It's said that defence wins championships and the Guelph Gryphons turned to that Saturday.
"That was our key today, to take care of the defence first and we really felt like we did that," Gryphon coach Rachel Flanagan said from the ice surface at the Gryphon Centre as her team celebrated their McCaw Cup win as champions of OUA women's hockey. "We took our chances when we got them offensively and our power play finally came to life for us in this game."
Gryphon players swarmed to the puck throughout the game as they skated to a 5-1 victory over the Western Mustangs in the league final.
"They have very offensive players and we needed to shut them down in order to use our offence," Gryphon captain Jessica Pinkerton said.
"We shut down one of the best teams in the country and it was just through and through a full 60 minutes," Gryphon forward Kaitlin Lowy said. She scored twice in the win. "We knew that was what it was going to take to win a cup and that's what we did."
The Gryphs, the top-ranked team in the country at the end of the regular season, scored three times in the first period and twice in the second and limited Western, ranked No. 7, to 15 shots. Guelph had 27.
"We felt the pressure, but we also knew we had it in us if we wanted to win and we did that today," Pinkerton said.
"I don't think the girls ever thought of it as pressure," Flanagan said. "I think they recognized that they were the No. 1 and they had something to live up to. They knew they were capable and that was more important to them, making sure they had their very best game. If we would have lost and given our best effort, then so be it. But I felt that if we gave our best effort, we were always going to be tough to beat."
While Lowy scored twice, single goals were netted by Christine Grant, Leigh Shilton and Averi Nooren. Pinkerton, Claire Merrick and Katherine Bailey each had two assists while Sophie Contant, Nooren and Grant had one apiece. Goaltender Valerie Lamenta, named the OUA's player of the year earlier this week, picked up the win in net.
Katelyn Gosling scored a power-play goal for Western late in the first period.
The Gryphs struck for three power-play goals in the game after getting a total of one in 13 man-advantage situations in their other five playoff games.
For the Gryphs, the win avenged a 2-0 loss to Western in last year's OUA final at London.
"Not much was said, but the burn was still there," Lowy said. "We really felt it last year and it was not a great place to be going into nationals off a loss and we knew we couldn't let that happen again if we wanted to win a national championship."
"We used that to drive us," Pinkerton said. "We knew how it felt to be on the losing end and how good it feels now to be on the winning end."
The Gryphs won't have long to savour their first OUA title win since 1998 and fifth overall as they'll likely be the top-ranked team for the four-day Canadian university championship tournament at Calgary that is to start Thursday.
"(It'll be) business as usual," Lowy said. "We stay calm, enjoy the victory and get right back to business tomorrow and just prepare."
"We leave on Tuesday so we really don't have a lot of time," Flanagan said. "We'll stick with our game plan that we've been working on for the last little while and just get ready to go."