Western takes two from T-Wolves

OUA Men’s Hockey

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Chasing after the puck

Joyce Wang

CALL ME THE COOKIE MONSTER, BECAUSE I’M BATTLING FOR THE BISCUIT. Even The Count would have had some trouble keeping score for Western this weekend. The Mustangs took down powerhouse Lakehead 6-3 and 6-2 Saturday and Sunday.

Even before the puck dropped on the Western men’s hockey team’s series versus the Lakehead Thunderwolves at the John Labatt Centre this weekend, it had all the makings of a heavyweight title fight.

Lakehead (12-7-2-1) came into the weekend one point ahead of the Mustangs (13-5-2-2) for second place in the Ontario University Athletics Far West division.

Head coach Clarke Singer’s group ran the Wolves out of London, scoring 12 goals en route to 6-3 and 6-2 victories. The wins vaulted Western past Lakehead in the division with only six regular season games remaining.

“We’ve been on Lakehead’s tail,” said Western forward Jesse Boucher after Saturday’s win. “We’ve been trailing them all year and the playoffs are coming up. We have to go to Lakehead and play two games, so we want to get the points [Sunday] and hopefully take over second spot.”

Boucher notched three goals over the weekend.

“I thought Western had a lot more passion than we did,” said Lakehead coach Pete Belliveau. “They competed harder " they wanted it more than we did. We just didn’t compete hard enough.”

The Purple and Silver were sparked by a group of hot forwards, including three goals from first-line winger Ryan Hare " two of them game winners.

The line of Hare, captain Craig Kennedy and second-leading scorer Steve Benedetti combined for 14 points in the weekend series.

The inspired ’Stangs rolled all four lines over the travel-worn visitors, which bodes well for Western as it enters its last few games, including two against Lakehead in Thunder Bay.

Hare said a balanced Western attack was important for securing the weekend sweep and going forward into the playoffs.

“We don’t [really] have a number-one line,” Hare said. “All the lines are contributing, whether it’s keeping the puck deep or scoring a goal. It’s great to get contributions from all four [lines], and it makes the win that much sweeter.”

However, sloppy defensive play paraded Mustangs to the penalty box throughout Saturday’s first period. Western took three consecutive penalties on three occasions in the first game.

Lakehead capitalized, scoring all three of its goals on the power play. Still, Singer said Western’s even-strength play more than compensated for its early penalty trouble.

“Our five-on-five defensive play has been pretty solid,” he said. “You’re going to score power-play goals, but if you play good five-on-five defence, you’re going to go a long way. We did that this weekend.”

Despite the successful weekend, Singer didn’t want to put too much stock into using momentum to propel the Mustangs into the OUA playoffs.

“We can’t get ahead of ourselves,” Singer said. “This is one good weekend and we have to get back to the drawing board on Tuesday and prepare for a couple more very difficult games this week.”

Equally important going forward will be the play of Western netminder Brad Topping, who stood on his head against the Thunderwolves. Topping stopped 51 of 56 shots and was instrumental in slowing a speedy Lakehead attack that entered the weekend averaging four and a half goals per game.

“I felt good out there,” Topping said. “The guys gave us the offence, and myself and the defence just tried to do our job, keep the puck out of the net and let the offence do the work.”

“When you play good teams you’re going give up good chances, and that’s maybe as well as I’ve seen [Topping] play,” Singer said. “He made some key saves in the third period when it was 4-2 that could have made it 4-3, so it’s nice to see.”

Western hits the road Thursday against the York Lions. The Mustangs beat York 3-2 in November.

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