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Calm, adversity, then success
By Ryan Dixon
KITCHENER, ON. The rise, the fall and the final redemption William Shakespeare would have been proud of this bunch.
In a season reminiscent of a classic comedy, the Western men's hockey team endured deceptive calm, inevitable adversity and a worthy opponent before proving they had learned something from everything they faced during this championship season.
For much of their undefeated regular season, the Mustangs' world consisted of little else than calculators as they totalled up their eye-popping statistics. Statistics so glowing The Hockey News anointed them the pre-eminent hockey machine in the universe.
The fairy tale started to unravel when stand-out defenceman Kelly Paddon stood out for the wrong reasons. Paddon tested positive for the banned substance ephedrine on Nov. 17 and was subsequently suspended. Paddon would eventually return for the playoffs, just in time for another, much more grave setback.
After a double overtime win in game two of their best-of-three series with Lakehead, Western trainer Lorne Thompson passed away while performing some final tasks in the vacated dressing room.
The extent to which the team missed Thompson could not be done proper justice here.
Their regular season dominance was a distant memory by the time Western narrowly defeated Lakehead and eventually lost to arch nemesis Université du
Québec à Trois-Rivières in the Queen's Cup final on the home ice of Thompson Arena.
At this point, Western was nowhere near the most dominant team in the universe but their stars were starting to align.
The Mustangs then made their third consecutive appearance at the University Cup both teams that advance to the Queen's Cup final get an invitation to the national dance. This time they brought their dancing blades.
For three days, under intense competition, the Western players grew together.
They weren't dominating but they were winning.
Goaltender Mike D'Allessandro was peaking. He gave his teammates a chance to beat Alberta in the semifinal game and they made good, converting the chances they had into goals.
Western was getting better with each game in the tournament.
They entered the final game as a team united by a common goal getting the King Kong-sized monkey off their back by finally beating UQTR after three consecutive, heart-wrenching losses to them in the Queen's Cup final.
UQTR is as theatrical as they are skilled. Western had to be as disciplined as they are deep. They put their faith in the notion that when the final buzzer sounded, no matter how long it took, this team of Mustangs would outlast the highly talented, but thin Patriotes.
Western persevered through this final challenge just as they endured all of this season's adversity as a team.