Hockey Hawks in dire straits

Phil Magistrale just couldn’t feel it anymore.

The anticipation, the excitement, the bliss that hits those ice warriors whose blades first hit the ice before the centre-ice puck-drop, was gone.

“It just wasn’t becoming fun for me anymore to go to the rink,” said the fourth-year defenceman. “It just wasn’t worth it anymore.”

After a 5-4 loss to Concordia University in which the Stingers scored four unanswered third-period goals to shock the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks on Oct. 15, Magistrale’s name along with his roommate, Garrett Sinfield, stopped appearing on the Hawks’ roster sheet.

Magistrale had had enough.

“[Losing] wasn’t really it at all,” said the communication studies major last week. “It was more to do with myself, and the time commitment and the passion of the game.”

Sinfield, a fourth-year psychology major, called it quits at the same time as Magistrale.

“He’s been my roommate since I’ve been here,” said Magistrale. “It was getting to the point where we both felt the same way and we supported each other’s decision.”

It may have been the right choice for the two blueliners, but Laurier head coach Greg Puhalski wishes the decisions had been made sooner.

“The timing wasn’t great, and it didn’t afford me a chance to replace them,” said the coach. “Sometimes you lose a little bit of luster for the game and I think that was something they should have decided in the summertime.”

“That was one of the more difficult things, knowing they had a depleted blueline, but there wasn’t anyone at the time [who could fill in] who was ready and willing and registered in the school and so on,” said Magistrale.

Around the same time, second-year left-winger and former member of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL)’s Sudbury Wolves, Kain Allicock was released from the team.

Allicock declined to comment on the situation when contacted.

“There were internal issues and if he wanted to keep playing hockey, it was time for him to join a different team. It’s been fully addressed within our hockey club,” said Puhalski.

Allicock has since joined the Waterloo Warriors.

Recently, former Niagara Ice Dogs’ forward, Thomas Middup has left the team due to failing to meet the team’s academic standards.
Magistrale said Puhalski has brought a different mindset to the team in comparison to ex-coach Kelly Nobes (who now coaches the nation’s first-ranked McGill Martlets) since Puhalski signed on to coach at the beginning of last season, in which the Hawks surprised the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) with a 15-7-6 record.

Now, Puhalski has faced one obstacle after the other in his second year behind the bench – one that sees his Golden Hawks carry a 7-14-1 record, good for the eighth and final playoff spot in the OUA’s West division.

Along with fielding a depleted lineup through most of the season, the injury bug has struck the Hawks, and it’s hit them hard.

“[Forward] Ben Skinner’s been out the whole year. Left-winger Matt Reid, who was a good, hungry player for us – he’s out for the year. [Former Kitchener Ranger] Chad Lowry is out, [forward] Brent Vandenberg is out, [first-year right-winger] Dustin Scott’s out, and [forward] Joe Vanni’s out. So we’re missing a lot of bodies,” said the former East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) Wheeling head coach, Puhalski.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the boys on the ice.

Recently recruited tough guy Mike Mascioli, who local fans will remember donning number 17 for the Kitchener Rangers a couple years ago, has brought a physical presence as well as a welcome scoring touch to ease the burden up front. Mascioli has three goals and five points in six games played.

“The guys who are still playing are playing hard and trying to make a difference,” said the coach.

One constant from last season’s strong team is the play of goaltender Ryan Daniels, coming off winning OUA West’s Goaltender of the Year honours in 2011.

“[Third-year defenceman] Zack Shepley has really been a stabilizing influence and James Marsden has probably been our most consistent forward up front,” said the coach.

As the season nears its end, Puhalski wants to see a strong finish by the group he’s got left.

“We’ve got to be persistent and keep moving along.”

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