Clinging on to fading playoff hopes
The Wilfrid Laurier men’s hockey team’s playoff hopes have seen better days after a loss and an overtime loss Thursday and Friday put Laurier further away from that increasingly elusive eighth and final playoff spot.
The Hawks’ losing streak was extended to three after a 5-2 loss to the York Lions at home on Thursday and a 3-2 overtime loss on the road against the Brock Badgers on Friday.
At the school day game at the Waterloo Recreational Complex against the Waterloo Warriors on Tuesday, Laurier was able to break that slump with a 3-2 shootout win.
“At times we played with some good energy, but then at times we had some breakdowns and when we broke down they were able to put the puck in the net,” head coach Greg Puhalski told The Cord on Thursday about their matchup against York.
“I thought our intentions were good, but we weren’t able to capitalize when we had the chance. It was just a game of massive breakdowns,” he added.
The Hawks’ first period against the Lions was pretty well balanced between the two teams with shots registering at 10-8 in favour of the Lions. York was able to strike first with a goal from Tyler Barass, but Laurier responded with a goal from the point from defenceman Taylor D’Andrea.
However, the momentum shifted in the second. The second period saw a gap in pace and shots between Laurier and York.
Although Laurier’s leading scorer Derek Schoenmakers would score his 13th goal of the season, goals from York players Michael Santini and John de Gray maintained the Lions’ lead into the third.
“My line mates and I have some pretty good chemistry,” explained Schoenmakers when asked about his offensive performance so far. “Our lines have changed a bit here and there throughout the year but we know where to find each other out there.”
Schoenmakers scored the tying goal at the end of the third in Laurier’s overtime loss to Brock on Friday to grab his 14th of the season. He currently leads Laurier with 23 points.
But in the third against York, Laurier continued to break down. The Hawks gave up coverage in their own end and York responded to those opportunities by adding two more goals.
“I think it was just communication and not picking up people in generally what was coverage down-low,” continued Puhalski. “We did get beat on a few one-on-ones.”
“So when we talk about breakdowns, one-on-one we have to be a little bit better,” he added.
On Tuesday against Waterloo, despite having a bench of only 13 players, Laurier kept with the Warriors to make up some ground in their quest for a playoff spot.
With a crowd of 2,780 people in the arena, setting a new Laurier record for attendance at a hockey game, first-year Brendan Woods potted the shootout winner for the Hawks.
“Hearing the crowd was awesome. That’s what we play for,” Woods said after Tuesday’s game. “We were short bodies so the crowd really lifted us in the third and helped us find the two points.”
Laurier currently sits in tenth place of the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West conference. After Tuesday’s win they are five points back from the eighth and final playoff spot with six games left in the regular season.
“We’ve just got to play with good energy and purpose, and we just need to play better team hockey and coming back and providing a better backcheck for one another,” said Puhalski on Laurier’s playoff push.
“We got to make sure we stick together and do the simple things better.”
“It’s definitely not the season we wanted to have, but it’s not over and we’re going to push to win game by game and see what we can do,” Woods said.
Laurier has the opportunity to seek redemption against the York Lions at Toronto Canadian Ice Sports Arena on Thursday. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.
–With files from Shelby Blackley