Despite strong play in the second and third periods, a slow start and a propensity for taking ill-timed penalties proved to be their undoing as the Guelph Gryphons men’s hockey team fell 3-1 to the Waterloo Warriors in Saturday’s Frosty Mug event in downtown Guelph.
The annual event, which took place at the Sleeman Centre, welcomed nearly 1200 Gryphon fans as the Department of Athletics looked to showcase university sport in the greater Guelph community.
Unfortunately, the much-anticipated match up between the red-hot Gryphons and the speedy, tenth-ranked Warriors, finished in favour of the visitors as Waterloo scored twice in the first period and managed to hold off the hard-charging Gryphons in the final 40 minutes.
“When you take as many penalties as we did tonight, you give away momentum,” said Gryphons head coach Shawn Camp. “We were wasting a lot of energy having to kill penalties.”
Late in the game, Waterloo began to replicate the undisciplined play of the Gryphons, leading to nine Guelph powerplays that the home side failed to capitalize on.
“I think [killing penalties] hurt us when we were on the powerplay too,” said Camp. “We didn’t have the same energy, we didn’t execute as well on the powerplay as we have of late.”
Rookie centre Thomas Kiriakou, the Gryphons’ leading scorer this season, echoed his coach’s sentiments concerning the Gryphons’ lackadaisical start and lack of disciplined play.
“When you have a lot of penalties in a game, it’s a little distracting and, as a team, your confidence goes down,” said Kiriakou. “In the first period, we came out slow, and in the second we improved.
“We normally like to play on our toes, forecheck hard, make a play and take the body. We didn’t do that in the first period and [Waterloo] capitalized on that with a couple of goals. That really cost us the game.”
Waterloo came out aggressively in the first period, drawing four Gryphon infractions and tiring the Guelph penalty killers. Chris Ray and Shane Hart beat Gryphon goaltender Scott Van Bommel twice in the first period to put Waterloo in front. After Jake Lalonde answered for the Gryphons halfway through the second, Kyle Schwende scored an insurance marker with less than three minutes left in the period to give the Warriors some breathing room.
Keaton Hartigan made 11 saves in the third period to stave off the Guelph attack as the Gryphons outshot Waterloo 26-19.
For Kiriakou, his first season as a Gryphon has been nothing short of remarkable. He leads the team with 11 goals and 23 points in 21 games.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I first came here but I’ve been able to gel pretty nicely and coach Camp has been tremendous [with] me and the guys,” said Kiriakou. “We get along so well and I’m really happy to be a Gryphon.”
The Department of Athletics had been actively promoting Saturday’s event, particularly by making inroads in the campus residences, similar to Homecoming in September. Given that Gryphon hockey games rarely attract more than 200 onlookers, the Frosty Mug was certainly a success in terms of attracting attention.
While many of the surrounding seats remained empty, a large contingent of onlookers observed the game from the Draught Picks Tap House & Grill overlooking the ice. As the Gryphons’ level of intensity increased in the latter two periods, the crowd excitement grew accordingly.
“It’s always nice to play [at the Sleeman Centre],” said Camp. “The facility is so professional, there’s a great atmosphere here and it’s a chance to show our brand of hockey to people in the community.”
As the playoffs approach, the Gryphons will look to take advantage of their favourable schedule, playing four of their final five games at home.