TORONTO, ON – The atmosphere at Varsity Arena was nuts. A section of Varsity Blues fans serenading the goalie’s name. A section of Gryphons fans chanting “Go Gryphs Go” to try and encourage the team.
“It’s awesome. The crowd really pumps us up. It’s something we always look forward to at home,” said Toronto Varsity Blues captain Taylor Trussler.
The one name fans should be chanting is Taylor Trussler. The captain proved to be too much for the Gryphons to handle scoring a hat trick as the Varsity Blues rolled over the Gryphons 4-0 to book their spot in the McCaw Cup final against the Nipissing Lakers.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Our team came out really strong and it paid off,” she added.
The win also clinched Toronto’s berth at the U SPORTS National Women’s Hockey Championships in Montreal.
In goal, Toronto’s Erica Fryer played another terrific game, as she does, to help secure the Varsity Blues win.
After breezing through the regular season, the Varsity Blues faced their fair share of adversity in the playoffs.
In round 1 against TMU, the Bold gave them a run for their money. Now in round 2, the Gryphons forced a surprising game 3 after a terrific 30-save performance by Martina Fedel in game 2.
“Guelph’s a great team.” Toronto Varsity Blues Head Coach Vicky Sunohara told the media after the game. “This was a difficult series to get through. I think part of that motivation was knowing that we’d have a chance to play Nipissing again.”
As expected, Toronto’s offence would strike first as captain Taylor Trussler would pick up the rebound and shoot it past Martina Fedel to give the Varsity Blues the 1-0 lead.
With both teams vying for a spot in the McCaw Cup Final, you could get a sense that physicality would ramp up which was the case in the 1st period as it saw scrum and multiple body-checking penalties.
Martina Fedel did all she could to keep the Gryphons in the game. The Varsity Blues had a lot of high-danger chances and it was only time they would break through. The goalie can only do so much to keep their team in the game.
For much of the 2nd period, the Gryphons got into penalty trouble which really shot themselves in the foot as it’s hard to generate offence especially against a defensively stout team like Toronto.
The Varsity Blues gained the offensive zone and after the puck bounced a few times, it found the stick of Lauren MacDonnell who shot it past Martina Fedel for a 2-0 lead.
The dominant 2nd period by the Varsity Blues didn’t stop there as Taylor Trussler tapped home her 2nd of the game.
It won’t show on the scoresheet but Emma Potter started the play by breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and bee-lining towards the Gryphons net which pushed the defence back. The puck took a deflection and ended up on the tape of Trussler who scored.
When the Gryphons were on the powerplay, it didn’t stand much of a chance as they couldn’t set anything up. The powerplay is so important as it’s an easy way to generate positive momentum for your team.
The Varsity Blues got a powerplay in the early stages of the 3rd period and the captain would get it done as Taylor Trussler would score to extend the Varsity Blues lead to 4-0.
One of the strengths for the Varsity Blues this season has been the man-advantage, however during the playoffs it’s worked more like a weakness as the team has scored on two of their 18 chances.
“We’ve had some great success during the season [on the powerplay]. You don’t necessarily have to score.” Sunohara said postgame. “If we give our team momentum and get chances, that’s ok.”
Up next for the Varsity Blues is a date with the Nipissing Lakers in a winner-take-all McCaw Cup Final.
“I think those last two games [against Nipissing] were good for us. That was the adversity maybe that we needed. These guys are ready to go and would love to play tomorrow.”