OUA West Hockey: “It’s all about as curious as it can be,” said the Gryphon.

Last week, the only way I could describe my feelings towards Guelph was an annoyed groan.

They spent the last few years as the plucky, lovable losers that try so hard and were on the cusp of competitiveness but always fell short. Which puts them in line with most of the other Gryphons teams, especially their football team – I kid, I actually do like Justin Dunk despite his feelings toward my school.

But, this season, they were expected to make that leap into legitimate championship contender status. Move over Laurier and Waterloo, here come the Gryphons.

The team is experienced, has talented defencemen, and has more than a few go-to goal scorers. Or so we thought coming into the season.

Turns out, they are missing some even more important tools that separate the best from the rest. They don’t have consistent goal-scoring and they don’t have goaltending.

Let’s have a look at their season. Until mid-November, it looked as though they were having a decent season. They were 8-5 overall, but that was deceptive at best. Over that stretch, they played Western and Lakehead twice and once against Waterloo – they lost all five games.

Their goaltending has been a problem all season, so that’s probably a good place to start. Rookies Cody St. Jacques and Andrew Loverock played the majority of the team’s games. Collectively, they have given up 59 goals. Loverock has a save percentage of .901 and a goals against average of 2.59. St. Jacques’ numbers were .865 and 3.61 respectively. They would be alright against teams like Brock, but Lakehead and Waterloo absolutely torched them.

While St. Jacques wasn't particularly great for the Gryphons during the season, it certainly didn't help when he went to play for the Brampton Battalion of the OHL. He was considered the goaltender with the most potential, and that was shown by the fact that coach Shawn Camp started him for the majority of their games early on. His numbers were brutal, but they won with him in net. Read into that what you will.

But something happened to them mid-November, right after they dropped two cross-over games against UQTR and McGill. Both were close, overtime games (one went to a shootout) and while I admittedly couldn't tell you for sure, I think that weekend destroyed them mentally.

Case in point: goal scoring is a largely mental process. When a team is mentally sound, the goals are usually flowing and forwards play with ease and look like they enjoy what they are doing. But when they hit a slump, players their stick a little too hard and spurn the easiest of chances. You can see the frustration on the players' faces.

In my mind, the frustration got to them after that weekend and since they have gone 2-5, most of which have been close games right to the end. They have scored just 10 times over that span. Forwards Thomas Kiriakou and Kris Belan lead the team with 10 goals each for the entire season and nobody else is particularly close to those two – that’s not good enough.

But the troubling part is who they are losing to now. Last weekend they were swept by Brock and Windsor. This week, they looked like they turned it around with a 3-2 win over Laurier. But they dropped a game 3-1 to York the night after. In case that didn't sink in the first time, they lost to YORK!

The bad news for Guelph is their remaining games consist of Lakehead, Waterloo, Laurier, Western and those very same York Lions. In other words, teams they have a collective 2-7 record against.

So while they still will probably make the playoffs, they likely aren’t going to do it in style. And their first round is potentially away against Lakehead or Western – in other words, they aren’t getting to the second round.

So much for that championship season they were looking for. Forget annoyed groans. At this point, the only thing they inspire are headaches and mild nausea.

Thursday, January 20

Western 4-3 Laurier (OT)

Goal Scorers
Western: Josh McQuade (2), Kyle Lamb, Yashar Farmanara
Laurier: Benjamin Skinner, Zackory Ray, Ryan Bernardi

Western: Anthony Grieco - 34 saves
Laurier: Ryan Daniels - 43 saves

  • With Aaron Snow done for the year and six guys going to Turkey this week, it is crucial that Western gets this kind of secondary scoring. McQuade, in particular has been on a hot streak, scoring all five of his goals in the last three games.
  • Not good for the Mustangs is the blown 3-0 lead. Luckily Farmanara and Kevin Baker converted on 2-1 in overtime, or this would have been an embarrassing loss.
  • Benjamin Skinner is a bit of Mustang killer. He scored both goals in a 2-1 win a couple weeks back and he started the Golden Hawk comeback in this one. Not bad for the older brother of Carolina Hurricanes rookie Jeff Skinner.
Players of the Game

  • McQuade deserves a lot of credit for getting his offensive game going at a crucial time. He got the Mustangs rolling early in this one.
  • Ryan Daniels yet again was Laurier's best player. He stood on his head all game and allowed the comeback to happen.

UOIT 4-1 York

Goal Scorers
UOIT: Josh Vatri (3), Nathan Spaling
York: Kyle Lamb

UOIT: Jason Guy - 33 saves
York: David Blair - 29 saves
  • Completely the opposite of last weekend's York-UOIT tilt. This time around, UOIT got very good goaltending from Jason Guy, who nearly pitched the shutout.
  • Josh Vatri has had a disappointing season by his standards. He put up 17 last year with 31 total points. These were only his 7th, 8th and 9th goals of the season. Hopefully, this would have kick-started a scoring streak for him.
  • York looked like an offensive powerhouse, scoring five and chasing Guy from the game last week. Defenceman Kyle Lamb (who apparently is not the same person who plays for Western) scored their only goal and they didn't threaten much.
Players of the Game

  • It's pretty much an unspoken rule that a player who scores a hat-trick gets player of the game - unless you are in Buffalo and Brayden Schenn scores four. So, obviously Vatri gets the honour.
  • David Blair had a pretty respectable game. UOIT may have only fired 32 at him, but had a fair share of quality scoring chances. York's D didn't help with turnovers in their zone.

Friday, January 21

Lakehead 5-2 Brock

Goal Scorers
Lakehead: Brock McPherson, Ryan McDonald, Adam Sergerie, Ryan Magill, Brennan Menard
Brock: Kevin Christmas, Jordan Gignac

Lakehead: Alex Dupuis - 14 saves
Brock: Kurt Jory - 16 saves, Jordan Bent - 5 saves

  • Lakehead has an offence, Brock doesn't. That was the difference. Goals from five different scorers shows how deep the Thunderwolves are offensively.
  • I may have to repeat this for every game, but Brock without Abercrombie and Jory starring will always result in a loss. Jory allowed four and 20 shots, and Abercrombie was held off the score sheet.
  • I've been waiting for this all year. Finally, Kevin Christmas scored. So many headlines. I can't express how mad I was that he didn't score against Western right at the end of first semester.
Players of the Game
  • Adam Sergerie was the only multi-point player for Lakehead. Pretty unusual for a five goal game.
  • I may never have this chance again: Brock's player of the game is Father Christmas. You have to enjoy the little things in life and that just makes me happy.

Waterloo 4-0 UOIT

Goal Scorers
Waterloo: Josh Schappert, Andy Smith, Chris Ray (2)

Waterloo: Keaton Hartigan- 34 saves
UOIT: Jason Guy - 31 saves
  • Slightly better performance against the Ridgebacks than they had last week. Hartigan was clearly unbeatable and Chris Ray continues to put up points. They are going to miss him when he joins the Canadian team at the Universiade.
  • Well, at least UOIT got their win against York. It puts them tied for seventh with Guelph in the West.
Players of the Game
  • Hartigan may not be having as good a season as last year, but this was a vintage performance for him. Granted, he did it against a bad offence, but a shutout is still a shutout. He even got an assist on Ray's first goal, meaning he outscored UOIT's entire team.
  • Jason Guy may have allowed four goals, but he did face 35 shots against a collection of pretty good forwards. It's not like he got an offensive help.

Windsor 5-4 Western (SO)
Goal Scorers
Windsor: Danny Anger, Mark Thorburn (2), Dan Lombardi (Tom Craig with the SO winner)
Western: Julian Cimadamore, Josh McQuade (2), Steve Reese

Windsor: Jim Watt - 29 saves
Western: Josh Unice - 38 saves

  • The Lancers jumped all over Western early and then hung with the Mustangs when they finally got their feet in the second period. Windsor was the better team and they deserved the two points.
  • No team is out of a game when Jim Watt is in net. He will be another player missed when he goes to Turkey.
  • Unice may have taken the loss, but he was more than solid. Western should not be allowing 42 shots against. Blowing their one-goal lead in the last minute was also not good.
  • As I already mentioned, McQuade has been on fire. That is nothing but a good sign for the Mustangs. Reese and Cimadamore will also be counted on to produce in the coming weeks.
Players of the Game
  • McQuade put up another two goals and an assist. Like I said before, he has been on fire the past two weekends.
  • Thorburn saw McQuade's two goals and called him, with two of his own, including the last minute tying goal.

Saturday, January 22

Brock 3-2 Lakehead

Goal Scorers
Brock: Josh Schram, Ryan Allen, Matt Abercrombie
Lakehead: Victor Anilane, Ryan McDonald

Brock: Kurt Jory - 27 saves
Lakehead: Kyle Moir - 16 saves
  • A good rebound game for Brock. And look who scored the winner for the Badgers, and more importantly, who stopped 27 of 29 shots.
  • Lakehead needs better goaltending than the got this weekend. Dupuis and Moir had a collective 35 shots over two games, allowing five. Lakehead is going to have games where they only score twice, especially in the playoffs.
Players of the Game
  • Jory shut down the Thunderwolves after they put five by him the night before.
  • Kalvin Sagert assisted on both goals from the back end. He quarterbacked the powerplay for the first goal.

Windsor 3-1 Waterloo

Goal Scorers
Windsor: Dan Lombardi, Kyle Tront, Brett Vandehogen
Waterloo: Blake Chartier

Windsor: Frank Dayus - 26 saves
Waterloo: Justin Leclerc - 29 saves
  • Windsor had a good weekend taking down two of the top four in the division. They seem to be a player or two short of challenging at the top consistently. Dayus is a pretty solid backup goaltender.
  • Waterloo's Jekyll and Hyde act continues. This semester they have lost to Guelph, York and Windsor, while beating UOIT twice and Laurier. They play to the level of their competition, which isn't good enough.
Players of the Game
  • It was a strong performance from Dayus, as he flat out shut down the Warriors.
  • Leclerc also put in a good night's work. It was 2-1 until literally the last second, meaning he kept them in it throughout. Tough loss for him to take.
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