After beating the Ryerson Rams by a 3-2 final on Sunday in Toronto, the Western Mustangs advanced once again, this time taking on the No.3 seed Guelph Gryphons.
Thankfully for the visiting Mustangs, the task would be made just a little bit easier as the hometown hosts were without Mikkel Aagaard who agreed to a deal in the German pro league.
Heading into Thursday’s match which commenced round three of the OUA playoffs, Western got by the Guelph Gryphons, winning the regular season series by a 2-1 final. This included a 5-4 victory at the Faceoff at the Forks before a crowd of 2600 plus at Budweiser Gardens on January 30th. Fast forward to Thursday’s game, Luke Peressini would get the nod for the Mustangs while going up against Brendan Cregan.
Despite having home ice advantage, it was fairly even in the opening frame as the OUA West teams went back-and-forth, this being the case for the first fifteen minutes. That would bring it down to the last five minutes of the game’s first period which saw forward Matt Kenney rush up the ice before sniping a wrist shot on Peressini.
After hitting the backstop’s pads and promptly flying up into the air, the puck would slip right back into the net, this giving the Gryphons a 1-0 lead. With four minutes left in the frame, the Gryphons would dominate early offensively, this allowing Cregan to relieve some stress while Luke Peressini kept busy for Western.
As the clock dialled down at the Gryphon Centre, that would see the game siren sound as the first frame concluded in Southwestern Ontario. While Western trailed by one, shots after the first twenty minutes would be 16-10 in favour of the Gryphons.
Moving along to the second where the Western Mustangs continued to struggle, that would see the hometown Gryphons continue to dominate the opponent offensively. While in the Mustangs zone, this coming after a back-and-forth series, the Gryphons would try for a pair on Peressini, but stopped and saved, this retaining the tie.
While this theme continued through the vast majority of the game’s second frame, it was Western who started showing signs of life after swapping momentum halfway through the second period. While that allowed the Mustangs to take several chances on Brendan Cregan, nothing could be established as Western continued to seek out some scoring chances.
Unfortunately for the visitors from London, nothing could sneak by the Gryphons goaltender as he continued to stand tall between the pipes, this allowing the Gryphons to hold a 1-0 lead. With thanks to the 22-year-old backstop, the Gryphons would stay put in the way, this limiting the Mustangs as the shutout continued. With neither side finding the mesh, the clock once again would die down as the game siren sounded, this concluding the period.
Despite Western trailing 1-0, the Mustangs would outshoot the Gryphons by two, 10-8 after forty minutes. Overall shots halfway through would be 24-20 in favour of the Gryphons.
Now in the game’s third period, the energy transferred to the visiting Mustangs who broke out of the locker room hungry and looking to knot the game at one in the third. As such, just four minutes in, after an awkward bounce deflected off of the end boards, it was Franco Sproviero who would rush up the ice before feeding the puck from the slot to Sean Montgomery. The defensemen would then fire it home, this allowing Western to get on the scoreboard.
With the game now knotted at one and sixteen minutes left to play in regulation, that would see back-and-forth play once again take place to kill the clock in the third. Unfortunately for the Gryphons and Mustangs, neither side could do more damage as the clock flickered down, this sounding the siren. That would send it to overtime to decide the winner for game one of round three.
With the extra period now running, it was the Gryphons right off to the races with a pair of early shots on Peressini, but struggling to get by the 6’2 backstop. While the strong offence continued, Guelph wasn’t done there with their numerous chances as the puck was scooped up in the neutral zone before heading up into Mustangs territory. That, for the hometown Gryphons, would lead to a three-on-two advantage on Western.
As such, Guelph gained possession which allowed Giordano Finoro to skate up from the blue-line, this coming before finding Stephen Templeton who promptly snuck it blocker side for the winner. This would send the Mustangs home defeated while handing the Gryphons a series lead, 1-0.
With the 2-1 win over Western, shots at the end of the game would be 50-27 in favour of the Gryphons. Speaking of which, Luke Peressini turned over 48 shots of the 50 he faced. As for Brendan Cregan, he was able to turn over 26 of the 27 shots he was faced with.
Despite coming out with the victory, the Gryphons completed Thursday’s contest 0 for 2 on the power play while Western went 0 for 1.
Now looking onto game two, the semifinals shifts to Southwestern Ontario as the Mustangs return to action in London on Saturday when they welcome the Gryphons to try and force game three. Puck drop on the campus of Western is scheduled to fall at 3:00pmET. The game, which is set to be played at Thompson Arena in the cities’ North end, is available for viewing on OUA.tv with coverage to follow on 49 Sports.