Hawks down Brock in shootout

The Golden Hawks men’s hockey team opened up the second half of their regular season last night with a hard-fought 5-4 shootout victory over the visiting Brock Badgers. Laurier captain Jean-Michel Rizk scored his team leading 11th goal of the season, and finished the night with a game-high three points. Veteran Colin Williams netted the shootout winner, Laurier’s first overtime/shootout victory of the season.

It all started so well for the purple and gold as rugged defenseman Mike Gauthier jumped up in the rush, converting on a nice pass from sophomore speedster Mitchell Good only 1:25 in.

Good doubled the lead 8:28 later with a beautiful individual effort, sliding the puck home on a rebound despite being hauled down simultaneously.

After Jordan Gignac cut the lead in half 1:35 into the second, Rizk scored yet another Laurier power play goal improving the Hawks country-leading power play to a sterling 29.6% on the season.

Yet as good as the Hawks were in the first half of the game, the Badgers dominated the second half.

“Yeah there were definitely some tired legs out there,” commented Rizk. “We were having trouble when we were being too fancy, and not getting pucks deep.”

Rookie scoring phenom Matt Abercrombie started the comeback at the 15:22 mark of the second, while veteran and former Owen Sound Attack, and Guelph Storm forward Derek Brochu capped it as Brock scored three times in the second and third periods to take a dramatic 4-3 lead.

With the momentum fully in the hands of the Badgers, Laurier head coach Greg Puhalski re-united his three leading scorers: Thomas Middup, Ryan Bellows, and Rizk onto a line; and it paid dividends almost immediately.

Laurier’s leading scorer Bellows has been extremely consistent this season, and he was again this night as he jammed the puck home only 23 seconds after Brochu’s marker.

“Guys just click sometimes,” said Rizk. “We’ve tried that combo for a couple games earlier in the first half of the year and we couldn’t get anything going.”

“If we play too much together we don’t get anything going, but if we play few times we get a little spark.”

Four times the Hawks had gone to overtime and/or a shootout this season, and four times they had come up short.

After a tight overtime, where both teams managed only a combined three shots, the game went into a shootout. It took five rounds before Williams fired five-hole on Brock net-minder Kurt Jory, giving the purple and gold their first extra-time win of the year.

“It’s our first shootout win of the year,” said Puhalski. “Points this year is so important for playoff position. You don’t like to give points away to your opponent, but we showed some character.”

“It feels good,” Captain Golden Hawk Rizk mentioned. “Especially in the shootout the coaches have been on our case. It feels good to just get a greasy goal like Williams did, and yeah, it just feels great.”

Next up for Coach Puhalski’s troops is a difficult trip to London to take on the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West leading Western Mustangs; a team that has yet to lose in regulation time in 17 games so far this year. In their last meeting, on Oct. 22 also in London, the Hawks were hammered 7-2 and outshot 57-23.

“Last time we were in there [Western] gave it to us pretty good,” Puhalski said. “We just have to be pretty from the first drop of the puck.”

“The emphasis will be to have a very good start, and to set ourselves up for a good frame of mind. It’s a real important game for our hockey club.”

The win over Brock gives Laurier sole possession of third place in the OUA’s Western Conference to start out the second half of the regular season, and with ten games left the battle for second between the Hawks, Lakehead, and Waterloo will be intense down the stretch with only three points between them at the time of this writing.