USports Mens National Mens Hockey Tournament
Here’s what you need to knowTommy Davies
On Thursday March 12th your Western Mustangs will be playing in the USports Men’s National Championship Tournament in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After taking home the OUA Bronze medal, they travel to the east coast in attempt to claim the national title.
The boys in purple have been hot lately. Here is what you need to know about your Western Mustangs:
Western will be entering the tournament as the 7th seed among 8 teams. They will play the 2nd seeded University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the qualifying round on Thursday. If they win, they will play the winner of Saint Mary’s vs Guelph in the semi-finals. It’s anyone’s guess after that.
Keys for Western:
Goaltender: Luke Peresinni
When he’s on top of his game, he can steal the show. The veteran goaltender has had an unusual regular season posting a 0.893 save%, which is a considerable decline from his previous seasons 0.925. However, the ex-Kingston Frontenac has been absolutely outstanding in the post season. His 0.936 was good enough for the second highest save% in the OUA playoffs. The Mustangs have allowed a league-leading 366 shots on goal in the postseason (105 more than any other team), so they’ll need Luke to be at his best if they want to have a chance to win.
Defencemen: Stephen Desrocher
This two-way defencemen is essential to the foundation of the team. Desrocher had 6 assists, the 3rd most by any player in the OUA post-season, and one (very clutch) goal for 7 points in 10 games. But his defensive prowess and elite puck movement is not to be understated. Coach Singer uses him to shut down the oppositions top units and he frequently eats up major ice time on the back end. Look for Desrocher to be a major difference maker this week.
Forward: Franco Sproviero
As Westerns leading point scorer in the regular season, Sproviero will surely be on the oppositions radar. While he did not maintain his 1.42 point/game pace in the playoffs, Western will be looking for him to get back to his old ways this week. Last season Sproviero had a very impressive 60-point season with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. While the depth of the Mustangs carried them to the tournament, they are going to need their heavy hitters to show up if they want to beat the countries best.
The competition is fierce. Here is what you need to know about the other teams:
University of Saskatchewan Huskies
The Huskies are ranked as the number 2 seed, and for good reason. After being the 1st seed in the Canada West Playoffs, they went undefeated in the post-season and took home the Canada West championship. What stands out about this team is the balanced offense; they don’t rely on a few key players to generate scoring. They have 12 players on their roster with double digit regular season points. For the Mustangs, they are going to have to have solid defence from every unit on the ice. As for goaltending, Saskatchewan Huskie Taran Kozun will be an exciting match for Luke Peresinni. Kosun boasts a healthy 0.925 save% in the regular season, and has been outstanding for the Huskies in the post season. Western will need to play near-perfect defence and capitalize efficiently on their own chances if they plan to make it past the Huskies in game one.
University of Guelph Gryphons
Should the Mustangs advance to round two of the tournament, they will play the Gryphons. This would be a rematch of the OUA semi finals from February. Despite losing top scorer Mikkel Aagaard, who left the team to join the German pro league, the Gryphons are still offensive juggernauts. Again, the Mustangs will have to lean heavily on Peresinni, and have a very defence-focussed approach. In the OUA semi-finals Western took Guelph to game three, so the outcome of match is far from certain.
University of New Brunswick Reds
If the Mustangs can keep up their Cinderella story season this week, they will surely have to go through the UNB Reds for the championship. The UNB Reds are widely understood to be the favourite for the tournament, and its clear why. Their leading scorer, who also holds the league lead, is Tyler Boland with 48 points (20 G, 28 A). UNB also has six other players on their roster with 30+ regular season points. Losing only four games all season, they will be a formidable opponent for anyone invited to the tournament.
The road to the national championships won’t be easy, but your Western Mustangs are as resilient a team as any. Go Mustangs go!