Peressini Shutout Makes It 7 Straight Wins
Western Mustangs Men's HockeySteve Kopp
The Western Mustang men’s hockey team made it seven wins in a row with a 3-0 shutout victory over the visiting Toronto Varsity Blues at Thompson Arena on Saturday night. The win capped a successful start to the second half of the OUA season as the Mustangs won both of their home games over the weekend, posting a 3-1 victory of the Guelph Gryphons on Friday night.
The star of Saturday’s game was goaltender Luke Peressini. He stopped all 28 shots that he faced on the evening, including 14 in the final frame, to record his first shutout of the season and his 2nd career shutout in this his third season with the Purple and White.
At first, it did not look like Peressini was going to be too busy against the Blues. U of T did not record their first shot on goal until 15:30 into the game, going without a shot on goal during two power plays in the first period. After facing six shots on goal in that period, Peressini only faced eight shots in the second stanza, but he made his biggest saves of the night in that frame. He stopped Toronto captain Aidan Wallace on a breakaway, made a big glove save on a backhander by Kevin Lavoie, and made great saves on two separate scoring opportunities by Hunter Atchison later in the period. And if that was not enough, Peresinni was helped out by the cross bar which Toronto player David Thomson hit dead on about eight minutes into the period. Western was only nursing a one goal lead at the time.
Western came out flying in the game and played a much better first period than they did during Friday night’s win over Guelph. The Stangs opened the scoring at 16:43 when Mitchell Brooks passed the puck out of his own zone to Spenser Cobbold. Cobbold did the rest by streaking down the right side of the ice and then, after skating across the Toronto blue line, cut to the slot area and rifled a shot over the glove hand of Varsity Blue goaltender Alex Bishop into the top corner of the net to give the Mustangs a 1-0 lead after one period. It was Cobbold’s second goal of the season.
In the second period, defenceman Rylan Bechtel scored at 16:34 to increase the lead to 2-0. This came just after the Mustangs blew a 3-on-1 break into the Toronto zone that did not even result in a shot on goal. About 3- seconds later, Anthony Stefano dropped the puck back to a pinching-in Bechtel and his shot from around the face-off circle just got past Bishop and trickled into the net. For Bechtel, it was his third goal of the season.
Peresinni shut the door in the final period, while Kyle Petit put the game on ice with his second goal of the season into an empty net with just 1:23 to go. About 30 seconds before that goal, Peresinni coralled the puck behind his net and shot it the length of the ice, attempting to score with the Toronto goaltender pulled for an extra attacker. But he just missed, getting an icing call instead. Had he scored, it would have been his second goal of the season as he had scored into an empty net in Windsor back on December 1. The Blues called a timeout after that close call and Peresinni could be seen with a wide grin on his face as he skated to the Mustang bench.
The Mustangs outshot Toronto by a 34-28 margin. The Stangs were 0-1 on the power play, while stopping the Blues from scoring on their three power play opportunities.
During this seven-game winning streak the Mustangs have only given up nine goals, and four of those came in a 6-4 win over Toronto on November 16 that started the winning streak. Peresinni has only given up five goals in the last six games, which is one of the major reasons why the Mustangs are currently the hottest team in the OUA. The shutout lowered his season goals against average to 1.81, which is currently the lowest average among goalies in the entire league, while his 0.939 save percentage is the second lowest.
The win improved Western’s record to 11-6-1 on the season, good for 23 points and sole possession of third place in the Western conference.
The Mustangs go for consecutive win number 8 on Friday morning during the annual “school day” game. That game starts at 11:30 am at Thompson Arena, with the stands expected to be packed with hordes of elementary school students.