The Western Mustangs men’s hockey team played their final home game of the regular season on Thursday night, losing 5-3 to a desperate Windsor team. It was the Mustangs first regulation loss of 2018, with their previous loss coming in overtime against the Brock Badgers back in January. On a night when Western honoured its five graduating players, it was second year forward Mitchell Fitzmorris who lead the way offensively with two goals. He was the only Mustangs player who got more than one point on the evening. With only one game left in the regular season, Western find itself in familiar territory just before playoffs- injured. The team, which struggled staying healthy during the first half of the season had been the hottest team in the OUA going into Thursday night’s game, having not lost a game in regulation since November 2017. A big reason for the Mustangs’ turnaround was the fact that the team was getting healthy again- regulars returned to the lineup- including starting goaltender Luke Peresinni, who was just one of the many injured Mustang players in the first half of the season. Peresinni had been completely dominant since returning from injury, so it was odd to see him give up four goals in Thursday night’s loss, as he had not let in more than three goals in a game all season and was a big reason why the Mustangs had won nine out of their last ten games.
Peresinni was not the only Mustang who struggled on this night; as the team had two separate two goal leads, 2-0 and 3-1, and uncharacteristically sloppy defensive play lead to Windsor tying and eventually winning the game- something Head Coach Clarke Singer and his staff won’t be happy about. To add insult to injury, Windsor’s first two goals were both scored with less than a minute to go in the first and second period, respectively- not a good habit for Western to be giving up late goals with the playoffs just a week away.
The Windsor Lancers put forth a gusty effort all night, in must win game for them as they fight for their playoff lives. Lancer starting goalie Jonathan Reinhart was solid all night long, making some 31 saves on 34 shots, including a breakaway save in the second period to keep the score at 2-0 and allow his team to get back in the game. Windsor defenceman Adam Burnett also put forth a valiant effort in the third period with a huge shot block during a potent Western powerplay, as well as two huge defensive efforts with his stick late in the third to preserve the one goal lead for Windsor.
To pour more salt into the wound, it appears Western lost yet another player due to injury as forward/defenceman Adam Sinclair did not return to the bench for the third period with an upper body injury. His loss is big blow for a team that was already missing five regulars, including defenceman Stephen Desrocher- a former Maple Leafs draft pick, and forward Kyle Pettit, one of the top offensive threats for the Mustangs. Head Coach Clarke Singer is unsure if any of the injured players will return to the lineup this season-not a great omen for a team that has struggled with injuries all year and has just one game left until the post season.
Western currently sits tied for fifth in the OUA west with Laurier, comfortably in a playoff spot but only two points up on Brock, who still have two games left in its regular season. Windsor currently sits in the eighth and final playoff spot, two points up on the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, a team that plays Friday and Saturday to close out its regular season. The Mustangs and Lancers are back at it on Saturday night in Windsor for the second half of home and home series to close out their seasons. Both games are must wins as Windsor needs to win to secure a playoff berth, meanwhile Western is hoping to move up in the standings and gain home ice advantage for playoffs.