2010-11 Laurier hockey preview
The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks women’s hockey team is beginning another season looking to defend the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Championship after obtaining their seventh consecutive banner last year. Led by five-time OUA coach of the year Rick Osborne, the Golden Hawks are determined to conclude the 2010-2011 season on top.
“We don’t want to be the ones not carrying the torch this year and that gets in players’ heads and it can get in rookies’ heads,” expressed Osborne.“But I would not want it any other way. That is the expectation, that is the bar and that is the level that we have risen the bar to with Laurier women’s hockey and that is just the way it is going to be.”
The Golden Hawks concluded their 2009-10 regular season with 26 wins and only one over-time loss which was to Windsor in the last game of the year.
The Hawks finished their season with a record of 26-0-1 in regular season games and 4-0 in post-season games, before claiming the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) bronze medal.
The team had a dominating year in 2009-2010, with 98 goals for and just 23 goals against in the regular season. The purple and gold exemplified their concrete team foundation not only offensively but defensively as well.
Standing rock-solid in between the pipes, OUA and CIS player of the year Liz Knox only allowed 22 goals in the regular season and wrapped up the regular season as the OUA leader in shut-outs with 11 and a save percentage of 0.960.
Former team captain Andrea Ironside placed sixth in the OUA regular season point leaders with 30 points and lead her team in goals and assists with 13 goals and 17 assists. Closely following Ironside in goals was Kaley Powers who finished the season with 12. Katherine Shiffiff showed her presence offensively by ranking second highest on the team for points with a total of 24 points overall.
Third-year Abby Rainsberry will take over as captain this season and look to lead the team with the help of returning players such as 2009-10 OUA rookie of the year Candice Styles, second-year Devon Skeats, third-year Caitlin Muirhead and fourth-year Alicia Martin.
Although a number of players graduated from last year’s team, the rookies that have recently joined the team have already proven to be meshing well into the mix of the veteran Golden Hawk players.
“It is a really team-oriented and caring leadership group where team cohesion and team unity is going to be one of our strengths this year as well as our speed, quickness and skill level,” said Osborne. “I’m really looking as optimistic into this season as I did last year.”
The team has played six pre-season games against opponents such as the Ottawa Gee Gee’s, McGill Marlets, Toronto Jr. Aeros, Etobicoke Jr. Dolphins and NCAA competition in the Mercyhurst Lakers and Ohio State Buckeyes.
Currently with a record of three wins and three losses in the pre-season the Hawks seem to be quickly discovering out how to work together as a cohesive unit.
The team’s first regular season game is against UOIT and will take place in Oshawa on Friday, Oct. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
All things considered, Laurier’s new men’s hockey head coach has done a superb job thus far. Greg Puhalski has simply come in and built on the programme of former coach Kelly Nobes while making a clear statement that this is his team now.
Last year Nobes began a transformation of the Hawks from a free-wheeling offensive squad that did not have the muscle to make it deep in the playoffs, to a defensive-minded squad bred to last. Now at the dawn of the 2010-11 season, the situation is certainly flipped as the purple and gold find their biggest strength in the depth of the defence.
“We are going to be a team that really fore-checks hard and plays a tough, grinding type of hockey,” commented Puhalski. “We will have to be patient, and defence-oriented.”
The additions last year of Mike Gauthier and Kyle van de Bospoort added some much needed physicality to the Hawks blueline. Along with those two come two high-end offensive d-men in the speedster Ryan Bernardi and the composed power play maestro Phil Magistrale.
In addition to this group is the steady and reliable Garrett Sinfield, a man who missed most of last year with a broken jaw. Sinfield, a veteran of three full Ontario Hockey League (OHL) seasons is stifling as a shutdown defenseman and will play key part in this Laurier squad.
In net the Golden Hawks are in tremendously capable hands.
Pickering-native Ryan Daniels will be the clear number one, bringing with him 174 games of OHL experience. If that pedigree is not impressive enough, the Ottawa Senators chose him in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and last year, he was extremely capable sharing the net with Jeff MacDougald.
“I thought I had a good year last year,” Daniels said.
“I played 50 and 60 game seasons in the OHL, so a 28 game season will not be very physically taxing…. I just want to be mentally and physically prepared. I want to give our team a chance to win every night.”
If the defencemen and starting goaltender are sure things, the forwards are not.
Only five attackers will have played a regular season game for Laurier before the season-opener as a result of four graduations and four players moving on.
Captain Jean-Michel Rizk returns to add his complete talent to this team while Ryan Bellows and Mitchell Good both emerged as potent offensive threats last season. Those three will need to be consistent for this team to succeed.
Puhalski did a remarkable job in finding high-end talent to fill the holes left by the off-season exodus, but it will be key for them to gel and become a cohesive unit.
“We got a lot of young guys coming in,” said Rizk. “The challenge will be to stay positive, and to stick together…. I think things are going to work out.”
Other Canadian Hockey Leaguers added to Laurier’s forward corps include Thomas Middup, Brendan Taylor, Alex Poulter, Kain Allicock and James Marsden.
The Golden Hawks open their season on this Thursday when they host the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks at the Waterloo Recreation Complex.