Laurier men’s hockey team wins one, loses one over weekend
After starting the regular season with five straight losses. For the second straight year, the mood surrounding Laurier’s men’s hockey team was beginning to look grim.
If the team wanted to salvage a successful season, they needed a turnaround to happen fast.
After winning two of their last four games, including two impressive victories on the road against McGill and at home against Guelph, the Golden Hawks were looking to continue their success with two pivotal weekend games against two of the teams’ biggest rivals.
In game one of the weekend, the Golden Hawks traveled down University Ave, to meet the Waterloo Warriors in front of a packed crowd for another Battle of Waterloo.
After losing 6-3 the week prior, Laurier was looking for redemption in their second matchup.
Backed by a strong special teams’ performance, that saw the Golden Hawks convert on two of their four power-plays, while being perfect on the penalty kill, Laurier was able to knock off Waterloo by a score of 3-1.
The goals came from veterans Danny Hanlon and Captain Will Cook, as well as second-year winger Ethan Wiseman.
Wiseman scored his team high sixth goal of the season and continued his hot-streak as he has now scored in four of the past six games for the Hawks and has already doubled his goal total from last season.
The following evening, Laurier was looking to keep their momentum going as Western came into town.
With early first period goals from the team’s leading scorer, Anthony Conti, as well as fourth year player Lucas Batt, the Golden Hawks were up by two halfway through the first period and looked poised to sweep their set of weekend games.
However, Western responded strongly in the second period, capitalizing on some Laurier mistakes to pull ahead.
In what was a disastrous start to the second period for Laurier, the Mustangs were able to score three unanswered goals in a span of 4:28 seconds to get Western on the board and in the lead 3-2.
Despite battling back hard in the third and tying the game on a Kyle Jenkins one-timer Western proved to be just too much for Laurier to handle.
As a minute after Jenkins tied it up for Laurier, Mustang forward Alex Turko capitalized off of a Laurier mistake and put the Mustangs back in the lead for good, as they left Waterloo victorious with a 6-3 win.
Coach Greg Puhalski, was upset about the uncharacteristic and self-inflicted errors that his team had made.
“Two of the first five goals were directly off turnovers,” said head coach Greg Puhalski. “We’ve got to clean that up, that’s something that we talk about. Turnovers in hockey are real important, and we proved it.”
Another one of the big stories of the weekend for the Golden Hawks, was rookie goaltender Matt Williams, who was given back to back starts, something that is often uncommon to see.
Williams played one of his best games as a Golden Hawk on Friday night in the win against Waterloo as he stopped 30 of 31 shots.
“I think for us it was just trying to give him a chance,” said Puhalski. “Just see how he can perform and try to get some momentum in his game.”
“We’re just trying to get one of our goaltenders to get some consistency in their game and maybe roll with them a little bit,” mentioned Puhalski. “To this point in the season, neither has really been able to grab the #1 position.”
Williams, who came to Laurier with previous experience in the QMJHL and Junior A, managed to turn aside 64 of the 70 shots he faced on the weekend, moving his save percentage on the year to .918.
It will be interesting to see whether Williams’ performance so far has shown the coaching staff enough for them to roll with him going forward, or if Puhalski will continue to split the reps between both Williams and second-year goalie Tyler Fassl.
Following the weeknd split, Laurier currently holds a record of 3-6-2, placing them 10th in the OUA West.
With only the top 8 teams in the conference making the playoffs, Laurier needs to continue to string together some solid play to ensure that the team can keep playing come spring.
The next test for the Golden Hawks will come this weekend, when the team faces off against two of the top teams in the OUA.
Hosting the nationally ranked Brock Badgers on Thursday night, before travelling to Windsor the next night to to play the Lancers.
This will be the second matchup against Brock this season, as the Hawks lost in St. Catherines a few weeks ago.
The Golden Hawks have yet to play the Lancers this year, with the last matchup between the two teams dating back to early January of this year.