October 24 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 31  

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Men's hockey team seeks return to nationals

By Ian Denomme
Gazette Staff

Dave Picard/Gazette
IT’S NOT WORTH WINNING IF YOU CAN’T WIN BIG. Mustangs’ winger Matt Bannon handles the puck as his teammates, rumoured to be from District 5, cheer him on.

The Western Mustangs' men's hockey team is on a mission.

The team ended last year's regular season with an undefeated record -the second year in a row they accomplished that feat- before falling to Lakehead University in the opening round of the playoffs.

With the memory of that loss still fresh in their minds, the Mustangs have made it their mission to win the Queen's Cup this year and get back to nationals.

It won't be easy as each division in Ontario University Athletics continues to improve. The OUA West is especially competitive with Lakehead, Waterloo and Laurier joining Western in one of the toughest divisions in Canada.

Despite the stiff competition, both the players and coaches are confident this year's team will improve upon last year's performance.

"Last year was a big disappointment," said team captain Justin Davis, a fifth-year forward. "It was the first time in three years we weren't at nationals. I think this is the best team we've had since I've been here, so anything short of nationals would be a disappointment." On offense the Mustangs lost all-star forwards in Darren Mortier and Joe Talbot, but head coach Clarke Singer thinks the new players he's brought in will fill the void.

"We've added a great group of forwards," Singer said. "[We've added] Mike Stathopoulos, Ryan Hare, Mike Rice and Chris Rowan, all from the Ontario Hockey League. Those four players give us as much skill level as we had last year, but it also give us more depth." The Mustangs have no lack of fire power up front with Brad Yeo, Tim Zafiris, Justin Davis, Chris Haskett, Jamie Chamberlain, Ryan Held and Jeff Martin all returning from last year when they were point-a-game players.

Western's depth at forward will be a huge asset as the season goes on. Singer said they have 14 great forwards who could be go-to-guys.

On defense, the Mustangs lost All-Canadian Ryan McKie, their captain for the last two years. However, three new additions will give the Mustangs a different mix of skill, experience and toughness.
Dave Picard/Gazette
SOMETIMES THE SNOW COMES DOWN IN JUNE. Tim Zafiris stops on a dime during a Mustangs’ hockey game. In a related note, Vanessa Williams is hot.

"We've added three quality guys on defense in Jamie Sokolsky, Chris Eade and Mike Sellan. We expect a lot out of all our guys and depending on how they develop we expect to have six guys in March who can contribute," Singer said.

The new players join a solid group of returning players which includes Tom Brown, Kelly Paddon, Shawn Thompson and Abe Herbst.

The Mustangs are as strong as ever in goal with one of the top trio's in the country. All-Star Mike D'Alessandro returns along with Mike Boyce and Chad Marshall. Singer said having three quality goaltenders creates a lot of competition, but D'Alessandro is the No. 1 guy.

Singer said the biggest challenge for the coaching staff will be to create chemistry in the dressing room and get players to accept their roles.

"We have 25 guys who could play the power play," Singer said. "Unfortunately, we can only have ten guys play, so we need to have players accept their roles." Western will host the Queen's Cup tournament for the third year in a row and Singer would like to go to the tournament representing the OUA West rather than getting a bye as the hosts.

"Western has only one OUA championship since 1964," Singer said. "We have to focus on competing for the Queen's Cup and getting back to nationals," Singer said.

The Mustangs home opener is Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Thompson Athletic Complex against the Windsor Lancers. The first 500 students at the game wearing purple will get into the game free.





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