Time to stop pucking around
ROLLER-COASTER FEVER. Western coach Barry Martinelli called a team meeting last night to ponder his team's offensive woes. Waterloo, the sixth-best team in the CIAU will be the first to test the results
By James Pugsley
The next two evenings will likely determine the fate of the OUAA West hockey standings, especially where Western is concerned.
Beginning tonight with a showdown against the Waterloo Warriors at Thompson Arena, followed by an equally-important game in Windsor tomorrow, Western faces an attitudinal challenge that could impact its survival in the playoffs.
The Mustangs have lost three of their last four games, including a 4-2 upset at the hands of last-place Laurier Wednesday which evened Western's record at 9-9. Over the course of those four games, the Mustangs scored only 10 times and gave up 14, lost a pair of players due to one-game suspensions (Jason Heywood and Joe Cook) and played with frustration and a lack of discipline.
"If you look at the last four games there wasn't any fire or intensity," Mustang coach Barry Martinelli said. "We're going over a lot of things right now and we have to wait through this."
Last Friday, the Mustangs, 5-3 losers to Waterloo, fell behind the Warriors (now 15-3) early and were unable to complete a late comeback. Waterloo coach Don McKee believes consistency has been the most significant factor for his team this season, a similar group to the one that won the OUAA championship a year ago.
"[Consistency] is the reason we're sitting with 30 points right now," said McKee, who watched his team beat Windsor 4-2 two nights after beating Western. "We take a lot of pride in our defence and a lot of our guys play big."
Chris Kraemer, a Warrior leftwinger from Elmira, Ont., has been with the team for five seasons and has been a part of many Waterloo-Western games.
"Western is traditionally a strong team," Kraemer said. "I think this [Waterloo] team has a lot of senior players and we can play any style. It's a definite advantage having veterans and now we're getting some goals from lines that don't normally contribute."
The Warriors, ranked sixth in the country, have put themselves in a strong position for a bye in the first round of the playoffs which begin Feb. 25. On that day, the second and third-place teams in each division will face off in a sudden-death game, likely a Western-Windsor shootout in the Far West.
"These next two games are very important because we'll be playing against teams we know we'll have to face in the playoffs," Martinelli said. "We're not to the point where it's critical that we win but it goes along with our attitude for the playoffs. We have to ask ourselves are we going to compete or are we going to win?"
All three teams will travel full circle this weekend when the Warriors and Windsor play Sunday in Waterloo.
Tonight's game begins at 7:30 p.m.