Laurier's Alex Adams battles Guelph's Tryg Strand in last year's Frosty Mug showdown (Credit: Karyn Stepien)
BURLINGTON, Ont. – When you think about grand traditions in OUA sport, one of the first that comes to mind is the Frosty Mug, and the latest edition is right around the corner, with the Guelph Gryphons and Laurier Golden Hawks set to square off at the Sleeman Centre on January 18.
Not only does Thursday’s game bring with it the allure of the Frosty Mug, but it also pits the top two teams in the OUA West Division head-to-head in what should be a thrilling affair. The Gryphons (15-4-1) are coming in on a high, having earned a victory in four straight, while the Hawks (13-5-2) are right on their tails heading into this Marquee Matchup, picking up three straight wins of their own.
Laurier will also be playing to give head coach GREG PUHALSKI
his 100th career regular season victory behind the Golden Hawks bench, a milestone that only long-time head coach Wayne Gowing has accomplished as bench boss of the purple and gold.
When it comes to the Frosty Mug, there is no love lost between the hosts and the Hawks, as the visitors have taken part in the event three times already. Guelph, just as they have in five of the eight outings in Frosty Mug history, has proven victorious against Laurier, which includes a 2-1 decision in the 2016-17 edition.
One thing that fans might expect to see this time around is scoring, as the Gryphons enter play as the OUA’s highest scoring team, lighting the lamp 4.35 times per contest, all while peppering the opposition with over 37 shots per game. Helping their ability to bulge the twine is the fact that the Gryphons are able to score in many different ways, especially when it comes to special teams. Whether they find themselves with the man advantage or down a man, the team ranks in the top five in goals scored, which includes an impressive five short-handed goals on the year.
On the flip side, the visiting Golden Hawks may have just the ticket to slow down the grueling Guelph attack, as the purple and gold rank at the top of the conference in goals against (50) and top three in goals against average (2.45). Helping lead this stingy defensive play is the dynamic duo of Colin Furlong
and Chris Festarini
; with the latter ranking fifth across the OUA in save percentage (.925) in his 13 games played.
The goaltending will need to be as sharp as ever when facing the high-octane Gryphons, and will surely need to keep an eye out for the pair of Todd Winder and Marc Stevens. Both Winder and Stevens rank in the OUA’s top ten goal scorers with 13 and 12 markers, respectively, and Stevens is no stranger to scoring at this marquee event. In fact, it was the 2nd year player that got the offence underway in last year’s tilt, scoring just minutes into the game en route to Guelph’s one-goal victory.
Teammate, and captain, Scott Simmonds can tell a similar tale of offensive prowess in this annual affair, as he has registered a point in the last three Frosty Mug games. And it will be the prominent passing of Simmonds, along with Cody Thompson and talented offensive defenseman Josh McFadden that will look to complement the Gryphons overall game, as the trio has combined for nearly 40 helpers thus far in the team’s 20 games.
Another key to Laurier’s stingy play this season, meanwhile, is their special teams capabilities, as the penalty kill has been nothing short of electric. With a 90.0% PK, the Golden Hawks have allowed just seven power play goals against, while also finding success with the man advantage themselves. Despite not getting many opportunities, Laurier has also done well to take advantage of their power play chances, as their 20.5% success rate puts them fourth in the OUA. With both clubs sitting in the bottom quarter of the league in terms of penalty minutes, however, only time will tell if special teams will have a say in the final outcome.
Whether on the power play or not, the Gryphons will need to be on the lookout for the likes of Laurier’s Will Cook
, who has already notched one hat-trick on the season, as his nine goals lead the way for the Golden Hawks. Not to be outdone, however, the team’s trio of leading point getters – Brandon Robinson
(19 points), Andrew Fritsch
(16 points), and Anthony Sorrentino
(15 points) – will also be looking to get in on the action and help the Golden Hawks notch their first win in Frosty Mug history. To do so, they’ll need to get past a freshman goaltender, as the Gryphons have earned their .750 win percentage with a pair of first years – Andrew Masters and Jason Da Silva – between the pipes.
No matter who steps up for these respective teams, they will be doing so in front of an electric crowd at the Sleeman Centre; one that broke a Frosty Mug attendance record just last year (4,670). And with the top two teams in the division set to square off and both riding momentum heading into the annual Guelph Winter Homecoming event, there is no telling how Thursday’s tilt will play out.
But one thing is for sure – if you can get to the Sleeman Centre on January 18 to catch #FrostyMug18, it is not one to be missed! And for those who aren’t able to cheer on their teams in person, you can catch all the action on OUA.tv starting at 7:00pm.- courtesy of the OUA