Hawks bounced in OUA quarterfinal

(Photo courtesy of Chad Leitch)
(Photo courtesy of Chad Leitch)

GUELPH, Ont. — The game had everything. In game three of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West quarterfinal, the Guelph Gryphons and the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks left everything out on the ice.

There were end-to-end rushes, questionable refereeing, physical hitting, precise goaltending, misconducts, a last-minute tying goal and an overtime winner.

(Photo courtesy of Chad Leitch)
(Photo courtesy of Chad Leitch)

With the fifth-seeded Hawks and the fourth-seeded Gryphons fighting for the chance to move on, everything was a catalyst in the game.

But Laurier tried to pull another come-from-behind win to take the series, an easy rebound allowed the Gryphons to win 3-2, put the series away and end Laurier’s season.

“The tough part about losing is that it really sucks, and I’m extremely disappointed,” said head coach Greg Puhalski. “For us, we need to be better. We need to play better team hockey in clutch situations. That’s the part we have to learn from.

“There’s great things to be learned from losing that you can translate to a winning product.”

In the first period, the Hawks mustered a solid first ten minutes of quality forechecking, however, the game went into the intermission tied 0-0.

In the second, the Gryphons started early with two goals passed Laurier fourth-year netminder Ryan Daniels. Questionable calls for both teams produced a minor scrap that resulted in two roughing penalties and two misconducts between the two teams, and a high-sticking penalty against Guelph.

Midway through the second, fourth-year Mitchell Good would cut the Gryphons’ lead in half going into the third period.

It seemed like the Hawks were headed for a quiet ending. But with 17.1 seconds left on the clock, rookie Ryan Lopes beat Guelph goaltender Andrew Loverock to tie up the game — just like game one, at the last second.

“It’s a testament to the character in the room,” said fourth-year captain Kyle Van De Bospoort of the Hawks. “Fight until the bitter end. We knew it was going to be a battle and honestly it could have gone either way.”

Heading into overtime, the Hawks and Gryphons exchanged chances until the Gryphons got the puck deep in Laurier’s zone. An easy rebound gave Guelph the opportunity to put the game away, and Justin Gvora made no mistake.

The Hawks were eliminated from the playoffs and Guelph will move on the OUA West semifinals.

Laurier’s season ends after an impressive 9-3-0 finish to the regular season, where the Hawks moved up the standings, defeating every team in the OUA West.

“That’s really the essence of hockey,” Puhalski said. “You’ve got to compete, you’ve got to battle and we did that. We did that much better. Unfortunately I just don’t think we were able to carry that into the playoffs.”

“I can’t say enough about the team. We always came back, never quit,” Good said following the game. “It was that kind of series that it was so close that it could have gone either way and I’m just proud of the guys.”

Laurier will lose graduates Good, Van De Bospoort and Daniels. Puhalski thanked the fourth-year players for their committment to the team.

“In my three years [Daniels] has definitely, singlehandedly been the best player our team has had,” he said. “[Van De Bospoort] battled a lot of injuries. He’s played hurt almost every game that I’ve been here and those two guys will do very well.

Mitch plays real hard, he cares, he wants to do well and that’ll do him well the rest of his career whether it be in hockey or something else.”

“For me, it was really special,” Daniels said of his four-year tenure at WLU. “Before I came here I didn’t think it was going to be with Laurier that I’d really the passion for hockey that I found again. I’m truly going to miss the boys. I absolutely love it here.”

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