NORTH BAY, Ont. (from Guelph Gryphons) – It hasn’t been easy for opponents to rack up goals on the Guelph Gryphons women’s hockey team.
But the Nipissing Lakers solved the usually stingy Gryphons Friday at the Memorial Gardens. Despite mounting a third-period comeback, Guelph lost 6-3 to the Lakers, who got a hat-trick from local product Maria Dominico.
The six goals were the most allowed by Guelph (16-6-0) this season.
The Gryphons weren’t at their best, but they fought their way back in during the third period. Trailing 3-1, Claire Merrick (Oakville, ON) and captain Kaitlin Lowy (Toronto) scored 97 seconds apart to tie the game. Merrick got to the net and deposited a loose puck behind goaltender Jacqueline Rochefort on a Guelph power play at 6:51 of the third, cutting the Lakers’ lead to 3-2. Lowy then buried her OUA-best 15th of the season by finishing off a two-on-one with Kelly Gribbons at 8:28 for a temporary equalizer.
But Guelph couldn’t keep the momentum. Dominico, a rookie, scored her second of the game, and eventual game-winner, less than three minutes later to put the Lakers back up at 4-3. The North Bay native then completed the hat-trick, beating Valerie Lamenta at 15:19 before an empty-netter from Jade Gauthier iced it for Nipissing (13-6-2).
“Their best player was hard to contain tonight,” Guelph head coach Rachel Flanagan said of Dominico, who has 24 points on the season, a Nipissing school record. “We knew she was a threat and we struggled to respond in our D zone.”
Guelph had dominated in the two previous meetings between the teams, outscoring Nipissing 11-1. The Gryphons had the decisive 6-1 win on home ice in last year’s McCaw Cup and a 5-0 shutout back on Nov. 12, also at the Gryphon Centre.
Gribbons had the other Gryphons’ goal, her 10th of the season.
The Lakers threw everything at Guelph in the first period and took an early 1-0 lead just 4:46 into the game on a goal from Bronwyn Bolduc. The Gryphons responded on the power play as Gribbons converted from in close, banging one past Rochefort at 13:17.
Guelph wasn’t even for long, though. Dominico scored just 23 seconds later to reestablish the hosts’ one-goal lead.
The Lakers extended the lead to 3-1 at the 10:04 mark of the second period. Guelph was called for too many players on the ice and Nipissing cashed in when Katelyn Heppner floated a wrist shot from the point through traffic, which Lamenta appeared to have trouble seeing.
Guelph entered the game with the most goals scored in the OUA (63) and least allowed (30). Lamenta brought an OUA-best 1.22 goals-against average into the contest and had allowed two or more goals just three times in 14 previous starts this season.
Flanagan was pleased that the Gryphons did finish two-for-five on the power play, a good sign given their 10.1 per cent success rate heading into the game. The coach was also happy that her team responded to tie the game in the third period
“But we need to be more responsible in our defensive zone,” she said.
The Gryphons travel to Sudbury to take on the Laurentian Voyageurs Saturday afternoon. The puck drops at 3:50 pm EST.