GUELPH, Ont. (from Guelph Gryphons) – The bigger the stage, the better the Guelph Gryphons men’s hockey team performs. On an evening when some of the longest-serving Gryphons were honoured, the experienced Guelph team was at its best. The Gryphons pumped in four first-period goals to defeat the York Lions 6-2 on Senior Night at the Gryphon Centre Arena.
J.P. Villeneuve, Manny Gialedakis, Trevor Morbeck, Josh McFadden, Tryg Strand, and captain Scott Simmonds were recognized in a pre-game ceremony. And like Guelph did on both Aggies Night and the Frosty Mug, once the puck dropped, the goals came quickly and often. No. 7 Guelph (20-6-1) went on to dominate the defending OUA champion Lions in a chippy game, winning for the ninth time in 11 games.
Five of those seniors found the scoresheet against the Lions, who yanked starting goaltender Mack Shields after Guelph tallied three goals on its first eight shots.
“It was an emotional night for us because it was the last regular season home game for these guys,” head coach Shawn Camp said of the veterans. “Everyone wanted to put their best foot forward to honour what they’ve done for our program. And the seniors were great.”
Rookie Todd Winder scored twice (his 15th and 16th goals of the season) and added two assists, while Simmonds (two points), Strand, Villeneuve, Zach McFadden also had goals. Morbeck and Josh McFadden each registered an assist, with Cody Thompson contributing four helpers.
Guelph goaltender Andrew Masters made 27 saves for his 12th win of the season.
Camp was clear about what these particular seniors have done to shape the Gryphon program on the ice.
“This is a group of champions,” said Camp. “Many of these guys have won an OUA championship so they know what it takes to help get us back there. The best part is that they’ve all played a lot of games. They’ve been very durable players in their time here and have all contributed in different ways to make our culture so positive.”
The Gryphons have been up to the task in their biggest games this season. They thoroughly beat Toronto 4-1 on Aggies Night back on Nov. 2 and shutout the Laurier Golden Hawks 5-0 in front of a crowd of 4,715 in the recent Frosty Mug at the Sleeman Centre. Guelph also pulled out a dramatic victory last Friday in Toronto against third-place York on a Gialedakis goal with just two seconds remaining when the teams met.
“I hope they they rise for the playoffs, too,” Camp said with a smile.
The explosive Gryphon offence showed its potential and built a 4-0 lead in a span of just over five minutes. The younger McFadden got things rolling when he hopped on a loose puck and beat Shields at the 7:35 mark. Just 70 seconds later, brother Josh passed to Thompson, who found Winder near the crease to make it 2-0. Winder was back at it moments later, batting in a puck after a Thompson shot attempt.
York pulled Shields at that point but backup Alex Fotinos fared no better. The senior Strand skated in from the right wing and wired a low shot past the helpless goalie at 12:37.
The game got ugly with a parade of players from both teams making their way to the box. The Gryphons ran into some penalty trouble midway through the second period after Zach McFadden received a 10-minute misconduct and Morbeck also took a penalty. Daniel Nikandrov cashed in on the ensuing York power play just 10 seconds later to make it 4-1. Josh McFadden was then whistled for two minors in one sequence but Guelph killed off the four-minute man advantage for the Lions.
The ill will continued, first with offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct minors and then another 10-minute misconduct for Guelph’s Michael Stevens, who hit a York player into the end boards. But the Gryphons came out unscathed and even extended the lead when Simmonds raced to the net on a two-on-one and finished off a nice feed from Thompson at 17:40. Villeneuve made it 6-1 when he beat Fotinos with just 31 seconds in the period.
“We had a great start to the game, a lot of energy,” said Camp. “We got a little undisciplined in the second period but we pulled it together in the third. We finished the game the right way.”
York’s Colton Vanucci closed out the scoring with a shorthanded goal in a physical third period. The teams combined for 68 penalty minutes on the night.
Guelph sits first place in the OUA West with 41 points. The Gryphons, who lead the OUA West with 116 goals, wrap up the regular season Friday night in Toronto against the second-place Ryerson Rams.