Hawks suffer first loss of season

Ryan Bernardi wound up and blasted one on Warriors’ keeper Justin Leclerc.

The resounding crack that the fifth-year slick-skating defenceman’s blade created, was followed by the sweet sound of silence in a packed University of Waterloo arena.

Bernardi had just netted the Hawks’ second goal of the night, leaving the gap Laurier needed to overcome 3-2.

Leclerc didn’t see the black disc until he was scooping it out of the webbing he had failed to guard seconds earlier.

“Our forwards have done a really good job of getting in front of the goalie,” the Hawks’ defensive leader said. “We did a good job of that all night.”

Garrett Sinfield can attest to Bernardi’s thesis, as he scored a carbon copy howitzer earlier in the first, with captain Jean-Michel Rizk applying the exclamation mark to the play, sweeping the puck behind Leclerc.

That was as close as the Hawks would come, however, as a second audible crack haunted Bernardi with seconds remaining in the contest.

The defenceman’s stick shattered into two as Bernardi swatted at an offensive zone-escaping puck.

With the puck now behind himself and the blue line, Bernardi could do little but throw his shrapnel away and watch helplessly as current league scoring leader runner-up Jarrett Schnurr collected the puck and potted his easiest yet, finalizing the game at 4-2.

“Maybe I should have held onto the stick and took the penalty,” Bernardi lamented. “I tried to throw it out in front of the puck. He got the bounce that time, but what can you do.”

Tough luck for a brilliant performance, thought head coach Greg Puhalski.

“He had his best game for us,” he said. “I thought his decisions were solid, and he played with real good energy. If he keeps playing like that, he’ll be a big part of our hockey club.”

Puhalski just wishes more players would model their game after Bernardi’s minute-munching efforts on Saturday.

“We’ve been getting a little too fancy and not bringing our lunch pails,” said the coach, citing the reason for his forwards’ drop in production.

In addition to Bernardi’s strong veteran presence on the back end, incumbent goaltender Ryan Daniels has provided a confident composure for a group of younger forwards, getting their feet wet in the league.

“It was nice to bounce back in the second and third period,” said Daniels after surrendering the game’s opening two goals in the first 12 minutes.

The former Ontario Hockey League veteran shut the door after a rocky start by the Hawks, stopping 31 of 34 shots. He has gotten off to a tremendous start, sitting at third among top goalies with a 2.26 GAA and .932 save percentage.

“He’s been spectacular,” said Bernardi. “He’s been standing on his head during games … and we’ve got to try and help him out as much as we can.”

Cory Fraser, Kirt Hill and Kurt Thorner also scored for Waterloo; the 3-1 Hawks haven’t claimed a victory against their cross-town rivals since Feb. 12, 2009, and now face a stiff test when they head down the 401 to play Western on Friday and host Brock on Saturday.

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