Hawks v.s. Gryphons in round 1 rematch
It’s playoff time in the OUA and the Laurier Golden Hawks enter the post-season this year playing as good of hockey as they have played in almost a decade.
The Guelph Gryphons await the Golden Hawks as the playoffs will get underway starting this Thursday.
The Golden Hawks were able to clinch a playoff spot with a statement win over the Ryerson Rams two weeks ago.
That week was memorable for the Golden Hawks, as they began it by beating the fourth-ranked Toronto Varsity Blues 4-0, before beating the cross-town rival Warriors 5-1 in front of nearly a thousand people at the Kitchener Auditorium, and then clinching their spot, in the playoffs with the win over the seventh-ranked Rams.
With that stretch of play Laurier picked up significant ground in the OUA West race and even went into the final weekend of games with a chance to host the first-round playoff series, something that seemed nearly impossible back in November.
USPORTS and the OUA have noticed Laurier’s play as the men’s hockey team earned their first national ranking in almost a decade.
The Hawks were ranked seventh and have since dropped to ninth in the latest rankings released yesterday.
Laurier and Coach Puhalski entered the final weekend of play with loads of motivation and energy as they played Western and York.
The Mustangs have eliminated the Golden Hawks in two out of the past four years in the playoffs, including last year.
Western was able to sweep the Golden Hawks in two games last February, while also sweeping Laurier in the 2016 playoffs.
Laurier was looking for revenge and was able to put together another dominant performance on the road Friday night against their rivals.
Having beat Western 7-3 earlier this year in Waterloo, Laurier had no issue once again with scoring.
A drastically improved offense was able to put up five more goals as the Golden Hawks beat the Mustangs 5-1.
The resurgence of the offence has been mainly led by first-line forwards, Anthony Sorrentino and Anthony Conti.
However other veterans have stepped up, Jeremy Pullara scored two goals against Western, while Danny Hanlon continued his hot streak on offense with an assist.
Special teams were the driving force for the Golden Hawks win as they were able to score two power-play goals as well as a shorthanded goal in order to hand Western their third straight loss.
Anthony Conti continued his dominant second half of the season as he opened the scoring against Western with his fifth power-play goal of the season.
Conti’s goal brings his season total to 15 and his points total to 28.
The 28 points put up by Anthony Conti are tied with Ryan Bellows (2010) and Tyler Stothers (2014) for the most points in a season by an individual Golden Hawk in the past decade.
Matt Williams was also impressive on Friday night, stopping 45 of 46 shots that Western fired on net.
Williams faced a career-high number of shots and was nearly perfect.
Williams finished his first regular season with the purple and gold in the top 10 in both save percentage and goals against average.
The performance by Williams earned him athlete of the week and, more importantly, will most likely solidify him as Coach Puhalski’s game 1 playoff starter.
Laurier was unable to capitalize on Saturday night against the bottom-seeded York Lions as Peter De Coppi scored the game-winner early in the third period and York went on to win 2-1.
The Golden Hawks received a strong performance from Tyler Fassl who stopped 29 of 31 shots.
This performance will make the goaltender situation a little bit more difficult to address for Coach Puhalski as the team gets set for the playoffs.
Williams has played more games this year then Fassl, but Coach Puhalski has recently been rotating the goalies each game.
With Windsor’s win over Toronto, Laurier was unable to grab a home seed and will look to quickly forget this York game, as they get prepared for the post-season.
Laurier finished the regular season in sixth place in the OUA West and will face the third ranked Guelph Gryphons starting this Thursday in Guelph.
The Golden Hawks are hoping to perform a lot better in the playoffs this year as they come in with some momentum.
Laurier has been swept in the playoffs for two straight years and three out of the last four. Furthermore, the Golden Hawks have lost six playoff games in a row, having not won since a 4-3 victory over Windsor in 2017.
Laurier has also not won or advanced past the first round of a playoff series since the 2010-2011 season when they beat UOIT in the opening round of the 2011 playoffs.
Laurier has split the season series with Guelph this year having beat them at home in October and losing on the road in a memorable Frosty Mug game a few weeks ago.
Game one of the series between the Gryphons and Hawks will start at 7:30p.m. this Thursday at the Gryphons centre, as Laurier will aim for its first road playoff win since beating Guelph in 2013.
Game two will be in Waterloo at the Memorial Recreational Complex at 7:07p.m. and, if needed, a deciding game three will be held back in Guelph on Sunday night!