The Western Mustangs men’s hockey team lost 5–3 on Thursday night in a hard-fought battle against the Windsor Lancers. Despite having already clinched a playoff berth, they are still fighting for home ice advantage going into the postseason.
The entire game bounced back and forth as both teams had ample opportunities throughout the night.
“It just seemed like a bit of a pond hockey game," said Mustangs head coach, Clarke Singer. "Both teams trading chances. A three-on-two one way, a three-on-two the other way. It’s just not the way we’ve played since the end of November.”
Although the Mustangs outshot their opponent, 34–31, they were not able to capitalize on their opportunities.
In the first period, Western’s Trevor Warnaar received a pass in the slot for a point-blank opportunity, but hit the post. Unphased however, the Mustangs scored just minutes later as Ray Huether came off of the bench, scoring the first of the game.
Just over a minute later, the Mustangs struck again. This time, the goal coming from Mitchell Fitzmorris who now has four goals in four games.
Seconds before the end of the first period, Ryan Shaw scored for the Lancers, making it 2–1.
Early in the second period, Warnaar caught a break as he stepped out of the penalty box. Warnaar gathered the puck and found an open Fitzmorris who capitalized on the opportunity, scoring his second goal of the game to make it 3–1 for the Mustangs.
Fitzmorris spoke humbly about the missed opportunities that would have earned him a hat-trick later in the game.
"Personal success is always good," said Fitzmorris, "but at the end of the day it's disappointing not to get the two points as a team, so that’s kind of the first mindset.”
As if it were a repeat of the first period, the Lancers capitalized in the dying seconds to make it 3–2. A scrum in front of the net created an opportunity for Windsor’s Alex Friesen to beat Luke Peressini, who had been strong all game.
“Luke can’t be our best player every night," said Singer. "We can’t rely on him to make 35 saves every night.”
Midway through the third period, Zach Core took a high-sticking penalty, giving the Lancers their second power-play of the night. And just over a minute into the Lancers powerplay, Alex Friesen scored to tie the game at three.
Later in the period, a blocked shot by a Windsor defenceman deep in their own zone created a turnover, resulting in another goal for the Lancers. With ten minutes left in the game, Windsor was up 4–3.
With less than two minutes left in the game, Singer called a timeout and pulled Peressini from the net with a faceoff in the opposite end. Just 16 seconds later, Windsor scored on the empty net, making the final score 5–3 for Windsor.
The Mustangs will travel to Windsor on Saturday for their final game of the regular season. The Lancers will be battling for a playoff spot while the Mustangs will fight home ice advantage.
“It’s a huge game for us and for them, and I think both teams know that," said Fitzmorris. "We should be just as hungry as they are to get the last spot as we are to get home ice.”