It took two full overtime periods, but the Guelph Gryphons finally broke through the Gee-Gees men's hockey team's defence and won the Queen's Cup by a 2-1 score before a capacity crowd of 1,600 at the Gryphon Centre Arena on Saturday evening.
Ted Nichol got the winning goal moments into the third overtime in what goes down as the longest Queen's Cup Final in the trophy's 109-year history.
"I'm so disappointed for these guys, they deserved better," said Gee-Gees head coach Patrick Grandmaître. "At this level, that's what overtime does. It's cut-throat, it's devastating. We felt like the longer the game got, the better we were playing."
The teams locked horns in the regular season, with Ottawa winning a 5-4 overtime thriller in October. There was nothing to separate the combatants through the first 20 minutes Saturday, although Domenic Graham made several saves on point blank opportunities.
The second period was played much like the first, with the Gee-Gees killing off two Guelph power plays. The best chances belonged to Mathieu Newcomb, who had a pair of breakaways, but netminder Andrew Masters steered him aside each time.
Guelph opened the scoring less than two minutes into the third period. Marc Stevens wired one past Graham on the power play off a cross-ice feed from Giordano Finoro.
There were chances at both ends down the stretch, but Graham and Masters proved they were up to the task. Graham made a save on the last shot of regulation with just five seconds to go to force overtime. The shots were 27-23 for Guelph after 60 minutes.
The first overtime period yielded no scoring, although the Gee-Gees had a promising power play in the dying moments. The second overtime also failed to settle things.
The fateful goal came a minute and 14 seconds into the third overtime frame. Nichol put one in from a sharp angle, giving the Gryphons their first Queen's Cup since 2015.
"It's not over, we're going to Nationals," said Grandmaître on his message to the team after the loss. "You never know what could happen. I've been the eighth ranked team and made it all the way to the finals. This good season has allowed us to have a second life at Nationals, but it's bitter right now."
Graham made 36 saves in a marathon effort, garnering a long ovation from the crowd when he received his silver medal. Masters made an eye-popping 50 stops, earning Player of the Game honours.
Ottawa went 0-for-2 on the man advantage, while Guelph were 1-for-3 on the power play in a game where penalties were at a premium.
Both teams have already qualified for the National Championship by virtue of making the final. The 2020 U SPORTS National Championship is being held in Halifax from March 12-15.