Hockey team frozen in second for the holidays
By John Dinner
The first half of the Mustang hockey season came to a close on Friday in Waterloo with a 3-3 tie, extending Western's current unbeaten streak to four and improving their record to 7-4-1, worthy of second place in the Far West division.
Western travelled to Waterloo to play the Warriors, a team the Mustangs have yet to beat this season. Playing a solid team game, the opportunity was there for the win, but Western just could not cash in on the opportunities.
The Mustangs got off to a tough start after the bench was issued a minor penalty, giving Waterloo the chance to take an early lead. After scoring on the power play, Waterloo quickly added to the lead by capitalizing on a bad bounce, leaving the Mustangs with the task of battling back from a two-goal deficit for the second game in a row.
Veteran winger Todd Bradley, playing with a broken hand, was disappointed with the team's start.
"They really took it to us early, but we were able to bounce back and get the point," he said. "Building on our unbeaten streak at this point we felt was really important."
With goals from captain Joe Cook and rookies Shaun Fairweather and Chris George, the team fought their way back into the game with great forechecking and aggressive play. Western assistant coach Clarke Singer was particularly pleased with the team's effort.
"We got a real good effort from the guys tonight. In the last couple of weeks we have been playing extremely well," he said. "We are pleased with where we are at this point in the season."
Fifth-year centre Mike Allain, who has played the majority of the season on the top line with Matt Gray and Damon Hardy, felt the game was definitely winnable.
"We outplayed them and outshot them," Allain said. "We really deserved to win this game, the bounces just didn't go our way."
Allain also pointed to the stellar goaltending of CJ Denomme, who returned from an injury that has kept him on the bench for the last couple of games.
"He made the big saves when we needed them and really kept us in the game," Allain said. "He's been real consistent for us all year and allowed us the opportunity to win games."
The Mustangs have positioned themselves for the stretch drive based on the improved play of Fairweather and George, the increased on-ice leadership roles of Cook and Hardy, the growing confidence of the blue-line corps and two solid goaltenders.
When the team returns from the holiday tournament at the University of British Columbia, all the troops should be fully recovered from injuries and players like Bradley and Rob Schweyer will again be able to perform at top level, giving them a chance at challenging the undefeated Windsor Lancers for the top spot in the West.