Volume 92, Issue 72
Thursday, February 4, 1999
Bronzed Mustangs back from games
© Dipesh Mistry/Gazette
By John Dinner
Five thousand screaming fans chanting "Canada" jammed into a small ice box just off the beaten path.
This must be Kamloops, Timmins or some other place in Canada where hockey is No. 1. Actually it was Slovakia, the site of this year's World University Games, where Western men's hockey team members Jeff Petrie and Jim Moss represented Canada and the university.
"It was really quite incredible to see how much Canadian hockey is revered over there," said assistant coach of Canada and Western's head coach Barry Martinelli. "We had over 5,000 fans out for our semifinal game and we'd even have a couple hundred people at our practices and waiting after the games for autographs."
That atmosphere, along with being one of the fan's favourites, drove the Canadians to succeed on the ice, bringing home the bronze medal with a 5-1 win over the Russians.
"It was almost like being at home," said Moss, a defenceman with the Mustangs. "It gave us a lot of confidence and gave us just one more reason to go out and play hard."
"You really couldn't help but get caught up in it," Martinelli said.
Despite the high level of competition and the chance to represent Canada, the tournament became secondary to the experience of being able to participate in an event of such magnitude. Over 2,000 athletes from 40 different countries were in attendance.
"The opening and closing ceremonies are something that I'm going to remember for quite some time," said Mustang centre Petrie. "We got a chance to meet a lot of different people, hear their stories and really see the differences between cultures."
This opportunity was not only an experience which will be remembered, but it also provided an excellent learning experience for the athletes.
"Anyone who has the chance to travel abroad whether it be for something like this or just go see the world should do it," Moss said. "I learned more there in two weeks than I have in my year and a half here."
Martinelli reiterated those feelings, extending them to the team on the whole.
"To a man, everyone on the team will say it was the best hockey experience of their lives," Martinelli commented. "For the team, the coaches and the players, it was a great experience and a great learning experience."
Now that the team members are back from the tournament their focus will be on returning Western back to the top of the standings and out of their current four-game slide.
"I don't think any one person can change the way we're playing as a team," said the Mustang captain, Petrie. "But with [winger Rob] Schweyer getting healthy and myself and Moss back it can only help. I think it's better that we're going through this now than three weeks from now."
The Mustangs will be aiming to get back on the winning side of things tonight when they travel to York to take on the Yeomen.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999