Star netminder Daniels leaves big shoes to fill

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

(Photo by Nick Lachance)

Fourth-year goaltender Ryan Daniels will not use up his final year of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) player eligibility with the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks and signed a professional contract with the Central Hockey League’s (CHL) Missouri Mavericks.

Laurier head coach Greg Puhalski will have his hands full recruiting this off-season to replace his Ontario University Athletics (OUA) West division MVP and former fifth-round draft pick of the Ottawa Senators.

Puhalski will offer his current backup, Duncan Long, who has played two seasons with the Hawks, an opportunity to battle for the starting job in 2013-14.

“We will be bringing in at least one goalie, possibly two if we feel it helps make us a better team,” said the reigning OUA West Coach of the Year. “We are offering a goalie the chance to be our starter … This opportunity does not happen too often in the CIS.”

According to Puhalski, goaltenders in the CIS are typically given their rookie season to be tutored before they are considered for the full-time starting job. Daniels spent his rookie season splitting time with veteran Jeff MacDougald.

Long played in three games and registered a 1-0-0 record during the 2012-13 regular season. Prior to suiting up for the Golden Hawks, he played for the Kitchener Dutchmen of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) and was the Mid-Western Conference MVP in 2010-11.

“This off-season is going to revolve around hockey,” said Long. “This is a great opportunity for me going into my last year here at Laurier and I plan on taking advantage of it.”

“[Puhalski] is an excellent coach and will make the decisions he feels are best for the team. I am concentrating on playing the best hockey I can,” he continued.

The men’s hockey program will look to improve their 14-12-2 regular season record from 2012-13 and fifth place finish in the OUA West.

Laurier’s first-round best-of-three series loss against Guelph ended their season in mid-February.

Puhalski remains ambitious replacing Daniels, who played in 27 of 28 games during the regular season and was an integral part of Laurier’s playoff berth.

Daniels ranked inside the top ten in games played, wins, saves and save percentage in the OUA and was named the OUA West top goaltender for the year.

During his tenure, Daniels was named an OUA West MVP twice, an OUA West top goaltender of the year twice, a first-team all-star twice and a second-team all-star once.

His career record with the Hawks was 43-50, with save percentage of .921 and goals against average of 2.96 with five shutouts.

“Ryan’s best attribute was his consistency,” said Puhalski.

“[Daniels] usually gave our team a chance to win the game. We want that quality in our next goaltender. Plus a good work ethic, upbeat attitude and team player.”

“We need to play better defensively in front of our goaltender, we relied too much on Ryan. I believe we did that much better in the second half of this season. We have control to make our goaltending turnover a positive one,” Puhalski said.

The Hawks are also losing fourth-year Mitchell Good and fourth-year captain Kyle Van De Bospoort.

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