Volume 96, Issue 79
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

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"The Untouchables" - Western's men's hockey team

By Benjamin Mills
Gazette Staff

Lennie Kwan/Gazette
WHO LET THE DAWGS OUT? With a 24-0 regular season record, Joe Talbot and the Western Mustangs are poised to defend their national title.

"What will determine the legacy of this team will not be the regular season accomplishments, but what will happen over the next four weeks."

-– Clarke Singer, head coach of Western Mustangs hockey team



Don Shula led the 1972 Miami Dolphins to the National Football League's only undefeated season. Bud Wilkenson led the Oklahoma Sooners to a NCAA record 47 game winning streak in college football. Now, Clarke Singer has led his Western Mustangs to perfect 24-0 regular season.

Over the last two seasons, Singer has guided the Mustangs to a 46-0-2 regular season record. That's not a typo – he hasn't lost in two years.

Must be something in the water.

"It's a little bit of luck and a lot of determination," said Mustangs forward Tim Zafiris. "There's only been about 10 or so games that have been tight out of the last 48, so we've been lucky on a few occasions."

Lady luck may have played a role, but nobody goes undefeated in 48 games based purely on luck. Not even Hugh Hefner is that lucky.

Last season, the Mustangs went 22-0-2 and were led by the explosive Canadian Interuniversity Sport Rookie of the Year Matt Dzieduszycki, who now plays for the Columbus Blue Jackets American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.

Forward Rob "The Poet" Frost was another key loss for the Mustangs. He took the road less travelled and ventured to the Central Hockey League to play with the Odessa Jackelopes south of the border.

However, Zafiris, among others, have picked up the offensive slack.

"I'm getting more ice-time than I did last year, and my confidence has improved. Plus, my linemates are smart and know what to do with the puck, so it's pretty easy getting points off them," Zafiris said.

But the fact that Western dominated the entire OUA last season may be somewhat misleading. Western lost in the Queen's Cup final to the Université de Quebec ‡ Trois Rivieres Patriotes, but since the top two teams in Ontario make it to the University Cup tournament, Western snuck their way in – and won.

What made the win that much sweeter (and longer) was that they faced the same UQTR squad in the finals, finally getting the French monkey off their back by beating the Patriotes 4-3 in triple overtime.

You may be asking yourself, "Golly, what makes those Mustangs so gosh darn great, dag nabbit?"

"Two things: we have a great staff of coaches and scouts that look at prospects from all over, and we have a great group of [players] that show the recruits around Western, and really do a great job of teaching the recruits about the team," Singer said.

There's more.

"We don't try to get only skilled players, we look for well-rounded student athletes who are not only good at what they do on the ice, but are good people off the ice," Singer said.

Now that the formalities known as the regular season are over, the Mustangs get some time off to wait for their next opponent, the winner of the Lakehead/Windsor best-of-three series.

Of course, it's natural to draw comparisons between the team that won the National Championship and this year's Mustangs. Mustangs captain Ryan Mckie addressed that issue "Only time will tell if this year's team is better than last year's championships team."

Once again, the Queen's Cup tournament will be held at Thompson Arena with the championship game scheduled for Sunday, Mar. 9 at 7:30 p.m..

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