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Hat Trick Hero Can't Save The Day

Monday, January 22, 2007

Written by Stephen Sweet

Thomas Laplante’s natural hat trick was not enough for the Guelph Gryphons Men’s Hockey team on Thursday night, as Mike Macintyre’s fourth goal of the year with 3:08 remaining led the Brock Badgers to a 6-4 win. The Gryphons stayed close the entire game, as they have many times this year against the best teams in the conference. Unfortunately, a bad bounce, followed by a bounce off of Macintyre’s chest, sent them to defeat and left them in a precarious position for making the postseason.

Guelph started off the game on the wrong foot when defenseman Greg MacArthur took a tripping penalty only 20 seconds in. Brock’s Jonathan Labelle scored late on the powerplay to give Brock an early lead. Less than a minute later, Gryphon winger Derek Knowles was called on a seemingly harmless cross-check. As soon as he opened his mouth to complain, the referee also assessed him as unsportsmanlike in conduct. The Gryphons had already had a bad experience with this referee, who had also officiated the brawl-fest between Guelph and York in late November. As a result, Brock didn’t take long to add to their lead. Paul Holder’s point shot was stopped by Guelph goaltender Adam Jennings through a screen, but he couldn’t find the rebound, and Josh Bonar knocked home the puck from just outside the crease, giving the Badgers a 2-0 lead.

The Gryphons finally caught a break when Brock was called for a penalty, and they went to work on the powerplay. Laplante worked a give-and-go with Matt Willoughby, and Laplante shot just as Jordan Grant got in the way to screen the goalie. The puck found its way through though and the Gryphons cut their deficit to half. The period would end with 11 minor penalties, including a 5-on-3 that Guelph couldn’t capitalize on, and a 2-1 Brock advantage.

The Gryphons came out slowly in the second period, but pretty soon after picked up the pace and were running full force when they got their sixth powerplay of the game. The top powerplay unit, running like a well-oiled machine, came through again. Marshall Blue and Richard Cotter worked the puck back and forth at the point before feeding a pass to Willoughby, whose shot hit a maze of legs in front of the net. The puck squirted free and Laplante was the first one to it, slapping it past Daniel Harpwood into the Brock net.

Thirty seconds later, Brock called a time out, but it didn’t help very much. Following a big time check by Guelph defenseman Nathan Morris and a couple of big saves by Jennings, it was a huge face-off win by Willoughby that gave Laplante another chance in front of the goal, and he did what he had been doing all night: bury the puck in the net. Laplante’s third goal of the game gave Guelph a 3-2 lead, and earned him a natural hat trick (a hat trick is 3 goals in one game, and a natural hat trick is 3 consecutive goals in one game).

The go-ahead goal was all the motivation Brock needed to get back into the game, as only 42 seconds later Bonar’s second goal of the game tied the score at 3. Some strong penalty killing by the Gryphons kept the game a 3-3 tie heading into the third period, giving them a bit of momentum. Unfortunately, it was quickly lost as Brock’s Tyler Leggo who stuffed a puck past Jennings less than a minute into the third period to give the Badgers a 4-3 lead.

The Badgers controlled play for a while, but like it had been happening all game, the team with the momentum made the mistake. A Badgers defensive error allowed Michael Nelson to break out of the corner in front of the net, where teammate Mick Heck had been knocked over by a defenseman. Instead, Nelson sent the puck back to Chris Baker, who wired a shot that was stopped by Harpwood, but the Badger goalie couldn’t control the rebound. Heck, who had been forgotten by the defenseman, swiped at the loose puck while still lying on the ice, and knocked it in! An unlikely goal was all it took for the Gryphons to tie the game at 4.

With the game tied and time winding down, the game got tighter and more physical. It really came as a surprise when a broken up play by Brock in Guelph’s zone resulted in the go-ahead goal. As Macintyre headed to the net, Jason Harshaw’s shot was stopped by Jennings. The rebound bounced up high – high enough to hit a 6”1 player on hockey skates in the chest – and bounced into the Gryphon goal. The Gryphons went on the offensive after falling behind 5-4, and pulled the goalie, but didn’t get many quality chances and were doomed to defeat after John Martin’s empty-netter gave Brock a 6-4 lead, and win. This loss, coupled with the overtime loss to Laurier on the weekend, means that the Gryphons realistically need to win at least 5 of their remaining 6 games to grab a playoff spot.

Here are my picks for the three stars:

Third star – Guelph’s Matt Willoughby, 3 assists – Willoughby continued to make good as the lead set-up man for Laplante, as he won critical face-offs, puck the puck on net, and showed good foot speed all night.

Second star – Brock’s Josh Bonar, 2 goals – Bonar was effective in getting to the net, as he had a handful of good chances. The former WHLer, who had stops in Kamloops, Vancouver and Regina, continues on his point-per-game totals with this win.

First star - Guelph’s Thomas Laplante, 3 goals – Laplante continued to go to the net all night, and with his exceptional speed and a strong determination, he gave his team their only lead, and a chance to win. Laplante, currently second in the CIS with 21 goals, showed the type of talent and determination it will take to get the Gryphons into the playoffs.

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