Weary Gryphons hoist Queen’s Cup as OUA champions
GUELPH – It didn’t come as early as any of them would’ve liked, but the wait was sure worth it.
The Guelph Gryphons got to raise the Queen’s Cup in victory after Ted Nichol rifled home a shot in the third overtime period to give the hosts a 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the OUA men’s hockey league’s championship match.
“I was pretty tired and I just wanted someone to score it,” Nichol said. “For it to be me, I couldn’t be happier. It’s crazy.”
Nichol’s goal came after a little more than 51 minutes of overtime Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at the Gryphon Centre.
“I got a good pass from Vali (Ryan Valentini). He drew two D men in and I just had to be ready to shoot it and I shot it as quick as I got it. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” Nichol said. “I’ve been in a playoff game that went to three overtimes before and it’s tiring. It’s a lot of mind over matter so you just have to get through it, but we got it going.”
“The guys were playing well — both sides were playing well,” Gryphon coach Shawn Camp said. “It was a back-and-forth game and lots of chances both ways to end it in overtime long before it did.”
Goaltender Andrew Masters of the Gryphs was named the most valuable player in the game after he turned aside 50 shots including two or three breakaways.
“I’ve been trying to win a championship with a band of brothers since I was 11 and we did it,” he said. “We just did it.”
Masters had started the playoffs backing up Brendan Cregan, but that changed when Cregan suffered a shoulder injury in a 4-3 loss to the Western Mustangs after allowing all four goals in the second game of the West Division final. Masters, in his third season with the Gryphs, didn’t allow a goal the rest of that game and picked up the win in the division final’s third and deciding game before his championship-match performance.
“I can’t describe it,” he said. “I was cut by 22 junior teams. This is my second school. I didn’t have a school until six weeks after my last junior team. All I wanted was to play when I came to (U Sports). At the time I didn’t care where. For this to happen, it’s way more than I could ever dream of.”
“We needed Andrew to have a big night tonight and he did with as many shots as they had,” Camp said. “He made so many key saves in overtime for us to keep our horses going. We were very fortunate that it went our way.”
Ottawa netminder Domenic Graham also had an outstanding outing as he stopped 36 shots, many with the Gryphs just outside his goal crease.
“Their goalie made every save he should except, unfortunately for him, on the last one,” Camp said. “But he had a great game as well. Certainly no shame for any of them either.”
The Gryphs never trailed in the game, but never held the lead for a long time either. In fact, they didn’t have the lead long enough for their goal to be announced when Ottawa pulled even.
The Gryphs and Gee-Gees scored goals 21 seconds apart in the first two minutes of the third period. Marc Stevens hit for a power-play goal for the Gryphs at 1:39 of the third and Kevin Domingue netted the equalizer for Ottawa at the two-minute mark with an unassisted goal.
Ryan Valentini assisted on the winning goal for the Gryphs while Gio Finoro set up the goal by Stevens.
The Gee-Gees outshot the Gryphs 51-38 including a 12-3 advantage in the second overtime when the hosts looked as though they’d run out of gas.
“We were on our heels a little bit at the end of the fifth period and so the guys just regrouped a little bit, tightened it up,” Camp said. “The plan was to tighten it up a little bit in the sixth period and we just encouraged them that if they had a chance to get pucks on net that they did. Teddy Nichol got wide, got down the wing and had a great release and scored the winner. Mission accomplished.”
The game was a fairly clean one with the teams more intent on going end to end than running each other into the boards. Ottawa was assessed six of the 10 minutes called in the marathon match.
The win was the second Queen’s Cup victory on home ice for the Gryphons, this one coming exactly five years after they won the league title with a 4-0 victory over the UQTR Patriotes in 2015.
“This game was so much tighter,” Camp said. “Ottawa’s got such balanced lines and great offence and their D are big and mobile and they move the puck very well and they jump into the rush really well. They were really dangerous.”
The victory also came after the heartache of last season’s Queen’s Cup loss to the Queen’s Gaels at Kingston.
“It was hard to watch last year in Queen’s,” Nichol said of last season’s celebrations by the Gaels. “It breaks your heart, but to play in this game and score the game-winning goal, it’s nuts. I’m just going to soak it in.”
He won’t have much time to soak it in. The Gryphs will have a team meeting Sunday and then they’ll have an early flight to Halifax Monday where they’ll compete in the U Sports Cavendish University Cup championship tournament later in the week.
There they’ll be joined by the Gee-Gees, Western (they get the Quebec entry following an bronze-medal-game win over the Concordia Stingers Saturday), Atlantic conference representatives Acadia Axemen (as hosts), New Brunswick Varsity Reds and Saint Mary’s Huskies and Canada West representatives Saskatchewan Huskies and UBC Thunderbirds.
The national quarter-finals are to be held Thursday and Friday – two games each day – while the semifinals are to go Saturday and the medal games next Sunday.
Seedings are expected to be announced Sunday night.
Gryphons 2 Gee-Gees 1 (3OT)
- Guelph Sports Journal