Men’s hockey shoot for home ice advantage

Photo by Paige Bush

Photo by Paige Bush

The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks are one step closer to securing home-ice advantage in the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. The men’s hockey team won a thriller against the Queen’s Gaels on Sunday night, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to win 4-3 in a shootout.

The win puts the Hawks in seventh place with 26 points, with two more games left in the season. If they win their last two games, and provided the Waterloo Warriors, Ryerson Rams and Windsor Lancers lose their last games, the Hawks could slide into fourth place in the Ontario University Athletics West division and secure home-ice advantage.

“Since we’ve clinched a playoff spot, we were on about a three-game losing streak, which is no fun,” captain Greg Cerilli said. “But we have that playoff spot, ended the three game losing streak and next weekend we need to jump on a plane and head up to Thunder Bay for two games and then a whole new season starts.”

The Hawks trailed early in the first period when the Gaels opened up scoring with two minutes left in the first period. Fourth-year Derek Schoenmakers added his 14th goal of the season early on in the second period before Queen’s took the lead again. Queen’s added another goal early in the third period before the Hawks went into comeback mode, scoring two goals and forcing overtime.

When both overtimes didn’t solve anything, Cerilli and Schoenmakers beat Queen’s netminder Jacob Brennan in the shootout to secure a big two points for Laurier.

“It’s my first shootout that I’ve had since my first year. Something we work on a lot in practice and it was a move I’ve never tried in practice, and I’m happy it worked tonight,” Cerilli said.

The game was the pure definition of a goaltender duel as the Hawks peppered Brennan with 55 shots. Laurier netminder Vinny Merante faced 41 shots in the victory and currently has a 0.914 save percentage with a 3.08 goals against average.

“Vinny’s one of the most dedicated players on this team. He loves what he does and he came in here tonight and made clutch saves for us, kept us in it and went 2-for-3 [in the shootout],” Cerilli said. “Any time you go 2-for-3, we had the scoring power to get it done.”

The Hawks finish their season when they travel up north to Thunder Bay and face the Lakehead Thunderwolves this weekend. Lakehead sits in 10th place in the OUA West division, but have a tendency to win one of the two games. The Thunderwolves also bring out a huge crowd.

Cerilli knows the Hawks will have to play well if they want to get four points from there.

“Thunder Bay’s a different kind of trip. We leave on a Thursday, we go up there. It’s a tough place to play, a lot of locals go to their games, it’s a packed barn. We’re just hoping to get in there and steal four points and get out as quick as we can,” he said.

Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. on February 13.

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