The Guelph Gryphons repeated as Baggataway Cup champions Sunday, downing the McGill Redmen 15-12 to continue their reign as the Canadian University Field Lacrosse champions at the Oshawa Civic Recreation Complex. Guelph stunned the Redmen and fans alike by storming out to a 9-1 lead and going into halftime ahead 10-2. The teams traded a pair of goals each in the third quarter. McGill finally found their stride in the second half of the fourth quarter, scoring seven goals in the final nine minutes, but it was too little too late.
Jordan Critch led the Gryphons with an amazing 11-point performance, scoring three times and adding eight assists. Ryan Serville scored five goals and an assist, Curtis Knight three goals and Mike Burke two goals and three assists for Guelph. Emile Sassone-Lawless and Rhys Burnell each had a hat trick for McGill, with Sassone-Lawless adding two assists and Burnell one.
Guelph scored on all three power plays they had in the first quarter to help establish their lead, but they kept it rolling without any man advantages in the second. Rather, it was crisp passing to cutters and sharp finishing that allowed them to pull away.
Guelph Head Coach Sam Kosakowski said his veteran team knew how to step up for the championship weekend. “We've got a solid bunch of lacrosse players who have played this game for a lot of years. There's tons of experience on this team. These guys know how to get it done,” Kosakowski said. “We told the guys at the beginning of the year, every practice we want to get a little bit better, every game we want to get a little bit better. And we just keep pushing, pushing, pushing. We knew the end of the season was going to be like this and that's what we were getting ready for.”
One of the big stories of the game was the Guelph defence limiting the potent McGill offence to just three goals in the first 58 and a half minutes of play, by which time the game was effectively over. “They were spectacular,” Kosakowski said of his defence. “We talked about it. Everybody in the league thinks our offence is really strong but our defence is suspect. They knew that and they all stepped up and were ready to play.”
Burke gave plenty of credit to the defence for stepping up when they needed to and playing well all weekend as Guelph recreated the run they made to last year's title beating Bishop's in the quarterfinals and Brock in the semifinals before downing the Redmen in the title game.
As for the offence, Burke said the key was everyone pulling together. “We had a pretty good game plan going in. For the last two weeks before this we were really focused,” Burke said. “We knew we have six guys who can really move the ball around and feed off each other. We didn't have any individuals. We've got a lot of individual talent but we said we weren't going to play as individuals, we were going to play as a team.”
Critch said he was able to collect eight assists because “my guys [were] getting open all the time” and he just had to hit them with passes. “It's really easy to rack up a lot of points when you've got Curtis Knight cutting for you,” he said.
There was a scary moment in the fourth quarter when Knight fell to the turf after making a cut and immediately grabbed his knee. Teammates had to carry him off the field, but Knight insisted that they take him to the bench rather than the locker room so that he could be with his teammates for the rest of the game.
“Curtis Knight is the biggest heart and soul of the team. He's the hardest working guy out there,” Critch said. “He puts the ball in the net, gets loose balls, whatever you need him to do. When he went down everybody's heart kind of sank but we rallied around him to make sure we brought the championship home.”
After gathering around goalie Michael Lalani near their net, the entire Gryphons team made their way over to their bench so that Knight could be part of the celebration.
McGill was competing in their third straight national title game, winning the championship in 2012 at Trent University. Head Coach Tim Murdoch said his team just didn't have it early in the game and that in the fourth quarter “We just started up doing what we should have been doing the whole game. We dug a huge hole for ourselves and you can't do that against a team like Guelph. They're dangerous offensively. We knew that if we could put the pressure on their defence we could get the goals.
“The clock ran out on us. I thought we had all the momentum at the end of the game but they're a very deserving champion, they outplayed us today.”