Unlikely overtime hero steps up for Gryphs in West final opener
GUELPH – Defenceman Stephen Templeton went the entire regular season without scoring a goal for the Guelph Gryphons.
He also didn’t score in the Gryphs’ first five playoff games this season.
However, that changed Thursday night when Templeton fired home the winning goal at 12:54 of overtime to give the Gryphs a 2-1 victory over the Western Mustangs in the opening game of the OUA men’s hockey league’s best-of-three West Division final.
“Not typically a scorer, but he’s had a bunch of points this year so he’s done well for us offensively,” Gryphon coach Shawn Camp said. “As it has been with most of our D this year, we’ve had pretty good support from the back end. Stephen made a great play there. A great finish.”
“I saw a fast break coming down and I thought I’d join the rush, make it an uneven rush,” Templeton said. “I luckily got the puck and I was able to put it home.”
Templeton jumped into a rush to become the three in a three-on-two and, with the Gryphon bench yelling that there were three on the attack, took a cross-ice pass from Gio Finoro and quickly ripped a shot home to touch off a celebration to the side of the Western net.
“I’ll join the rush when I can, but I’m never really a pure offensive threat or anything,” Templeton said. “That was my first one of the year. Good time to have it.”
Templeton had had 12 assists in the regular season, but is on a point-a-game production in the playoffs with a goal and five assists.
The game was a fast-paced, hard-hitting affair throughout with the pace getting even faster in the overtime.
“There was such an urgency in the overtime that both teams were playing at breakneck speed,” Camp said. “Both teams wanted to get it done because every chance counts. Thankfully we got the outnumbered rush there at the end. Stephen Templeton jumped into the rush late, which was great, and Gio Finoro found him wide open and he slotted it. It was a great shot.”
Matt Kenney had opened the scoring for the Gryphs late in the first period. Cole Cameron assisted on the play.
That goal stood until early in the third when Sean Montgomery tied it for the Mustangs. Franco Sproviero and Stephen Desrocher collected assists on the goal.
Templeton’s winning goal came at 12:54 of the third with Finoro and Connor Bramwell getting the assists.
Brendan Cregan stopped 26 shots to get the win in net for the Gryphs while Luke Peresinni had 48 saves for Western.
The Gryphs turned up the pressure in the overtime as they outshot Western 12-3 in extra time. They outshot the Mustangs 26-7 in the third period and overtime combined.
Penalties were few in the game with only a minor penalty called after the first period and none at all in the third or overtime. The Gryphs were scoreless on two power plays and Western on one.
“We came out and we thought it’s now or never,” Templeton said. “We came out hot and I think if we stick to that, we have a good chance here.”
“Anytime we play Western like that, you know it’s going to be a quality game,” Camp said. “Both teams are very balanced and very competitive and it’s close. Tonight we came out on top and now we’ve got a chance to wrap it up on Saturday.”
“It was a great game,” Templeton said. “Both teams out there were moving their feet. It was a tight game all game, too.”
The Gryphs will be wary of the Mustangs in Game 2 as Western has been giant-killers in the West playoffs. The Mustangs qualified for the playoffs as the eighth-place team in the 10-team division with an 11-13-4-0 record. However, they ousted the first-place Toronto Varsity Blues (21-5-2-0) in the divisional quarter-finals and second-place Ryerson Rams (20-5-2-1) in the divisional semifinals to face the third-place Gryphs (17-6-4-1) in the West final.
Western won its previous two series 2-1, rallying from a Game 1 loss with two consecutive wins in both.
“We’re not trying to think about that,” Templeton said. “We’re more focused on the next game and what we have to do. We don’t need to worry about what they’re doing over there.”
The series is to resume Saturday at Western’s Thompson Arena in London. Game time is 3 p.m.
“It’ll probably be much the same,” Camp said. “Western had lost the first game in all of their series and then come back and won the second at home so we need to make sure that we’re ready for that game on Saturday.”
“It’s going to be another hard and fast game,” Templeton said. “We can’t take our foot off the gas at all. It should be another good one.”
If Western Saturday’s game, the third-and-deciding game of the West final is to be played Sunday at the Gryphon Centre starting at 7:30 p.m.
The winner of the series will play the winner of the East final between the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Concordia Stingers in the OUA championship Queen’s Cup game March 7. Ottawa took the opening game of that series 3-2 Thursday night at Ottawa.
If the Gryphs win the West, they’ll host the league final at the Gryphon Centre as they’re the highest-surviving seed in the playoffs. The Gryphs finished the regular season with 39 points while Ottawa had 38, Concordia 31 and Western 26.
Montreal’s Concordia will not host the Queen’s Cup game as league rules don’t allow the OUA final to be held outside Ontario.
If the Gryphs reach the OUA final, it’ll be their third time in six years. They won in 2015 with a 4-0 win over the UQTR Patriotes at the Gryphon Centre and lost 4-1 to the Queen’s Gaels at Kingston last year.
The West Division winner will join the East Division champ at the U Sports University Cup national championship tournament at Halifax March 12 to 15. If Concordia wins the East, the OUA will hold a bronze-medal match between Ottawa and the West loser to decide the OUA’s second representative at the national tournament.
Concordia has already clinched a berth in the University Cup as the Quebec representative, joining the host Acadia Axemen. The other six participants will be the OUA, Atlantic and Canada West champions and a second representative from each of those three associations.
Gryphons 2 Mustangs 1 (OT)
- Guelph Sports Journal