Propp records second consecutive shutout as men’s hockey continue perfect start to 2022

Coach Greg Puhalski and his men’s hockey team continue to fire on all cylinders, recording their fourth straight win last Thursday in a commanding 4-0 victory over the defending Queen Cup Champion Guelph Gryphons. With the regular season ending in just under two weeks, Laurier has recovered from a 2-5 start and have their sights set towards their sixth straight post-season following a dominant four-game stretch to start the calendar year.

In front of 2,000 fans at the Sleeman Centre for the 12th annual Frosty Mug game, red-hot rookie goaltender, Christian Propp stopped all 23 Guelph shots to extend his shutout streak and move Laurier into second place in the OUA far west division with a 6-5 record.

“I think we’re just playing a little more competitive; battling, blocking more shots… our need to want to win is greater,” Coach Puhalski said.

“I think the biggest thing is if you are giving yourselves opportunities to score, that’s what you are looking for,” he continued.

Barring a late-season collapse, the post-season seems like a near certainty for the Golden Hawks as they attempt to win a playoff series for the first time in over a decade. Eight of the ten teams in the OUA far-west and west divisions will advance to the playoffs in two weeks’ time.

Led by a deep mix of veterans and newcomers such as captain Anthony Sorrentino and rookie of the year candidate, Propp, the Golden Hawks have not lost in over two months, with their last defeat coming against Guelph on December 2nd. While the Christmas break and OUA January pause certainly accounts to that stat, Laurier has put forth an impressive four-game stretch since they returned to the ice in mid-February – outscoring their opponents 14-2 during the streak, while giving themselves the opportunity to score, averaging over 30 shots per game.

“In our locker room, we feel like we can beat anyone on any given night,” first-year forward, Patrick Brown said.

The Golden Hawks began their 2022 schedule with a statement 5-1 victory over the 10-3, OUA West-leading Windsor Lancers. Propp had a dazzling 44 saves that night, starting what would be an astounding run for the first year Burlington, Ontario goaltender. Following the win over the Lancers,

Laurier swept a home-and-home series against their cross-city rival Waterloo Warriors, with Propp allowing only one goal during the two games.IThe Golden Hawks kept rolling last Thursday in what was another opportunity for them to avenge their 2020 playoff loss to the Gryphons. In the highly anticipated 12th annual frosty mug game, the Golden Hawks opened the scoring with goals by captain Sorrentino and Michael Silveri. The two veterans opened the scoring for Laurier before rookie, Nick Guinta scored his first career goal with the school and Caleb Rich sealed the deal with his third goal of his first season.

“It’s a great atmosphere and a game we look forward to every season, especially in a year like this year,” Puhalski said.

Propp made 23 saves for his second consecutive shutout, having now gone 133 minutes without allowing a goal. The former OHL standout has caught fire since the schedule restarted, stopping 116 of the last 118 shots he has faced. Over the four-game win streak, Propp has a stellar .983 save percentage and 0.50 goals against average, in four wins.

The impressive first-year OUA goaltender was named Laurier athlete of the week for his performances last week and is putting university hockey schools across the country on notice with his season.
“He’s a big part of our team, he’s played really solid for us all season long,” Coach Puhalski said of Propp. “It’s obviously great for our team, it gives them confidence and a greater belief… goaltending is always your best penalty killer,” he continued.

Propp is near or at the top of all goaltending statistics in the OUA and across USPORTS. Having started in eight of the team’s 11 games, Propp has won six games – accounting for all of the team’s wins – while recording a 0.943 save percentage, first in Canada and 1.63 goals against average, third nationally. Laurier’s defensive and goaltending statistics are among the top in the province, with Propp having only allowed 13 goals and recording two shutouts – both top in the OUA – in eight games.

After a month’s pause to the OUA schedule in January due to provincial covid restrictions, Laurier, like several schools across the province lost a number of players to the pro ranks. Back-up goaltender, Matt Williams, forwards, Bair Gendunov and defenseman, Zack Dybowski among others, all departed the team, placing a larger role on much of the new rookies, including Justyn Gurney, Patrick Brown and Caleb Rich.

“I think with everyone gone, it gave the younger guys an opportunity to step in and play a bigger role,” Patrick Brown said. “Kudus to the younger guys on our team, we’re all stepping up and just playing our game right now.”

Brown has been one of several rookies who have been a pivotal part of the team’s turnaround. The first-year Midland, Ontario native has recorded five points during the four-game win streak and is tied for first with five assists and second in team scoring on the season with seven points.

Brown has found chemistry with veterans like Sorrentino, Silveri and Matt McJannet, as has Gurney and Rich. Gurney is tied for the team lead with five goals, while Rich has six points on the team.
Laurier’s penalty kill has been key to their success this season, ranking top 12 nationally with an 82.5% penalty kill. The team has killed 17 of 18 penalties throughout this four-game win streak and has only allowed 7 power-play goals this year – top three in the nation.

“Our special teams have been better since we’ve got back playing. Our penalty kill has been a lot stronger,” Puhalski said.

On the other hand, Laurier will hope to improve their power-play unit, which is hitting at a rather low 17% success rate and has only scored once in their last 21 power-play attempts. They will attempt to improve the power-play unit and continue their win streak as they finish their season with five games in a span of eight days – playing four on the road.

After a week off, due to a cancelled game on Saturday, the Golden Hawks will return to the ice and start the final stretch of their season with a weekend series against the top-seeded Lancers. Laurier will endure their farthest travel this season as they head down to Windsor on Saturday, hoping to extend their win streak to five. The Golden Hawks have not played in Windsor since a 6-2 victory over them in November of 2019.

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