It may have taken time for the Mustangs to get going this year, but they’re now in full gear.
With improved defensive play and impressive offence, the Mustangs defeated the Brock Badgers 5-0 on Saturday at Thompson Arena.
“Although our record has been good, our defensive game hasn’t been where we’ve wanted it to be,” Clarke Singer, Mustangs head coach, said. “The guys did a good job executing defence first.”
Singer said he’s had his team working on improving their defensive play the last few weeks and it is paying off.
“Early in the year we were winning, but we weren’t winning the way we wanted to,” Keaton Turkiewicz, Mustangs forward, said. “Now we’re keeping leads and not having many defensive turnovers. I think we’re playing better as a team.”
Murray Nystrom, Brock Badgers head coach, reiterated those thoughts and said the Mustangs outworked his team in all aspects of the game.
“The dominant physical play of Western didn’t allow us to get anything going,” Nystrom said. “Whenever we had the puck they’d separate us from it, they’d get loose pucks first and they’d come out with it from the corners. To win games, you have to win those battles.”
Brock started the game throwing the body around, but Western used an aggressive forecheck to take control.
“Brock is a real high-energy team that’s very physical and good defensively,” Singer said. “Our forecheck changed the game because we were getting pucks deep and never stopped pressuring them.”
Once the momentum had swung in Western’s favour, they showcased their talent and demonstrated why they’re the fourth ranked team in Canadian Interuniversity Sport with a pair of goals.
After Brandon Greenside shot the puck wide of the Brock goal, Adam Nemeth fought for the puck in the corner before feeding it to Kevin Baker behind the net.
“[Nemeth] made a great play to come down the wall and keep it in and run it around to Baker behind the net. [Baker] looked over and I was yelling and he made a great pass on his backhand,” Turkiewicz said. “The goalie had no idea where it was.”
With Brock defenceman Anthony Geldart charging Baker, he made a behind the back pass that fooled everyone and gave Turkiewicz an empty net to score.
“Kevin made a tremendous pass on his backhand to [Turkiewicz]. That was just a great goal. Kevin’s a great passer with great vision,” Singer said.
“Me and [Baker] have been playing well together and he just found me there for a tap in,” Turkiewicz said.
Zack Harnden kept the highlight reel going when Brock was unable to clear the puck out of their zone. After Tyler Peters put a shot on net, the rebound bounced on Harnden’s stick while he was in the crease.
With little room to work, Harnden lifted the puck over Brock goalie Adrian Volpe’s to bury it top corner.
“Zack—what great hands. Who even thought with him being that close to the net that he could’ve have raised it,” Singer said.
The goals left more than a few people wondering what was practiced the past week.
“We do a lot of quick hand plays in front of the net, but it’s tough to replicate that in practice. That’s just a couple of skilled players making good plays,” Singer said.
Shawn Furlong, Dominic Desando and Baker would also add goals, while Josh Unice made 25 saves for the shutout. Volpe made 31 saves in the loss.
The Mustangs outworked Brock throughout the game, and Nystrom agreed his team was simply outplayed.
“At the end of the day when you put the gear on, you have to compete and Western did a better job of that tonight,” Nystrom said.
The Mustangs play their last home games before Christmas break on Thursday at 7:35 p.m. against Waterloo and Friday against Guelph at Thompson Arena.