Coach Puhalski and men’s hockey looking to bounce back after three consecutive losses

Photo by Darien Funk

With six games down in the 2021-22 OUA hockey season, the Laurier Golden Hawks men’s hockey team sits in last place in the OUA far west division following three straight losses – two of them to Western. 

While that may sound like a negative, there is a lot of optimism and room for improvement on the ice with a large chunk of the season left to be played this year (14 games).  

“It’s the idea that they’re able to play games with a lot of enthusiasm,” said Coach Greg Puhalski following a 5-4 loss to Windsor on November 13th. The Golden Hawks had a tough loss that night after managing to put 47 shots on net that game. Laurier led 3-1 in the second and held a lead into the third period, before conceding three goals in the third, including the game-winner by Sean Olson with a minute to play.

Star goaltenderNoah Giesbrecht stopped 43 of 47 shots, while the Golden Hawks’ true Achilles heel was their discipline – recording 10 minutes of penalties and allowing two power-play goals in the third period.  

Even though there were a lot of penalty minutes, the shots were there and that is a great deal of positive progress going forward for this hockey team. The offence has been hitting on all cylinders this year, with Laurier averaging 3.1 goals per game through six contests this year. 

“It’s great to get scoring from a lot of different people and when you do that, you’re kind of tough to defend as a club, because teams can’t really match up with you.” said Puhalski on the creation of shots. 

The Golden Hawks started their season 2-1, with the defense also becoming a big part of the team’s identity. Allowing your goalie to have a boring night on the ice and not making the opposing team work as hard as the others can be key in winning at the OUA level. 

“We didn’t give up a ton of grade A scoring chances, so, in the end that’s what your goal is,” said coach Puhalski after their effort against Western later that week – a 3-2 loss. 

Optimism is something that Puhalski is looking for in the team as they try to overcome their struggles and work their way back into a top spot in their division. Following their home loss to Western, the Golden Hawks lost their last game to the Mustangs 4-1. 

Coach Puhalski has continued to stress putting the puck on net and creating opportunities as that will be crucial to the scheme and style of play that the Golden Hawks are trying to accomplish this season. 

However, shooting on net is not the only thing that is going to make the Golden Hawks win multiple games consistently.

“I thought we lost our battles for a lot of pucks 1 on 1. We had some spurts where we were okay, but generally, we didn’t want to get our nose dirty tonight,” said Puhalski on the team’s 3-2 loss to Western two weekends ago. 

In order for the Golden Hawks to improve and move forward together as a team, they need to work collectively as a group and play consistently to win games. Three goaltenders have played in six games for the Golden Hawks this season, which is an area that they will continue to look for some consistency. 

“For me I’m more concerned about the effort level and playing together as a team,” said coach Puhalski on the team’s chemistry after the loss to Western.

Puhalski has been happy about the team’s effort throughout the first four games of the season, before the setback in their last two games against the nationally ranked Mustangs. 

While it is still very early, the Golden Hawks will have to work together and fight harder in order to climb back into the standings. However, the team has shown on many occasions that they can win hockey games and work as a collective- especially with the play of their veterans and young players throughout the first six games of the season. 

In their first two wins, Laurier’s success was largely a part of the team coming together as a group and having balance, not relying on one person to carry the team. Chemistry is the main key to success for the Golden Hawks to win hockey games and that is something that Laurier will continue to do as the season progresses. 

The Golden Hawks will finish the calendar year with a game this Thursday against the Guelph Gryphons. Laurier was able to defeat Guelph 5-3 on opening night earlier this month and will hope to end 2021 on a winning note with their second victory against their geographical rivals. 

Laurier will open the 2022 year with two pivotal games on the road against Windsor, while the final game of the semester goes this Thursday against Guelph.

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