Tyson Gruninger, one of the newest members of the Spruce Grove Saints, made a whole bunch of new friends on Saturday night thanks to two goals and a feisty presence against the Grande Prairie Storm.
In a 6-4 win in front of the largest crowd of the year at the Grant Fuhr Arena , the Saints dominated play in the opening 20 but couldn’t score until the second, when Gruninger got things rolling six seconds into the frame. From there on, until he scored the final goal of the game into an empty net, he was a noticeable force with his style of play, which teammates and home town fans love but opponents hate.
Of his first two goals for the Saints, Gruninger commented, “Yeah, it’s nice to get those first two out of the way,” after joining the Saints from the Edmonton Oil Kings. “I knew it was going to come with time, getting used to the new systems. I think it’s all starting to piece together for me so it was nice to get those.”
His first goal set off a run of three straight by the Saints, thanks to Sean Comrie and Chris Van Os-Shaw before the Storm replied. Seth Fyten restored the three-goal margin before the end of the second. The third period though was all Grande Prairie, for the first 15 minutes at least, as they rallied to tie the game 4-4.
About that third period, bench boss Bram Stephen said, “I thought we had a good first and just didn’t cash in on a couple of chances. In the second, we cashed in on situational plays, things that happen from time to time and you don’t expect all the time. At the end of the second, the score (4-1) was probably indicative of what our play was. And then, we came out and (were) about to lay a lemon and I guess … thankfully enough, and good for the guys, after the last media timeout they were able to pull it together in the last six, seven minutes and we got rewarded. Grande Prairie had a good pushback.”
As to what was said in that one minute hiatus in the third, Stephen indicated he didn’t have much to say to his suddenly beleaguered squad.
“I’ll be honest, I was kind of waiting for them to sort it out on their own,” said the coach. “We've had a lot of talks about that over the course of the season and it wasn’t really happening. In that timeout just reminded them of some highlights that helps change momentum … things that for whatever reason that they went away from for 12, 13 minutes there.”
Asked his take on that awakening, if you will, Gruninger said everyone realized they were letting an important game get away from them.
“The game went to 4-4 and we kind of realized we’re a lot better than that. We kind of realized these are points we need going down the road and we pulled together as a team and got that last goal there in the last couple of minutes and then ended with the empty-netter.”
Nick Leyer scored the game winning goal with 1:08 left and then Gruninger clinched things with a shot from his own end into the vacant net with 39 ticks left on the clock.
One major difference he’s noticed between the WHL and the AJHL is the quickness of the game in the Dub, the game-star forward pointed out.
“I think they are very similar leagues but one difference is in the AJHL there’s a little bit more time and space. The Western League is a little bit bigger but they’re both definitely fast-paced leagues and everybody in the leagues are good players.”
As for his rambunctious style of play, Gruninger had this to say about his on-ice demeanour: “I like to be physical out there and when you’re physical you have to kind of back yourself up a little bit. I like to make sure guys know I’m out there and I like to play with a bit of and edge,” which he has, collecting not only his first two points as a Saint but also 25 PIM in the four games he’s skated in this season.
In their other games over the week, the Saints dropped a 2-1 OT decision to the trap-happy Lloydminster Bobcats as Parker Saretsky scored their only goal. On Sunday, in Camrose, the Saints built up a 3-0 lead and then hung on for a 3-2 win over the Kodiaks. Scoring for the Saints were Austin Parmiter, Gruninger and Graeme Bryks.
The Saints are away next weekend and are back at home at the Grant Fuhr Arena again on Wednesday, Dec. 6 against Bonnyville.
*PHOTOS BY DAVE ROSS
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