The Laurier men’s hockey team was really only the better team for one of nine periods in their Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Western Conference playoff round against Guelph, and they paid for it, as the Gryphons took the series two games to one.
“In the end we had a team that was a little bit young in experience,” commented Laurier head coach Greg Puhalski after game three. “And it kind of showed throughout this particular series.”
In game one on Feb. 24, the Hawks were completely devoid of any effort and frankly embarrassed themselves at home.
Outshot 38-24 and outscored 3-0, the purple and gold only kept the scoreboard reasonably respectable thanks to strong goaltending from Ryan Daniels and David Clement, the latter coming in for the third period to replace a shell-shocked Daniels.
Laurier came out desperate and hungry facing elimination in game two in Guelph, and they were rewarded when captain Jean-Michel Rizk scored what will prove to be his last goal as a Golden Hawk.
Headed into the second period with the lead for the first time in the playoffs, the purple and gold fell asleep. Laurier only mustered two shots in the middle frame, and held the 1-0 lead only as a result of more remarkable play by Daniels.
Puhalski’s boys came out much stronger in the third and rookie Zack Woolford tallied his third of the playoffs, tipping in Phil Magistrale’s wrister from the point 8:12 into the period. The veteran Magistrale sealed the Laurier victory with an empty netter.
Despite staving off elimination with the 3-0 victory in game two, the Hawks were the second best team back at home in game three. Gryphons captain Kris Belan chipped the puck past Ryan Daniels 15:27 into the game, while Ed Gale snapped home a power play marker to double Guelph’s lead 8:12 into the
The Hawks did get chances, but just couldn’t finish on Gryphons’ backstop Andrew Loverock who made 28 saves.
“We got out to a little bit of a slow start again tonight and it put us behind the eight ball,” Puhalski said. “After game two where we had such a good start and we were ready to play, we weren’t able to carry that energy into game three.”
Mitchell Good scored his first of the playoffs at the 15:08 mark of the third to give the Hawks some life but could not find the equalizer.
“We fell behind 2-0 but kept working and made a valiant effort in the end,” said Puhalski. “Unfortunately we were not able to muster enough offence to make it even and force it to overtime.”
With the defeat, the Hawks’ season is over, as are the Laurier careers of forwards Ryan Bellows, assistant captain Colin Williams and two-year captain Rizk, as well as defenceman Ryan Bernardi.
“We lose some experienced players,” Puhalski said. “On the plus side we have a good young nucleus and I’ll be working to enhance our skill level and competitiveness. I believe we’ll be able to find them over time, maybe not all next year, but we want a championship. We want to bring a banner here for Laurier.”
On the whole Laurier was outshot 98-72, did not score a single power play goal all series and only capitalized on one in 15 chances throughout the playoffs.
“We did not score a lot of goals in the playoffs in general,” continued coach Puhalski.
“The power play was a big reason, it was very ineffective throughout the whole playoffs; it just wasn’t very productive for us when we needed it in the playoffs, and I think was a very big reason we lost.”
Yet it was getting behind early that truly killed the 2010-11 rendition of the Hawks in the playoffs as they lost game one at home in both series.
“We do have a young team, we’re pleased with the results we had finishing second in our division and at least winning one playoff series,” Puhalski finished.
“We’re still not happy with the way the season ended; some guys overachieved, some guys underachieved, but we’re pleased with the overall outcome.”