Men’s hockey hits playoff push

(Photo by Will Huang)

(Photo by Will Huang)

It’s true that nothing’s sweeter than revenge.

Last year, on Feb. 17 in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West first round of the playoffs, Wilfrid Laurier’s men’s hockey team was eliminated by the Guelph Gryphons in a devastating 3-2 overtime loss in game three.

Laurier met Guelph in the first round and after winning game one, dropped two in a row to say goodbye to their championship dreams.

That was the last time the Hawks and Gryphons saw each other before last Thursday, when Laurier welcomed Guelph to the Waterloo Recreational Complex.

And the game began exactly where it left off.

In a penalty-filled, dramatic scene, the Hawks and Gryphons couldn’t solve were forced into a shootout, where former Kitchener Ranger Derek Schoenmakers scored the game winner in a 4-3 victory for Laurier.

“I kind of blacked out for a second there,” laughed Schoenmakers. “It was a good feeling, especially today. The fans were great today … so as soon as I saw the puck go across the line, I was thrilled.”

In a back-and-forth affair, Laurier and Guelph combined for 70 minutes in penalties, while goaltenders Vinny Merante and Andrew Loverock stopped over 30 shots each to keep their teams in the game.

“We hadn’t seen this team yet this season, but they’re a very good team,” first-year Merante said, who stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced. “They move the puck well and they’re fast, but we answered and it was a good all-around game by both teams.”

In his first year, Merante has shared the net with first-year Shayne Campbell as well as veteran Duncan Long. However, against Guelph, Merante came up big for Laurier, making two of three stops in the shootout.

“I felt comfortable out there, knowing the team’s there with me and playing a good, team game,” Merante said.

The win was much needed for WLU, as they currently sit tenth in the OUA West, needing to be at least eighth to make the playoffs.

“It’s a huge [win],” Schoenmakers said. “Guelph’s ahead of us and we’re definitely chasing the playoffs, so these are the teams we want to catch if we want to get there. So tonight’s win was huge.”

Currently the eighth position is occupied by the Brock Badgers, who sit six points ahead of Laurier with nine games left.

After a loss against the Windsor Lancers on Friday, the next few games will be crucial for Laurier to climb their way into a playoff spot.

“We’ve been playing strong together [lately] and we know we’re in a playoff push right now and we have to keep coming through,” Merante said.

Laurier will entertain the York Lions Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Waterloo Recreational Complex.

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