Golden Hawks take on #8 ranked TMU Bold
Sullivan Sparks opened the scoring, Christian Propp stopped 36 shots and Chayse Herrfort tallied the eventual game-winner 4:34 into the final frame en route to the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks knocking off the #8 ranked TMU Bold for the second time in seven days by a score of 4-3.
“When you can get two points on a Saturday, it always feels good” said forward Matt McJannet following the victory.
This sentiment certainly radiated from the Golden Hawks locker room as this game marked the team’s fifth victory in their last seven outings. The Golden Hawks season has done a complete 180. After only accumulating a single point in their first five games of the season, the team has caught fire and now sits pretty with 11 points: good enough for a share of sixth place in the OUA West division.
The Golden Hawks played this game without their leading scorer Sam Rhodes, who has missed the last three games due to injury. Additionally, stud defenceman Conor Ali and rookie forward Luke Wilson were also out with injuries. This certainly put the Golden Hawks depth to the test, but also gave other players a chance to step up in their absence, most notably Sullivan Sparkes.
Coming into the game with a stat line of 1 goal and 1 assist in 10 games, Sparkes found himself on the scoresheet twice in this one. He opened the scoring just past the halfway mark of the first period. Picking up the puck in his own zone, Sparkes dashed end to end, dropped the puck back to defenceman Declan Graham for a quick shot, and then proceeded to pot home the rebound to give the Golden Hawks a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission. He later added an assist on a goal by Evan Benwell.
Sparkes’ goal marked the third time this season the Golden Hawks have scored first and only the second time they held a lead after 20 minutes.
It was made clear off the jump that interim head coach Kevin Forrest wanted his team to set the physical tone early and often, ensuring each TMU Bold player was checked whenever they touched the puck. Unfortunately, this led to penalty trouble for the Golden Hawks, as TMU had three powerplay opportunities in the opening period and five in the game.
Laurier’s penalty-kill, led by defenceman Jake Payette and Steven Maclean, came into the game a perfect 17/17 on home ice and remained perfect as they shut down a star-studded TMU powerplay. They are now a stout 22/22 on home ice and 85.7 per cent overall. This is no small feat, especially considering they were up against the best powerplay in the OUA. TMU entered the game connecting on 31.3 per cent of their chances with the extra man; led by superstar forwards Kyle Bollers and Jesse Barwell.
Bollers, who ranks first in the OUA with 22 points, and his linemate Barwell, who has 8 goals, were both held off the scoresheet entirely. For Bollers, this game put an end to a scorching 7-game point streak over which he accumulated 16 points.
When asked if there was a defensive gameplan in place to slow down Bollers and Barwell, McJannet said, “They are really good players in our league so I think it’s just a point of emphasis to make sure we’re taking away their time and space whenever we can, especially on the powerplay, get in their face, and not let them shoot as much as they want to.”
It took a team effort at both five on five and on the penalty kill to essentially take two of the OUA’s best players out of the game entirely.
The main takeaway from this one is how resilient the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks proved to be. After TMU scored to make it 2-1, it was forward Evan Benwell’s snipe 58 seconds later that put their lead back to two. Then, after a quick third-period goal by TMU made it 3-2, Chayse Herrfort responded exactly 1 minute later to put the Golden Hawks back up by a pair, finishing off a beautiful feed from Patrick Brown. Not once did the Golden Hawks lose their confidence and they will look to carry over this energy into their next contest coming Thursday night versus the Waterloo Warriors.