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Gryphon women forced to do-or-die game Sunday (4 photos)

Top-ranked U of G forced to a deciding game by tenacious Laurentian

The Guelph Gryphons find themselves in a must-win position in order to advance to the OUA semifinals.

The Gryphs, the top-ranked team in Canadian university women's hockey, were caught sleepwalking Saturday afternoon at the Gryphon Centre by the Laurentian Voyageurs who claimed a 3-2 victory. The result squared the best-of-three quarter-final series at a win apiece.

"We knew coming in that we weren't going to be getting an easy team and despite their record versus our record, it was never going to be a cakewalk," Gryphon coach Rachel Flanagan said. "They are very disciplined and they run their systems very well and they work and work and work. If we're going to beat them, we're going to have to work as well."

The Gryphs had finished atop the OUA with a 21-2-1 record in the regular season while Laurentian was eighth at 11-11-2 to qualify for the playoffs for the first time.

Saturday, the Voyageurs outworked the Gryphs most of the game to hand Guelph its first loss since being edged in a shootout by the Western Mustangs Nov. 28.

"As a team we know that we haven't lost a game in a long time and you're going to lose a game," Flanagan said. "We knew that it was a possibility that we were going to lose one in this series. They are a hungry, desperate hockey team and, unfortunately, until the last five minutes we weren't hungry and desperate and when we were, we almost completed the comeback. It's frustrating both mentally and from an internal standpoint because the girls know they didn't give everything they had in the first 55 minutes and it hurts."

"They came out really fast and we didn't play our game. They just took it to us and we only came back in the last five minutes," Gryphon captain Jessica Pinkerton said. "That's on us and we own that. We've got to come out tomorrow and start from the very beginning and play our game."

She felt it was more what the Gryphs didn't do than what the Voyageurs did that led to the result.

"It was definitely us," Pinkerton said. "They took it to us, but we didn't play our best game and that's us."

Laurentian scored a pair of goals in the second half of the second period and added the eventual game-winner on a power play eight minutes into the third.
The Gryphs rallied to close the gap with two goals in the final six minutes of the game.

Kaitlin Lowy and Pinkerton scored the goals while Karli Shell, Christine Grant and Kelly Gribbons each had an assist.

Morgan McCann, Taylor Weber and Ellery Veerman tallied for Laurentian.

The series is to be decided Sunday as the Gryphs are to host Game 3 at 2 p.m.

"We have to follow the game plan," Flanagan said. "We have to go to work early and we have to trust the process. We scouted them and we know what their tendencies are and I felt that today we weren't following the game plan as much as we needed to."

"We've just got to come from the very beginning and play our game," Pinkerton said. "That's pretty much all we can do."