Golden Hawks looking to do damage in the playoffs
After a tough start to the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s hockey team regular season and only one win through their first eight games, talk of a playoff appearance at the time seemed very far-fetched.
However, thanks to hard work, perseverance and a little bit of luck, the team was able to turn around their fortune and earn a playoff spot in the OUA West division.
After the poor start, the Golden Hawks managed a record of 12-7-1 the rest of the way, earning them a season ending record of 13-14-1, good enough for sixth in their division.
“For us it was just a matter of not giving up, especially early in the season,” head coach Greg Puhalski said.
“We were actually playing some good hockey and weren’t really getting rewarded for it with wins.”
“Sometimes it’ll just even itself out. At times here in the second half we’ve won some games we maybe didn’t deserve to win.”
Laurier will matchup against Western in round one of the OUA playoffs, a team that the Golden Hawks beat in three of four regular season meetings.
“The strength that we are going to have to rely upon is really playing as a unit, as a real team that functions well together.”
“You have to have some good special teams [and] obviously goaltending is another important factor. [All that] combined with a real competitive nature of your team.”
The OUA playoffs are a tough beast to tackle, with the first three rounds, before the Queen’s Cup championship game being played in quick succession.
Due to its nature, it often ends up being the most battle tested teams that make the deepest runs in the postseason.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries here and after Christmas we’ve played a lot of game short-handed and it has made it tough. So we’ve battled through some adversity.”
As a by-product of the injuries that coach Puhalski mentioned, it caused Laurier to have to ice 26 skaters and four goalies during the season, with only five of those skaters appearing in all 28 of the team’s games.
Fourth year winger Christian Mroczkowski led the team in scoring with 19 points in 24 games, but it was largely the depth of Laurier that really helped push the team into a good playoff seeding.
12 different skaters registered at least 10 points on the season, while seven players scored at least five goals.
Furthermore, 23 Golden Hawks found the back of the net at least once during the year.
“Your one-on-ones, the little plays you do as far as breaking the puck out, those types of things that you work all season long on are real important come playoff time.”
Despite the ups and downs that the season has brought, Puhalski knows that the team has to simply focus on the task at hand.
“All said and done, we’ve given ourselves the chance come playoff time to do ourselves some favours and do some damage.”