Men’s hockey bounced

(Photo courtesy of Chad Leitch)

(Photo courtesy of Chad Leitch)

In the second half of the season, the Wilfrid Laurier men’s hockey team seemed to figure it out.

The Hawks went 9-3-0 after the winter break, defeating every team in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division once at least once. But when it came to the post-season, Laurier just couldn’t keep it going.

“That’s really the essence of hockey,” said head coach Greg Puhalski. “You’ve got to compete, you’ve got to battle and we did that. We did that much better. Unfortunately I just don’t think we were able to carry that into the playoffs.”

In the first round, the Guelph Gryphons defeated the Hawks in three games to eliminate them.

In game one, Laurier scored four unanswered goals to come from behind and win 4-3 in overtime. The Gryphons defeated the Hawks 3-2 in game two and 3-2 in game three in overtime after WLU tied it up with less than 18 seconds left.

“I can’t say enough about the team. We always came back, never quit,” said fourth-year forward Mitchell Good. “It was that kind of series that it was so close that it could have gone either way.”

In all three games, one goal differentiated the winner. The shots were 117-86 in favour of Guelph, with WLU fourth-year goaltender Ryan Daniels stopping 108 of the shots he faced in the series. His counterpart, Andrew Loverock, stopped 78 of 86 shots.

On two occasions, Laurier was able to tie the game when trailing by two goals. However, Puhalski said his team failed to put in a full effort.

“For us, we need to be better,” he said. “We need to play better team hockey in clutch situations. That’s the part we have to learn from.”

Three players will leave the Hawks this year, as fourth-years Ryan Daniels, Mitchell Good and Kyle Van De Bospoort will graduate.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to play for the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks,” Good said. “Just to be able to say I was a Hawk and that I went to Laurier and played hockey.”

“For me, it was really special,” Daniels echoed. “Before I came here I didn’t think it was going to be with Laurier that I’d really find the passion for hockey that I found again. I absolutely love it here.”

Van De Bospoort agreed. “Obviously you miss the hockey, but more than anything you miss the connections and relationships you make with guys over the years.”

Van De Bospoort, Daniels and Good were also the last three players that were recruited by previous head coach Kelly Nobes. But Puhalski recognized the dedication that the three graduates had to Laurier hockey.

“In my three years [Daniels] has definitely, singlehandedly been the best player our team has had,” he said. “[Kyle’s] battled a lot of injuries. He’s played hurt almost every game that I’ve been here.

“Mitch plays real hard, he cares, he wants to do well and that’ll do him well the rest of his career whether it be in hockey or something else.”

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