Puhalski outlines men’s hockey team’s direction after playoff losses

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Wilfrid Laurier men’s hockey coach Greg Puhalski knew he was going to have to swallow some bitter pills this season.

Coaching a team full of rookies, having players quit the program, as well as survive a multitude of injuries, Puhalski navigated the waters of a dreadful season with patience and dignity.

But in game two of the Hawks’ series versus the hockey goliath that is the Western Mustangs, Puhalski snapped.

On what should have been a clear offside call (claim the Golden Hawks), the Western Mustangs waltzed into the Laurier zone and scored the equalizing 1-1 marker in the third period.

The linesman even raised his arm indicating the offside call to be made, but the Hawks who stopped skating, expecting the linesman’s shrill whistle, never got it.

The players argued the goal and Puhalksi threw his jacket and a number of sticks on the ice in protest. He is expected to garner a three-game suspension to start next season for his actions.

After the play, Western would score once more and take both game two and the series.

“Momentum is a big part of hockey,” said Puhalski over the phone on Tuesday. “All of a sudden we had it taken away from us [after that non-call].”

“I can’t really make any comments on what happened after that,” said the coach. “The video speaks for itself and the people who were at the game saw what happened.”

The men’s squad used the exceptional goaltending of Ryan Daniels to even get within striking distance of toppling Western but it was not to be.

Still, Puhalski uses the series as a building block towards next season, when the team experiences the rarity of having all their players eligible to return.

“There’s a lot to be learned from losing … We’ll be a much better team if we use the hard questions we ask ourselves [after these playoffs], it’s a great tool to teach you.”

The coach wanted the group to focus on special teams (the power-play and the penalty-kill) as well as face-offs against Western.

The results were a mixed bag.

“The first game of the series, they scored two power-play goals against us in the first six minutes and that put us behind the eight-ball [in an eventual 4-2 loss],” said the coach. “Our face-offs were a little better.”

Puhalski expects to have a clearer picture of his new recruit situation in May and June when players commit to their universities, but until then, he hopes to build from a tumultuous year.

“There are things you can try and do better and if you’re able to take the positives away from [losing] then you can be a much better player and we’ll be a much better team,” said Puhalski.

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