·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   · 

Volume 91, Issue 31

Thursday, October 23, 1997

Froshty the Snowman


Hockey season ready but are the Mustangs?

©Geoff Robins/Gazette
ANOTHER RUN FOR THE PLAYOFF MONEY. Western's hockey season will be off and racing beginning tonight when they travel to York. Brady Blain [16] and co-captain Mike Shewan [right] are among a group of veterans who departed from last season's squad.

By Joe Ruscica
Gazette Staff

It's time to lace up those steel blades and start eating rubber (pucks, that is) for breakfast – the Mustang hockey season is back!

With over half of last year's team returning, Western hopes to rekindle the late-season heroics in the '96-97 campaign and forget about the dismal pre-season play to begin this year's campaign.

Western's first seven outings have yielded the Mustangs only one win (1-5-1) which has left head coach Barry Martinelli scratching his head.

"Of course, [the pre-season] was not as good as we would have liked. Last year was a rebuilding year – we had 12 new guys," Martinelli said. "This year is a continuation and we only have two seniors back, so we're still a young team but we think we can be more competitive this year than we were last year."

Third-year Mustang goaltender C.J. Denomme felt the team's pre-season record was a statistic which amounts to little once the regular season begins.

"There was a method to [Martinelli's] madness," Denomme said. "Barry played the younger guys a lot to see what they could do."

Western's biggest disappointment has been the lack of offence, with the Mustangs setting off the red light only 12 times in their six exhibition games.

Although Western's offensive thrust, or lack thereof, can be attributed to many factors (namely early injuries and preseason jitters), a comparison of last season's roster with this year's squad raises concern.

Gone from last year's contingent are three Ontario University Athletics National Junior Team members: centre Jason Heywood and defencemen Mike Shewan and Brian Grieve (co-captains), all of whom were key components to Western's success. Heywood is now playing in Tallahassee, Shewan is playing in England and Grieve's eligibility has expired – leaving three big pairs of skates to fill.

"This year is going to have to be a team effort," Martinelli said. "We're not loaded in talent, but we're deep in depth."

Players like third-year centre Jeff Mancini and sophomore Jeff Petrie will be expected to pick up the slack. It is also hoped winger Mike Schweyer will rebound from a shoulder injury he suffered early in the preseason and has plagued him for the duration of the exhibition schedule.

"We're a good unified team," Denomme said. "We can't go out and buy skills, but experience will come as the season goes on. That's going to help out a lot."

Last season Denomme, who played through a wrist injury, came up big when he needed to, but had lapses from time to time. With the departure of his strongest defencemen in Shewan and Grieve, Denomme will have a far less margin for error this season. Nevertheless, the six-foot-one, 190-pound goalie is a lot more poised and feels good going into tonight's game.

"I'm more confident this year physically and mentally," he said.

The OUA Far West division, consisting of Western, Laurier, Waterloo and Windsor, is going to be as tough, if not tougher than last year. The Mustangs finished third in the division last season and upset both Windsor and Waterloo in the playoffs before falling to York in the OUAA semi-final.

"Laurier has improved and Windsor is still solid, Martinelli said. "Waterloo isn't as good as they were last year, but they're still tough. It's gonna be a dog-fight for positioning."

Denomme summed-up his early-season predictions saying "We're gonna be in the thick of things and we're gonna be in every game."

Due to injuries and the team's lacklustre performance in the preseason, Martinelli and his coaching staff have yet to make final cuts. The official roster will be finalized sometime today – just in time for the puck to drop at the York Ice Gardens at 7:30 p.m.. Saturday's game will be played at Thompson Arena at 5 p.m..

©All photos by Geoff Robins/Gazette
HERE WE GO AGAIN. Western coach Barry Martinelli [above right] knows his team will need solid goaltending from C.J. Denomme [below] and some scoring punch from centre Jeff Mancini [ above left] et al.

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

Copyright © The Gazette 1997