The rivalry between the Guelph Gryphons and the Brock Badgers continued on Thursday night as the Badgers secured a 4-3 overtime win in an intense matchup.
It’s not on the schedule, and it won’t affect the standings, but winning seems to mean more to the Badgers when it’s against the Gryphons.
The Badgers took the lead in the first thanks to a goal from Ayden MacDonald, who always seems to be in the mix against the Gryphons. MacDonald is the closest thing the Badgers have to an enforcer. The third year is 6’4”, 209 pounds and leads the team in penalty minutes. Teams think twice about roughing up some of the smaller Badgers when MacDonald’s on the ice as he’s often the first player to get physical in order to defend a teammate.
Guelph is difficult to contain. With their biggest scorers also serving the roles as their biggest physical players; Mikkel Aagaard leads the team, both in points and penalty minutes. The Gryphons have the skill to score highlight-reel worthy goals as well as the ability to steamroll their opponents and will the puck into the net with sheer force.
In the Badgers’ last outing against the Gryphons on November 15 there were a whopping 28 penalties given out (11 for the Badgers and 17 for the Gryphons). It seemed the two teams were incapable of playing a period without someone being given a 10-minute misconduct or starting a fight. This game was tame in comparison — with just four infractions.
“You just have to handle the emotion of the game. When you play [the Gryphons] in the Steel Blade game and there’s so much emotion to it, it carries over into these games and you have to play with high energy, but the composure is the most important thing and I think our guys did a better job,” said head coach Marty Williamson.
For the first half of the game, that’s exactly what they did. The Badgers were composed and structurally sound. They built a two goal lead by the midpoint of the second period. The second goal came from Brayden Stortz at 6:18, giving him his fourth of the year.
Then the game fell apart. The Badgers slipped, lost focus, Guelph built momentum and Brock couldn’t keep the puck out of their own end. Guelph cut the lead in half, then they tied the game and in under 10 minutes, they had captured the lead.
The momentum had shifted somewhere along the way in favour of the Gryphons. The Badgers left the ice after the second having given up a lead that they worked hard to build. They weren’t dejected but the energy had gone, they were focused, seemingly introspective as they headed back to the dressing room.
It was Williamson’s task to remind them of their identity as a team. If the Badgers want wins against the Gryphons then they have to play their game. They can’t allow themselves to fall into the traps that the third place OUA west team seems to be so good at setting.
“There were some words said tonight. These guys know. Usually I don’t have to do too much but tonight I wanted to challenge them to get back to our game and I thought we did well,” said Williamson.
There was nothing that could be done about the three unanswered goals scored in the second but the Badgers returned to form during the third period.
“We played like we did for two periods, we played real solid defence and we moved our men around and our identification was real good,” said Williamson.
It was a battle of goaltending. Mario Culina faced 45 shots over the game, 11 in the third. It was Brock’s ability to outshoot the Gryphons that ultimately shifted the game back to their favour. They took 16 shots with one of them managing to slide past the Gryphons’ goaltender. Connor Brown tied the game at 8:36.
They needed a frame of overtime in order to settle this matchup. At 1:23, Christian Girhiny, for the second time this season, ended a game against the Gryphons with an OT winner.
“He seems to be a Guelph killer a bit,” said Williamson.
Girhiny is the kind of player that goes unnoticed; he’s visibly smaller than the rest of the team and that’s exactly what has allowed him to thrive in overtime. Guelph focused their defence on Frankie Pucci and Dexter Weber who were on the ice with Girhiny. This allowed Pucci to dump the puck in to Weber in front of the net. The Gryphons goaltender lost track of Girhiny, instead choosing to attempt a block on what was thought to be a shot from Pucci, which left Girhiny wide open for a pass and tap into the net.
“Christian’s a real smart hockey player, he’s got great anticipation. He just reads the game real well. A guy a lot of people count out because he’s not a real big guy and he just finds a way to produce and he’s just a real good hockey player for us,” said Williamson.
The Badgers played Western on Saturday and won 4-2. The team will play their next home game against the Gryphons for the final time this season on Thursday. The season series between the two teams is 2-1 in favour of Brock. Guelph will have one final chance to even it up.
“They’re coming in here and they won’t have played the night before and they’re going to be anxious to get back at us,” said Williamson.