Laurier Golden Hawks forward Benjamin Skinner scored his second goal of the game on a deflection past Mustang goalie Josh Unice. Skinner’s goal came with two minutes left, sealing the 2–1 Laurier victory.
“They played a real solid game tonight,” Mustangs coach Clarke Singer said. “It was a hard, tough game. It was chippy, it was physical [...] So it was a playoff–style game and we haven’t played a lot of those.”
Both teams came out motivated with lots of hitting and a scrum after almost every whistle in front of one of the largest crowds of the year.
“Tonight was a great environment to play in,” Unice said. “It shows what a good environment can do for a hockey game.”
Western, the fourth–ranked team in the country, started the scoring in the second period with a powerplay goal when Keaton Turkiewicz beat a screened Laurier goalie Ryan Daniels on the blocker side.
Despite several scoring chances in the second period, Turkiewicz’s goal was the only marker of the period thanks to strong goaltending at both ends.
The final minute saw one of Unice’s best saves of the night as he turned aside Laurier captain Jean-Michel Rizk on a short-handed breakaway, preserving the Mustangs lead heading into the third period.
Laurier started the third with an aggressive forecheck, leading to the tying goal when Laurier crashed the net and put a loose puck in.
“Any goaltender will tell you if there’s traffic in front, it’s going to make their job difficult,” Laurier coach Greg Puhalski said. “Both goals came from traffic, so tonight it worked out for us.”
Throughout the game, both goalies battled traffic in front of the net and were run on more than one occasion.
“They crashed the net, but that’s legal,” Unice said. “We just have to battle in front more. We played well tonight, but those little battles cost us.”
The physical play is bound to be a continuing theme in the second half of the season with every team making a playoff push.
“It’s the second half of the year and playoffs are only a month away,” Singer said. “Teams are gearing up and preparing; we’re expecting a lot of intensity.”
The loss is the Mustangs third in their last seven games — a rough patch in their otherwise strong season.
“We have to be better, there’s no doubt about it,” Singer said. “We were OK tonight, but we weren’t as good as we can be.”
The Mustangs will see action against Lakehead this weekend as their rivals make the trek from Thunder Bay.