Gryphons foil Queens at the Arena

Monday, October 23, 2006

Written by Stephen Sweet

The Guelph Gryphons Men’s hockey team opened their new season in style at home Saturday afternoon with a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over Queen’s Golden Gaels. After putting some pressure on Queen’s during the overtime, a rebound following a point shot sat loose just outside the crease, where forward Thomas Laplante shoveled the puck underneath goaltender Ryan Gibb to seal the victory.

While the game had a great finish for the Gryphons, it didn’t look quite as rosey at the start of game. On the Gaels’ first rush, Pat Doyle brought the puck in over the blue line and slipped a pass to veteran winger Jeff Owens, who snapped a quick shot over rookie Adam Jennings’ shoulder, giving Queen’s a 1-0 lead only 56 seconds into the game.

The Gryphons would get a two-man power play only seconds later but could not capitalize, as Gibb snagged David Volpe’s wrister. Following that, Queen’s got a two-man advantage of their own, as trips to the penalty box became a recurring theme in this game. Guelph got four straight penalties in less than five minutes, and finally the penalty kill couldn’t hold on anymore. Clinton McCullough fed a slick pass to TJ Sutter, who slipped around the Guelph defender and deked out Jennings before tucking the puck in behind him.

At this point, the Gryphons picked up their tempo and started pressuring the Golden Gaels in their own zone. The strategy paid off as two of Queen’s defensemen were called for penalties, giving the Gryphons another man advantage; one that they wouldn’t let slip away. Laplante circled the net with the puck before passing the puck back to the point. Alex Magera, who played defense on powerplays, sent the puck into the corner to Matt Willoughby, who quickly in turn sent it out in front of the net to Laplante. He wasted no time snapping a one-timer above the blocking arm of Gibb, and cut the deficit to half. Unfortunately, Queen’s would strike again, as a goal by Rob Cattalio helped restore their two-goal lead.

Queen’s led 3-1 heading into the second period, but despite receiving an exorbitant number of 5-on-3 powerplays, they just could not capitalize. Strong play by former Vancouver Giant Adam Jennings kept the Gaels at bay for most of the afternoon his ability to snatch any puck near his goal crease to prevent rebounds. Given his skill I think he might even earn the nickname “Hungry Hungry Hippo”.

The Gryphons seemed to gain confidence from their goaltender’s strong play. With Ovens of Queen’s off for slashing (one of 6 slashing penalties called during the game) the Gaels cleared the puck down into the Gryphon’s zone and decided to change lines. Jennings saw this and took advantage, firing a long pass that went up to Queen’s blue line and right onto the stick of Volpe. Volpe crossed the line, and while the defenders converged on him, he made a drop pass to Magera, who blasted a 40-footer past Gibb to bring the Gryphs to within one. Before the period was out, the Gryphons had another powerplay marker, this time from a tip-in by Volpe on a Jeff Oginski point shot. The Gryphons went to the locker room after the second tied at 3.

The third period saw a flow to it that the first two periods lacked because of all the penalties. With the game opening up a bit, some of Guelph’s speedier forwards started creating more chances. Unfortunately, they could not add a go-ahead goal in the third, while nearly lost the game as well. After eight minutes of penalty-less play, the referee called hooking on Guelph’s Marshall Blue with only 1:24 remaining. The Gryphons held on during a stressful final 84 seconds to earn that single point to end regulation in a tie. Next: a five-minute overtime period.

With the referee finally deciding to put away his whistle, the spectators were treated to several scoring chances at each end. However, Gibb and Jennings each held their own between the pipes, and what looked like the final scoring chance of the game turned out to be just that as Laplante’s second goal of the game was the overtime winner, capping an exciting afternoon at the rink.

The game still left a bit of a sour taste for some spectators, as a result of the referee’s whistle-happy tendencies. A total of 31 penalties were called, totaling a whopping 81 minutes. Quite a large amount when you consider that it was only a 65-minute game. In the end, Guelph went 3-for-12 on the powerplay, while Queen’s was an unimpressive 2-for-14. But it was the number of marginal penalties that were called that was somewhat surprising. In most hockey leagues, teams can go months before having 7 two-man powerplays, but the referee, who drew the ire of both teams many times in this game, gave Queen’s that amount in one afternoon of hockey.

But refereeing aside, it was a good game, and a positive sign for the Gryphons, who are 3-1 on the season to start with following a 2-0 victory on Sunday against the Royal Military College. The Gryphons will be in tough in a division with the likes of Brock and Laurier to try and beat out, but the team showed on this afternoon that not only can they entertain, they can win, too.

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