Pushing for the playoffs


Photo by Jody Waardenburg
Photo by Jody Waardenburg

As the playoff grind intensifies, the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s hockey team is rising up to the challenge. After sitting in tenth place in the standings the Hawks picked up two crucial wins last weekend, beating playoff contenders York Lions and Brock Badgers to propel themselves to sixth place in the Ontario University Athletics West, sitting right above the Guelph Gryphons.

Head coach Greg Puhalski said he is happy with the way the team is playing and their ability to play cohesively. According to the coach, special teams, which has been a common nemesis for the Golden Hawks, is finally coming together.

“I think for us, we’ve been able to get a more consistent effort for a longer period of the game,” Puhalski said. “As a team we’ve played better team hockey.”

“Everyone’s buying in and you don’t get two character wins like that with two teams battling for a playoff spot without everyone buying in,” said fourth-year captain Tyler Stothers.

Several players are heating up at the right time, with Stothers picking up three goals and two assists, bringing him into a three-way tie for second place in the OUA leading goal-scorers category. Second-year goaltender Vinny Merante is rounding into form after being bitten by the injury bug. First-year center Zach Lorentz also had a five-point weekend.

Stothers picked up a hat-trick Thursday night against the Lions in a match that came down to the wire as the Lions tied it up at three in the third period. Stothers was able to extend the lead and score the game-winning goal, as the Hawks would win the game 5-3.

The Hawks repeated their performance on Saturday night when they routed the Badgers 4-1 to surpass both of their opponents in the standings. Third-year Ryan Lopes scored three minutes into the contest and the Hawks didn’t look back from there.

“We feel like we’re already playing playoff hockey. We’re not in a position of comfort right now, we don’t have the luxury of having a bad game, and in the playoffs you don’t either,” Stothers said.

“It’s a three-game series and anything can happen. Getting hot at the right time, playing these games and coming out on top is huge to set the tone just going into the playoffs.”

According to Puhalski, players have to be able to maintain their intensity while playing, especially in this brand of hockey. As a four-line hockey club, it is important to keep tempo and pace of the game.

“University hockey is maintaining intensity, being in the game, throughout the game, and not letting yourself become complacent for 10-15 minutes of the game,” Puhalski said.

Laurier will face Western tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. in London.

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