'06-07 OUA playoff preview

What's coming up for the Mustangs?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Men's hockey

Joyce Wang

MORE ICE THAN A BEVERLY HILLS PAWN SHOP. The men's hockey team takes on the Brock Badgers this week in the first round of the Ontario University Athletics postseason.

With the Ontario University Athletics regular season over, men’s hockey teams are focusing on the Queen’s Cup playoffs, which begin this week.

Lakehead (13-10-3-2) takes on the York Lions (13-10-3-2), while Western (17-6-3-2) hosts the Brock Badgers (14-12-1-1) at Thompson Arena.

The Mustangs have been on a tear as of late, winning eight of their last 10 games and recording a point in last weekend’s 1-1 tie against the Thunderwolves. The Mustangs have racked up an impressive 47 goals in the 10-game time span.

If history repeats itself, this week’s series against Brock will bode well for the Purple and Silver; Western beat the Badgers in both regular season meetings.

The team’s confidence shows. Mustang players have been all smiles lately and there’s no reason it shouldn’t stay that way considering the state of the Ontario University Athletics’ Far West division.

That said, the Badgers have been on a mini-streak lately, registering points in all their final four games and upsetting York 4-3 in overtime last week.

Despite its two victories over Brock this season, Western shouldn’t underestimate the resilient Badgers squad, which rattled off five consecutive goals in their final game after trailing 4-2 to the bottom-feeding Guelph Gryphons (7-14-3-4) before settling for a 7-7 draw.

In fact, Mustang fans should acknowledge the magnitude of this series for the underdog Badgers. In their final regular season meeting with Western, the Badgers had two key goals called back, including a third period tally that would have cut the lead to one.

Beyond the stats and the drama, the key to a Western victory will be the Mustangs’ ability to stay out of the penalty box and take advantage of mental mistakes by converting power-play opportunities.

This bodes well for a unit that has enjoyed a coming-out party lately with the emergence of centre Ryan Hare as a dominant scorer. The Mustangs have also been efficient on the power play, scoring at an 18.4-per cent clip.

The Purple and Silver’s even-strength scoring is also noteworthy. Winger Jeff Martens, defenceman Tom Harrison and centre Sean Courtney have benefited from increased ice time and rewarded the coaching staff with goals in recent victories.

Another major storyline this week is the sudden resignation of Pete Belliveau, head coach of the defending Queen’s Cup champion Lakehead Thunderwolves. Lakehead athletic director Tom Warden will step in as interim head coach. The change could throw a wrench in the gears for a Thunderwolves team already struggling with discipline, as Lakehead is third in Ontario University Athletics in penalty minutes.

Throw in the fact Lakehead is struggling in net " netminder Chris Whitley’s 11-9-2 record, 3.66 goals-against average and .890 save percentage are underwhelming " and Wolves fans have extra reason to feel tense.

Western’s three-game series with Brock begins Thursday at Thompson Arena at 7:30 p.m.

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