Over the weekend, the Mustangs held their annual senior night at Thompson Arena. The event honours current players set to graduate at the end of the season.
Before Friday’s game against the Laurier Golden Hawks, Mitchell Fitzmorris, Luke Peressini and Rylan Bechtel were all honoured at centre ice with a framed photograph and a jersey to commemorate their four years at Western University.
Fitzmorris has played in 106 games for the Purple and White, racking up 22 points as a high-energy, shut-down left winger. The Ingersoll native is currently completing a degree in International Finance from the DAN School of Management and Organizational Studies.
Peressini played 73 games in net for the Mustangs and was named the team’s most valuable player in consecutive seasons (2015 to 2016 and 2016 to 2017). The goaltender is currently finishing an accounting degree from the DAN School of Management and Organizational Studies.
Bechtel, who was named captain of the Mustangs this season, played 118 games for Western – spending most of his time on the top defensive pairing. The defender is currently finishing a degree at King’s University College.
After the game, third-year forward Kolten Olynek shared his thoughts on all three of the graduating seniors honoured on Friday night.
“Well I live with Pers, so I've got to know him pretty well over the last three years,” Olynek said, with a smile. “No, he's a great guy. One of our best players. Day in and day out. I know the stats probably don't show it this year, but he comes to the rink and works hard every day."
“Becs – he also comes to the rink every day, works hard. One of our physical guys. He can put the puck in the net too.”
“Then Fitzy – he's the spark plug out there. We've actually really been happy to have him back in the second half here and I wish those three nothing but the best in the future.”
As the winger referenced, Fitzmorris has played just six games this season after completing an internship in the first semester.
Known to bring energy to his team, Fitzmorris did not disappoint during the ceremony.
As the first player honoured, the forward said that he tried to be cautious, stepping as lightly as possible on the double layered carpet at centre ice. To the delight of his teammates, though, the fourth-year veteran slipped on his first step and fell, before quickly recovering and acknowledging his cheering teammates.
After the game, the soon-to-be graduate was still happy to be honoured, despite his fall.
“Yeah, it was nice to be recognized at the start, especially with Rylan and Luke,” said Fitzmorris. “I think there was about eight of us when I came in my first year and there's three of us now. So, to be able to be part of the organization for three years under Clarke and the coaches we've had since – assistants and trainers and equipment guys and all the players in and out, throughout, it's been an unbelievable experience.”
Clearly, the admiration that the fourth-year player feels for the program is reciprocated by the coaching staff. After the game, head coach Clarke Singer couldn't say enough about his three seniors.
“I said before the game: it's maybe less about them as a player and more about the person, the relationships you have with them,” said Singer. “Luke and Rylan and Fitzy: all been great character young men for us and I enjoyed having them at the rink every day. You almost get to know them like your kids. Like, I spend more time with these guys than I spend with my kids now, my children.”
“So, it's, it's gonna be tough losing those guys. The program's better for having them here for the four years they've been here.”
The four players will play at least one more game at Thompson Arena before they finish their degrees. The Mustangs will start a playoff series against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on Wednesday night, before coming home to play game two on Saturday.