Keeping their playoff hopes alive
After losing to the Gryphons, the Hawks shutout the No. 6 seeded Lancers to stay in the hunt
If the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s hockey team is looking to remain in the playoff race, then upsetting the number six nationally ranked team in Canada is a step in the right direction.
After losing a critical game against rivals Guelph Grypons on Jan. 22 and with their backs against the wall, the Hawks bounced back in a big way, shutting the door and eliminating all opportunities against a high-octane Windsor Lancer offence.
Led by fourth-year captain Tyler Stothers and second-year goaltender Vinny Merante, Laurier shocked the Lancers and gained a much-needed two points, taking the game 3-0 in dominant fashion.
“It would be nice to have [the game against Guelph] back, but it was a nice respone that we have and it just shows that there’s just no quit in our team,” Stothers said.
Head coach Greg Puhalski touched on Merante’s big comeback game.
“I thought Vinny was able to make the saves he was supposed to make and he made a few big saves… it was a big factor for him to have a good game,” he said.
The game remained tight with the first period staying scoreless, but a nifty backhand by second-year defenseman Mackenzie Braid broke the tie in the second period. Laurier took control in the third, when a blast from the point was tipped in by Stothers for the go-ahead goal. Stothers would add another tally in the third, while Merante turned away 36 shots for the shutout.
The win against Windsor came two days after the Hawks experienced a romping, giving up three goals in a 5-minute span in a game that saw the Gryphons come away with a 7-2 victory.
“Tonight we got off to a better start and when you have a good competitive first period, although it was a 0-0 game we were still in the game and we were competing, you start to feel good about yourself,” Puhalski said. “You need to feel good about yourself to perform at your best. That was the difference.”
With four games remaining, and three of them against teams that are in the same position, the Hawks are going to have to put on their work boots if they want to avoid missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year. Only four points separate the bottom half of the Ontario University Athletics West division, and with three of those games against playoff contenders, Laurier is looking to follow a game by game approach, according to Stothers.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time and just know that each game is going to be a four-point swing, so if we could hand another team a loss while getting two points ourselves, it is huge,” he said.
“We know each game is going to be a battle, cause they are battling for their playoff lives as well, so it’s going to be about what teams wants it more.”
Puhalski knows Laurier will have to put work in if they are going to make a playoff push.
“Hockey has always been about how much labour you’re willing to put into it, and if we’re willing to put in the labour, we’ll reap the benefits,” he said.
Laurier will look to collect two crucial points as they travel to York University Thursday evening to take on the Lions for a four-point swing. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.