really matter,” Flanagan said. “Teams that we usually expect to be maybe playoff teams or non-playoff teams are playoff teams this year and so there’s no easy games. I think that’s part of the lesson, too, for this group. We’re a little bit younger, but traditions would say that, oh, certain teams mentally you feel that you could take a game off, but you just can’t this year. That’s happened for us in the first half for sure.”
Losses to the 12th-place Ontario Tech Ridgebacks and eighth-place Brock Badgers and an overtime win over the 11th-place Laurier Golden Hawks are games that come to mind.
“Usually we’re being chased and now we’ve got to chase all the other teams to get back to the top,” Beaulieu said
Top eight qualify for the playoffs.
Sunday’s game was the first of four consecutive home games for the Gryphs. They’re to host the Queen’s Gaels (8-5-1-1) Saturday at 2 p.m., Windsor (2-10-0-2) Jan. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and York Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Gryphon Centre before finishing with six road games in their final seven regular-season games.
Gryphons 3 Varsity Blues 0
- Guelph Sports Journal