It wasn’t the prettiest game, but a win is a win.
In a penalty filled game, the Mustangs men’s hockey team closed out the first half of their season with a 6-4 win over the Guelph Gryphons at Thompson Arena Saturday night.
“Guelph’s a physical team, they play hard and they play the right way and they’re well coached,” Western head coach Clarke Singer said. “We expected a physical game and it was a tough one.”
The rivalry between Guelph and Western was on full display with both teams combining for 20 penalties for a total of 67 minutes in the box and three misconducts.
After a two game Ontario University Athletic West final last year, a shootout and an overtime game this year—all won by Western—tempers flared in the third period.
The intensity spilled over after Guelph forward, Kris Belan, crashed into Western goalie Alain Valiquette. Within the next 10 minutes both teams accumulated 47 minutes in penalties and three players were kicked out.
“We’re playing with so many veterans injured and out of the line-up, the guys have to scrap for every point we can get,” Guelph head coach Shawn Camp said. “This was a typical Western-Guelph game. It was another tough game.”
During the traditional post-game handshake, a scrum ensued with both teams being separated by referees.
“We’re both good teams and emotions run high, it’s one of those games,” Mustangs forward Keaton Turkiewicz, said.
The game started with two quick Guelph goals in the first five minutes. Western would answer back with two of their own by Chris Rocca and Turkiewicz to tie up the game before the end of the first.
“We had an emotional game against Waterloo last night winning the shootout,” Singer said. “Our first five minutes we had no energy, no intensity, no emotion, so I was proud of the guys for coming back and battling.”
Western came out in the second period with the most impressive 54 seconds the OUA has likely seen this year.
While on a 4-on-4, Zack Harnden, Steve Reese, Andrew Eastman and Matt Ashman cycled the puck, made slick passes and fooled Guelph in their own zone. The four players controlled the puck without a Gryphons player touching it for 54 seconds before Harnden put one by Guelph goalie Cody St. Jacques.
Guelph would even up the score two minutes later when Kris Belan went in on a breakaway for a shorthanded marker.
The Mustangs would come out firing in the third period with Kevin Baker getting a goal and Turkiewicz adding two more for the hat trick and a four point night.
“Clarke was telling us keep it simple and play our game. All the boys didn’t want to accept something like that and no one’s going to roll over and die,” Turkiewicz said. “We stuck together and battled and came away with two points.”
Despite trying to neutralize Turkiewicz, Guelph couldn’t slow him down when they needed to.
“He’s a top scorer for a reason. He’s got a knack for the net. He takes advantages of his opportunities,” Camp said. “If he gets a few scoring chances each game, he’s going to bury they puck.”
The game put an exclamation mark on the end of a strong first half for Turkiewicz, which saw him get 30 points in 16 games, including 22 points in his last 10 games, and allowed him to take the scoring lead in the OUA.
“He’s an elite scorer at this level. When he keeps his game simple like he has the last month it’s great for the team,” Singer said.
As they head into the break, the Mustangs lead the OUA West division and are ranked fourth in Canada currently sitting at 13-1-2 with 28 points.
“We collected as many points as we could in the first half. I think we’re in a good position, but the real season is the second half,” Singer said. “It’s a fresh start and hopefully what we’ve done in the first half will continue when we get back.”