Hawks eliminated from playoffs by the Mustangs

After a three-year hiatus from the playoffs, Laurier was swept 2-0 by the Western Mustangs and was outscored 12-4 during the best-of-three series.

Photo by Will Huang
Photo by Will Huang

Ryan Lopes of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s hockey team went full circle last Friday night having experienced playoff action on the first and last years of his tenure at Laurier.

The fourth-year centre took a tough loss 4-1 to the Western Mustangs, ending the season for the Hawks after the Mustangs swept the best-of-three series 2-0.

Despite the results of the scoreboard, Lopes was humbled by the new perspective he gained from seeing his final season through, culminating in a playoff berth that broke a three-year playoff drought.

He spoke of something that became more than just a team.

“It becomes a family and it’s very short lived. A lot of guys don’t realize that you’re having fun and time flies and you’re never ready to leave,” said Lopes.

“These four years, they become a part of you and you get a lot of relationships that you want to stick together.”

“It’s going to be hard to forget something like that,” he continued.

Lopes said the last time the Hawks were in the playoffs was during his first year, and to get a taste of it in his last year was great — but it can also be used as a stepping stone for the first year guys to get a feel of what to expect during playoff hockey.

This year, the Hawks sported a roster of 10 rookies, one of them a third-year student.

Head coach Greg Puhalski coached his team into the playoffs this season. Playoff experience becomes extremely valuable to players in the Ontario University Athletics conference.

Careers are short and droughts can deprive a team of the experience necessary to make the final push at the end of a season.

“Playoffs is about playing well together as a team and believing in what you’re doing, and you never really get a sense of what that is until you start playing the game,” he said.

“It’s a good experience for our guys who have been with our program and who have not been to the playoffs.”

In the wake of the loss, Puhalski credits the Western squad. He said their hustle and constant motion turned the tide of the game into their favour.

“The only way you get playoff experience is you have to be at the playoffs, you have to give yourself a chance,” he said.

As for Lopes, he’s now on the other side of the inevitable university turnover. He has no more games to play or goals to score for the Hawks.

But with that comes perspective, which brings a message to the younger players on the team. He urges them to just take advantage of it.

“It goes by fast and I want guys to take each game seriously and each game competitive because when it comes down to it it’s going to be that game that’s going to make a difference in playoffs and I want guys to enjoy the time here it’s a family,” he said.

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