By Sam Beaudoin
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team defeated the Guelph Gryphons 5-2 for their fifth consecutive victory on Feb. 3 at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
TMU entered the contest fresh off a 4-0 victory over their cross-town rivals the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on Friday night, bringing their record to 18-8—good for second in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division.
“We’re starting to click at the right time,” said Bold third-year forward Elijah Roberts. “We’re beating some top teams that we’re probably gonna see in the playoffs. We [have] a good test next week and from there we can’t look back.”
Guelph has not endured the same success as TMU this year. The visitors entered Saturday’s game off a loss to the Western Mustangs on Friday night and brought an 11-14-1 record into play.
The matchup was a special one for several members of the Bold as the team held a pregame ceremony honouring the members of the team that will be graduating after the season.
Key players will be departing the roster after what TMU hopes is a deep run in the OUA playoffs and at the U Sports national tournament held at the MAC next month.
Roberts, Ryan Wells, Cole Resnick, Aaron Hyman, Kevin Gursoy, Tyler Lentz, Zach Roberts, Kyle Bollers, Cole Cameron and Will Sirman—make the 10 players participating in their final home regular season game on Saturday night.
“It’s a real special night, for some guys on our team it’s their last ever home hockey game,” said Roberts. “It goes by fast, your time here…playing that last game is special and something we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.”
The lengthy ceremony affected the pace of play early in the first period, with both teams slow out of the gate to begin the first period.
“Coming off an emotional big win against our cross-town rivals, we feared we would come out sluggish and that is exactly what happened,” said Bold head coach Johnny Duco.
Despite the Bold generating many of the early high-danger scoring chances, it was the Gryphons that lit the red lamp first. Third-year defenceman Jaxon Camp buried a beautiful goal past Bold netminder Ryan Dugas off the faceoff to put Guelph up 1-0 with less than 12 minutes left in the opening period.
The Bold, however, continued to dictate the pace of play following the early Gryphons marker, with Bollers and Gursoy generating several flashy offensive scoring chances.
The crisp passing paid off for the Bold near the 14-minute mark of the first. Wells connected with second-year Bold forward Ian Martin in the slot with a smooth pass who slid it into the open cage. Martin’s seventh tally of the season tied the game at one apiece.
“Main thing for us is to get pucks to the net as much as we can [and] get lucky bounces,” said Martin. “We get a lot of greasy ones that way.”
The game didn’t stay knotted up for long as the Gryphons came right back and put another one past Dugas on an odd-man rush. Second-year defenceman Nathan Allensen sent the visitors to the dressing room with a 2-1 lead.
Guelph entered the second frame with a golden opportunity to extend their lead, with second-year forward Will Portokalis picking up a high-sticking minor at the end of the first.
The Gryphons’ powerplay made up nearly all of Guelph’s offensive zone time as TMU dominated play for the majority of the period, recording 29 shots on third-year Guelph goaltender Colton Incze through two frames.
Incze stole the show in the period, single-handedly keeping his team ahead for the majority of the period, coming up with many key saves.
However, the Oakville, Ont. product couldn’t keep them all out.
On an odd-numbered rush, Portokalis buried a wrister past Incze, his seventh of the season to knot up the game heading into the last 20 minutes of play.
The physicality picked up in the third, as Cameron, the former Gryphon, found himself on the receiving end of a vicious boarding penalty from first-year forward Zev Podolski.
TMU took full advantage of the extra man, as they have all season long entering the game with the fifth-best powerplay percentage in the OUA at 23.8 per cent.
“With the interchanging looks that our powerplay can have, it gives the opposition a tough pre-scout,” said Duco. “Anytime a team is focused on you and overthinking it…they’re not focused on themselves.”
Midway through the final frame, Arizona Coyotes prospect and first-year TMU defenceman Artem Duda generated a rebound off his wrist shot, which drew a crowd. The loose puck was then eventually tapped home by third-year forward Chris Playfair to give the home side their first lead of the night.
The Bold extended their lead in the back half of the period. Off the faceoff, Martin found himself alone in front of Incze on his backhand and buried it five-hole to notch his second of the game.
Duda would add the insurance marker on the empty netter, his second of the season to secure the Bold the 5-2 win—their 19th of the season.
“We’ve got a group in there that’s become a family,” said Duco. “When you get to tough playoff hockey, the guys love the opportunity to come together.”
UP NEXT: The Bold will wrap up their regular season on Feb. 9 when they travel to Québec to take on the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières Patriotes.