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Volume 90, Issue 82

Wednesday, February 19, 1997



Leadership has its privileges

©Dave Jack/Gazette
THE COMMON DENOMME-NATOR. Western goalie C.J. Denomme must continue to be the vocal leader of the Mustangs if the team has any hopes of winning in the post-season.

By James Pugsley

Gazette Staff

The worst ice storm of the year is about to hit Ontario but only hockey fans will know.

With only two games left to play in the regular season, the playoff forecast for hockey in the OUAA appears to have plenty of hot and cold squads on a collision course. But regardless of the conditions, players and coaches around the conference are all looking for someone or something to lead them – thunderously or quietly – through the blizzard and onward to Toronto for a shot at the national title.

"University hockey is about leadership in the playoffs," Brock forward Todd Zavitz said following an 8-4 loss to Western Feb. 13. "Everybody has to lead by example."

During the game, Zavitz added two points to his already impressive 45, tops on a team of youngsters that must now venture into the darkness of sudden-death playoff hockey. "I know I've got to perform and score goals to make the offence click," he said.

The Badger forward is not alone when it comes to leading a young team. For Western, leadership has come from a player who rarely touches the puck – goalie C.J. Denomme. The six-foot-one London native with strong netminding skills has been a vocal leader for the Mustangs regardless of the team's up and down season.

"I let the onus fall on me whether we win or lose," Denomme said. "As one of the older guys on the team we know we all have to step up our leadership abilities in the playoffs."

Western (13-11-1) has struggled to maintain equilibrium all season and will finish third in the Far West division despite a current three-game winning streak. Meanwhile, Waterloo and Windsor will decide the top two positions amongst themselves later this week. A Western victory over the Warriors tonight combined with a Lancer win in Waterloo Saturday would push Windsor into the top spot. Western awaits the loser, something Denomme is not overly concerned about.

"It doesn't matter if it's either team, we're in for an uphill battle since we're not playing in our own barn," he said. "We know we can't afford lapses against teams like them. If we don't come to play in the first period then we're going to be in for a rude awakening."

Windsor (14-7-3) is currently the hottest team in the country, earning 19 of a possible 22 points in the past 11 games. Head coach Rick Cranker attributes the surge to his players' ability to become comfortable with one another.

"We're playing the same style of hockey that we did in the fall, it's just that the puck seems to be going into the net in the second half," Cranker said. "At one time we were just hoping to catch Western. It wasn't until last week that we started thinking about Waterloo."

The Lancers, a veteran group that was responsible for eliminating Western last year, is loaded with leaders – something that has plenty of importance around playoff time.

"[Leadership] is a key thing with a team like ours," Cranker said. "Our team is not as talented as some others in the league, however our team chemistry and attitude stems from our veterans and their abilities to lead both on and off the ice."

"Leadership is what gives one team an advantage over another," Marlin Muylaert, head coach of the Guelph Gryphons, claims. "All of the teams have enough talent to win, it's the teams with the most determination, spirit and leadership that will end up winning it all."

Individually speaking, Guelph is led by the inspirational goaltending of Matt Mullin, whose 2.20 goals against average has made him one of the most outstanding goalies around. And with seven forwards scoring between 26 and 33 points in the lineup, there is little preventing the Gryphons from regaining the Mid East Division title en route to greater things.

Tonight's Western-Waterloo game begins at 7:30 p.m. at Thompson Arena. Bring a scarf because the storm is almost here.

©James Pugsley/Gazette
TENDING TO THE GOAL. Guelph's Matt Mullin has been a quiet leader all season

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997