Volume 94, Issue 58

Friday, January 5, 2001


SPORTS

Party just starting for ballers

Second half brings new challenges - Hockey team enters new year undefeated

2001's fearless forecast

Second half brings new challenges - Hockey team enters new year undefeated



By Ryan Dixon
Gazette Staff



Hockey players have been known to be a little superstitious, so you will have to forgive the Mustangs men's hockey team if they are a touch nervous about their next game. Western has not lost this season, posting 12 straight wins – meaning the next game is unlucky number 13.

Western has been beaten this year, but the losses have been limited to exhibition tournaments like the one they played in Ottawa on Dec. 29 and 30. The team went 1-1-0 losing to the University of Ottawa 8-5 and defeating Brock 3-1.

To say the Mustangs have played well in the first half of the season would be like saying it has been mildly cool this winter. Let's face it, the Mustangs have been as hot as the weather has been cold. Western head coach, Clarke Singer, said he could not put his finger on one defining reason for the early season success.

"I really don't think it's one thing," We've lot of quality players who are willing to work hard. We are lucky in that respect because many teams have talent but are not willing to work. We seem to have the depth, talent and the work ethic to go with it."

Western forward, Chris George, said he thought the contribution of the younger Mustangs has helped propel the team to great heights. "I think a big thing has been that the young guys have done a great job of fitting in. A lot of people would have trouble adjusting to our style, but Clarke has done a great job of recruiting guys with speed that can fit in. The veterans have also picked up where we left off."

Centre Darren Mortier, was quick to point out that this is also a very tight knit group of hockey players. "Our trip out west early in the season really gave us a chance to bond as a team and any team that has success has to have good team chemistry. We're also very skilled from the front line all the way back through the defence to the goalies," he said.

But winning streaks and undefeated records are not really on the minds of the players as they enter the second half of their schedule. Singer said what happened in the first half is ancient history and the team can expect much tighter matches in this term.

"There is a huge difference between the first and second half. When teams get back from the break they realize the play-offs are only six weeks away and they get very serious about winning," he said.

Singer added the Mustangs could be marked men in the new year. "I think a lot of teams will be coming hard for us. I think we will have a star on a lot of teams' calendars."

Mortier also said he sees things heating up in the second half of the season as the Western schedule calls for lots of head to head battles with division foes.

"We have a lot of road games and a lot of divisional games so it is going to get the rivalries going. I think being in close games is going to help us because we know when the play-offs start, it is going to be tight," he said.

Singer was very specific when he identified what the Mustangs will have to work on to experience post-season success. "Little things, in the play-offs last year all our games were won or lost by a goal. Things like face-offs, penalty killing and power play become very important and sometimes they get overlooked in the regular season when you're up two or three goals."


To Contact The Sports Department:
gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

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