Kyle Morrison, staff
After finishing the regular season with a dismal 9-17-2 record, the Golden Hawks’ men’s hockey team managed to squeak a playoff date with Western, the top team in the CIS. Western eliminated the Golden Hawks in a two-game sweep on February 16 and 17: 4-2 in Western and 2-1 at home in Waterloo. This ended their lacklustre men’s hockey season, which saw the team win six fewer games than 2010-11. But what the series will be remembered for is “the offside”.
“From what we all saw from the players’ bench … the linesman put up his hand [to signal an offside] and some of our players [and a lot of Western players] came to a standstill,” Coach Greg Puhalski said.
Unfortunately, Western centre Kevin Baker was not one of them. Making a heads-up play, he continued toward the net and scored an easy goal on unsuspecting goalie, Ryan Daniels.
Puhalski was outraged and got kicked out of the game as a result, having to see the game-winning goal by Western with two minutes left in the game from the dressing room.
Laurier wouldn’t have even been in this situation without Daniels,
“Ryan Daniels helped pour it in for us and gave us a chance,” Coach Puhalski said. Western took the play to Laurier all series, outshooting the Golden Hawks 41-18 in game one and an astounding 55-27 in game two.
The team wouldn’t have even been given a chance to win if it wasn’t for him as the Golden Hawks did not capitalize on what Puhalski was looking for in the playoffs,
“Our powerplay wasn’t very good during the series … our penalty killing in game two was a little better and our faceoffs were marginally better. We didn’t improve enough in those areas to get big enough games … and it’s a little bit of why we lost.”
Ultimately, this was the team’s season in a nutshell from start to finish. They were an undisciplined team who only killed off 76% of their penalties – which happens when you allow so many shots and take as many penalties as Laurier did. Their powerplay was not much better, only scoring 16% of the time when they had the man advantage.
Puhalski points to the team’s young defence for some of these issues, “We put a lot of strain on our defencemen. At that time in their development they weren’t ready to handle all the ice time.”
However, having young players also means they won’t be graduating. And they did play .500 hockey in the new year. So, in a season full of rough times and losing, the youth movement is something he feels can be taken away as a positive going forward.
“We’re finding out the character of our team … We’ve got some good pieces here and we have to continue adding a few pieces to help our players improve and be better.”