Volume 91, Issue 81

Wednesday, March 4, 1998



Still the icy bridesmaid

©Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
I DON'T HAVE ANY LUNCH MONEY. Rumours that Western and Waterloo were attached at the hip came to the forefront last week in the first round of playoffs. Only one goal separated the teams in each of the three games.

By James Pugsley
Gazette Staff

The hockey season ended early for the Western Mustangs last Friday, but the Waterloo Warriors, in particular goalie Joe Harris, had to put in plenty of overtime to put the horse on ice.

After beating Western 4-0 in the final game of the regular season to clinch home-ice advantage in the first round, both teams knew their best-of-three first-round OUA showdown would be evenly matched. Sure enough, only one goal separated them in each of the games: a 3-2 Waterloo win at Western last Tuesday; a 2-1 overtime road win for Western on Friday night, immediately followed by a 3-2 double-overtime Mustang loss in a 20-minute mini-game to decide the series. The defeat ended Western's season and propelled a tired, but satisfied Waterloo squad into a best-of-five series with the division's best team, the Windsor Lancers.

The praise of Waterloo coach Don McKee fell directly on his star goalie, Joe Harris, who bounced back from a 2-0 playoff defeat at the hands of Western last year.

"[Harris] was the key to our success," McKee said. "He left many of their guys shaking their heads because they could have won the game, but his goaltending told the story."

In the mini-game, which started only 20 minutes after Western's Shaun Fairweather scored to keep the Mustang hopes alive in overtime of the second game, Harris came up big. The 23-year-old native of Mitchell, Ontario, stopped two breakaways and survived one and a half more overtime periods before Warrior Jeff Goldie beat Western netminder C.J. Denomme with the dramatic game-winner.

"After losing the first [Friday night] game I invited the pressure and tried to play the best game I could," Harris said. "It took total heart and a lot of determination from everyone to win."

Harris credits the home-ice advantage as a significant part of Waterloo's success, especially considering the 3-2 Warrior victory in game one came during Western's slack week – leaving Thompson Arena relatively empty of student fan support.

For Western, the loss was not a total disappointment. With 18 players in their first or second year and a possible 23 of 25 of them returning to play for the Mustangs next season, the overtime battle was a big learning experience.

"It was probably one of the best games we were involved in all year," Western head coach Barry Martinelli said. "We were good enough to win but the bottom line is we didn't score enough goals." Going into the series, Martinelli thought special teams would be a factor, however, neither team's scored on the power play and both top lines were shut down until Goldie ended Western's season.

Martinelli also praised the Mustang goalie Denomme, who stood on his head in overtime and was a leader for the Mustangs all year. To Denomme, who is applying to teachers college at Western, the loss was certainly not a surprise.

"I'm a strong believer in fate and it just wasn't meant to be," Denomme said. "It was a season of highs and lows, but it was unbelievable how well the young guys came into their own. I couldn't have asked for any more from the team [on Friday] – the guys really wore their hearts on their sleeve."

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

Copyright © The Gazette 1998