Rookies are a 'solid B' so far
By James Pugsley
As Western and Laurier faced off at Thompson Arena on Wednesday in an important OUAA West division hockey showdown, the question everyone wondered was how much these teams had developed since their first confrontation on Oct. 5.
On that fateful day, when the host Mustang team consisting of 11 rookies edged out a team of 14 rookie-Golden Hawks 4-2, few knew what could be expected of such young and inexperienced squads.
Wednesday, with more than half the season in the books, Western's 2-1 victory over Laurier allowed both players and coaches alike to hand out mid-year report cards and the grades weren't perfect.
Laurier found itself in a must-win situation after losing two consecutive games to the 13-2 Waterloo Warriors. With the loss to Western, Laurier fell to 3-13 worst in the division however, the players remained surprisingly confident.
"We've played well but we haven't been able to capitalize on our chances," Golden Hawk forward Dave Archer said. "It's good that we're in games but it's frustrating that we're not winning."
As one of only a handful of returning players, Archer is looking forward to the next few seasons of hockey at Laurier.
"As a whole we're getting better every night, we just need some key players who can bury the puck and we'll be the team of the future."
When asked to grade the performance of the rookies on the revamped Western team, now 9-7, Western coach Barry Martinelli assigned a "solid B." However, the Mustang coach was not without comment.
"This team is so young it's almost like they're afraid," he said. "We've been pleased with the play of our young kids but I think we have been lacking the leadership. Without experience it's hard to have confidence and leadership."
With nine freshmen in the lineup Wednesday, including second-leading scorer Rob Schweyer, Western wanted to ready itself for a key showdown at Waterloo tonight a possible playoff preview.
"Our line hasn't played well lately," said Schweyer, who is matched on the top line with veteran forwards Brady Blain and Jason Heywood. "But I've learned a lot from those guys and I think by playoff time we will step it up and play better."
Winger Todd Bradley, among the few returning players to play inspired hockey in recent games, is satisfied with the performance of the young Mustangs this season.
"They've played really well," Bradley said. "They've had all the chances in the world to play and they've done their jobs but at the same time, we need them to step up in the playoffs even more."