The Mustangs men’s hockey team definitely had their work cut out for them at this season’s home opener Saturday against the Laurier Golden Hawks. Though the Mustangs walked away with a 3–2 win, the Golden Hawks did not let it come easy.
Western was coming off of a strong game against the Waterloo Warriors, where they were able to earn a 6–2 win, but the Mustangs had to try harder to send pucks past Laurier goaltender Ryan Daniels.
“I thought Ryan was excellent tonight, not just puck stopping but his chances at fielding and setting pucks up for our defence were terrific,” Jeff MacDougald, Laurier assistant coach, said. “He can walk out of here with his head held high because he was a solid force all night.”
The Mustangs emphatically agreed.
“We knew going into it, playing Laurier, that Daniels is always going to be there for them, and, again, tonight he was on top of it. We shot pucks at him and he kept kicking them out,” Jason Furlong, Mustangs captain, said.
In Laurier’s end, Daniels stopped the 29 shots he faced during the first two periods. However, the other end was a different story. A drop pass to the defence after a face off in the Western end led to a quick one-timer goal by Derek Holden at the end of the first period, and Mitchell Good scored another for Laurier at the end of the second.
By this time, Western coach Pat Powers knew things had to change in the way that his team played.
“We simplified things. We had to get pucks and bodies to the net. We had to get into the crease area and knock away at pucks. It’s the only way you’re going to beat a goaltender like Ryan Daniels,” he said.
And it worked. Tyler Peters was able to send the first puck past Daniels, finally putting Western on the board. Halfway through the third, rookie Kyle DeCoste tied the game. The hero of this game, however, would be the rookie Matt Morantz, who got the third and game-winning goal for the Mustangs.
“I was just excited we scored, and we had the lead and we were going to win the game, because I didn’t think they were going to get another,” Morantz said of his goal.
Morantz, who is a London native and former London Knights right wing, has impressed everyone on the team, including his coach.
“Matt Morantz has done a real good job coming in—he plays both sides of the puck extremely well,” Powers said.
However, Morantz and DeCoste are not the only rookies on the 2012–13 hockey team. In fact, the Mustangs team experienced a very heavy turnover of players, all of whom are seeking direction from the newly-appointed captain Jason Furlong—but the captain has decided that actions speak louder than words.
“They know coming in the stakes, and we have enough guys in the room that have been here before and they lead by example. I think that a lot of the guys coming in, they kind of follow that role and follow suit,” he said.
The Mustangs still have a full season ahead of them to work out the kinks, including their next two games, both at home. Western will face the Guelph Gryphons on Wednesday and take on the Windsor Lancers Saturday at Thompson Arena.