Volume 94, Issue 96
Thursday, March 22, 2001
Four days. Six teams. One hockey champ.
SO ARE WE THE X'S OR THE O'S? Letters can be confusing but there is no question who should wear the 'C' for the Mustangs it's captain Jeff Petrie.
By Ryan Dixon
What a difference a year can make.
That is the dominant theme for the Western Mustangs, as they head to Kitchener to participate in their second consecutive Canadian Intercollegiate University Athletics championship.
Western assistant coach Dave Bogart highlighted the contrast between the mind set of this year's squad and last year's team.
"I think our guys are taking on a very workman-like attitude. Last year, we were kind of tourists at this tournament. We weren't sure what to expect. This year, if we bring our 'A' game, we will be one of six teams with a legitimate shot at winning," he said.
Defenceman Joe Birch echoed Bogart's sentiments about Western being a contender this year. "I think we can really draw on last year's experience. [The University of Quebec at Trois Rivieres] were number two [in national ranking] all year and we played with them. Unfortunately, we didn't get the result, but we know the level we can play at."
Western has a tough draw in pool 'A' with defending champions the University of Alberta and a strong St. Francis Xavier team.
Being able to compete with a team like UQTR will benefit the Mustangs in their first game against St. FX. The X-men are a very similar squad to the fast frenchmen, according to Bogart.
"They're very offensive, very free skating, maybe a bit more physical than UQTR. Overall, we feel we match up very well," he said.
Having not seen St. FX first hand could be a hindrance for Western, but Birch said the team has done some hockey networking to try and get the inside edge.
"A couple of guys on the team have played with guys from St. Thomas (also in the tournament), so we've talked to them about what to expect and they've helped us out," he said.
In a tournament with such little room for error, nerves are always a factor. Bogart said he expects the butterflies to be present, but not for an extended period of time. "Every guy will be gripping the stick a little tighter on both teams, but only for the first couple of shifts of the first game."
Bogart will be concentrating on doing the little things right. Face-offs, back checking and special teams all take on a greater significance in tight situations. Beyond that, Bogart said it will take a little luck.
"Hopefully we will get some bounces and the hockey Gods will be smiling on us. Last year, we didn't get those bounces with our two losses in overtime," he said.
Bogart said because of Western's tough losses when competing at the highest level, a win in their first game would be a significant boost.
"It would do a world of good for our confidence. If we can win our first game we will be in the driver's seat and our confidence will go way up. It will be fun to watch this team if we get on a roll. I think we'll be tough to beat," Bogart said.
Assistant captain Chris George, a player who was present last year for the team's crushing defeat, said anything less than the ultimate prize will be a tough pill to swallow this year.
"This year, a loss would be really tough to take. Last year, the team was strong, but it would have taken a lot of outstanding performances and some big breaks to win. This year we really feel we have the team to win," he said.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000