School Day Game, Teaches Western Lesson
Western Mustangs Men's HockeyJohn Urban
Before the annual Snowy Saddle on Saturday night against York, the Western Mustangs men’s hockey team had their School Day Game on Friday morning. Stampeding on a 7-game win streak, the purple & white would face-off with the purple & gold of the Laurier Golden Hawks in front of thousands of children at Thompson Arena with an 11:30am puck drop. Ironically, the recent consecutive wins snapped the Mustangs out of a 3-game slump started by a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Golden Hawks via the shootout back on November 18th. That was the only road victory of the season for Laurier, who possessed a 1-7 road record coming into the AM action. However, the Golden Hawks did have one Ace up their sleeve: having already played in two previous School Day Games against Waterloo and Windsor this season. The underdogs on paper would play their cards at the right time, trouncing Western 5-1 and moving back into the top 8 in the OUA West in the process on just their second road victory of the season.
Port Stanley, Ontario native Will Cook would open up the scoring on a fortuitous bounce in front of goaltender Luke Peresinni just 4:02 in the game. The 4th year senior playing in his 95th OUA regular season game managed to capitalize this time with 4-on-4 hockey, after already scoring twice shorthanded on the season. The visitors appeared to dictate the pace over the first 20-minutes which saw them outshoot Western 13-8.
An early powerplay marker by Jeremy Pullara at 2:37, followed by Mack Graham’s first OUA career goal/point at 7:08 forced Head Coach Clarke Singer to use his timeout with his team trailing 3-0 in the second period. His league 19th ranked powerplay would respond for him minutes later, as former BCHL hometown Chilliwack Chief Rylan Bechtel would finally punch one home for the Mustangs. The two goal deficit could have been a lot bigger if it wasn't for the 20 save performance over 20 minutes by Luke Peresinni.
As the kids headed to the exits for their buses during the third period and the Mustangs were forced to gamble more defensively, Laurier would continue to press the gas pedal. Benefiting would be Mack Graham and Jake Henderson, with both freshmen collecting their second goals of their young OUA careers. Western offensively was schooled by Laurier during the School Day Game, surrendering 50 shots on goal and being taught not to take any team lightly in this league.
The Mustangs will look to quickly respond and get back their winning ways tomorrow evening against the York Lions for the annual Snowy Saddle. The same Lions which leaped the purple & white into 3rd place in the OUA West, with their Thursday night win against Guelph. Puck drop is set for 7:00pm at Thompson Arena and you can always listen live anywhere to the game at www.radiowestern.ca/stream