Hawks start road to post-season

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

“It was special.” Fourth-year netminder Ryan Daniels described Thursday’s win against the No. 2 Western Mustangs as a momentum builder for the Wilfrid Laurier men’s hockey team.

In a game that featured a shutout from Daniels and two goals from second-year Tyler Stothers, the Hawks completed the first task on their to-do list to make the playoffs: a 2-0 win over the nation’s second- best team who were riding a 15-game win streak.

Two days later, the Hawks were back on the ice against the second- place Windsor Lancers — the same team that snapped the Hawks’ three-game win streak coming into 2013. And in another impressive game, Laurier won 2-1 to gain another two points on the road to the post-season.

“We struggled in Windsor after winning three in a row right out of the gate and we wanted to bounce back and we had a few meetings this week with the boys and we just wanted to get back on track and obviously tonight was pretty evident of that,” Daniels said.

With both wins, Laurier moves from starting the 2013 half of their season in ninth place in the Ontario University Athletics’ (OUA) West division up to seventh. And with a win this weekend against the Waterloo Warriors, who currently occupy the sixth and final playoff position, Laurier could be tied with their city counterparts.

“It felt good,” Stothers said Thursday. “We treated it like [a playoff game], we had a great week of practices and everyone bought in tonight. They’re first place and in order to beat them, that’s what everyone needs to do. You can’t take them lightly and we didn’t.”

In both games, the Hawks were able to hold their visitors to merely one goal, much to Daniels’ credit. The veteran netminder stopped 79 of 80 shots over the weekend, posting impressive numbers with his save percentage and goals against average.

“That’s just what he does,” Stothers said of Daniels. “That’s what we’ve come to expect from him. He’s our rock back there and he’s kind of our spark plug, so to speak, and we always know that he’s going to be on and he always gives us a chance to win, it’s just kind of up to us after that.”

Since their first game back from the winter break on Jan. 3 against the Warriors, the Hawks have won five of their last six games, their lone loss coming to Windsor.

However despite the loss, Daniels believes the mentality with the Hawks has just intensified since then.

“When we lost to Windsor [last week], I didn’t feel like that was a momentum killer,” he said. “I mean I really feel like all the boys were buying in but obviously in a win like this [against Western], when everyone around the OUA and the CIS has seen Western move up the rankings all the way to number two, and for our team to come out and be a little bit young and inexperienced but really take it to them and step up when it mattered, this is definitely a momentum builder for us.”

With six games left in the regular season, Laurier’s playoff hunt will come down to the wire, relying heavily on their performance this weekend against Waterloo.

“We can’t be too hot, it’s something that we need to be careful about,” Stothers said.

Friday’s game against the Warriors is set for a 7:30 p.m. start. The Hawks will then host the Brock Badgers the following night, also at 7:30 p.m.

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