Western's men's hockey team hosted the Waterloo Warriors in their home opener Friday night and won their second of the young season with a close 3-1 victory.
Second-year centre Robert Polesello had the winning goal which came toward the end of the second period. In net, goalie Greg Dodds made 33 saves for the win, improving his save percentage to .926 and bailing out his team on a couple of occasions with spectacular glove saves.
"I think we did a great job from the defence out," said Dodds. "We were buzzing around their end quite a bit, and when they were in our end our defence did a good job of blocking shots and clearing rebounds for me."
The Mustangs are now 2-1 through the first two weeks of the 2016-17 campaign, having split two road games with Guelph and Brock the previous weekend.
After qualifying for the national championship a year ago, Western's lineup has a new look this season. With a sizeable chunk of their defensive group graduated, the Mustangs have a young core of blueliners to develop and adapt to their systems.
Second-year Jonathan Laser has stepped into a new role as one of the team's top defencemen and played a very effective role Friday night in shutting down Waterloo and getting the puck out of Western's zone.
"It's going to be a learning curve and a big transition," said Dodds about the defensive effort in front of him. "They're starting to get the systems down. They're boxing guys out for me and just letting me see the puck which is all I need."
The most successful defensive endeavour for the Mustangs was the penalty kill, which was perfect through 12 minutes. Laser and Jed Rusk were instrumental in defending against Waterloo's powerplay.
"Waterloo had one of the top powerplays in the league last year," pointed out Mustangs coach Clarke Singer. "We just wanted to try to get them out of the structure that they like to run, force them down the weak side a little bit more."
Singer also noted that he changed his penalty kill strategy for Waterloo, opting for a more aggressive two-man forecheck to try and force them to dump the puck into their end rather than carry it into the offensive zone.
Moving forward, there's still work to do for Western's lineup to mesh perfectly. Killing six penalties in a game is good, but the fact that they took so many is an issue to look at.
"We've got lots to work on, it's so early in the year that there's nothing that we've executed perfectly so far," said Singer. "Special teams and defence are a critical part of your success any time of the year so we've got to keep working on that, I thought we got exposed a bit through the neutral zone on the rush by Waterloo."
The Mustangs are back in action next Friday when they host the Laurier Golden Hawks.