The Mustangs dropped a tough, 2-1 overtime loss to the Lancers this Friday at Thompson Arena.
Coming into play, Windsor University led the Ontario University Athletics West division with 12 points and a 6-1 record. Western University had struggled out of the gate, tallying five points and a 2-3-1 record.
However, the Mustangs showed no signs of intimidation playing the Lancers — who had yet to lose on the road this season.
Western was flying in the opening two frames, winning the race to almost every puck. Even in the defensive zone, the Mustangs were able to break up the Lancers’ attack and move the puck back to the offensive side of the ice.
More than a few times, Western looked poised to break through against Windsor — but Lancers’ goaltender, Jonathan Reinhart, was impossible to beat. That has been a familiar gripe among the goaltender’s opponents this year, though.
Currently, the third-year puck stopper leads the OUA in saves, save percentage and goals against average.
Coming into Friday night’s game, the Mustangs planned to do everything they could to break the netminder’s confidence.
“We knew Reinhart was one of the top goaltenders in the country,” said head coach Clarke Singer. “We talked about trying to get one by him early. We were unable to do that. We talked about trying to get some traffic to the net, we talked about trying to hit sticks at the side of the net when maybe he's out we can put one by him.”
The Mustangs weren’t able to get one in on the Lancers’ goalie early, but they were able to score first. Rookie forward Sean Montgomery banged home a back door pass on the powerplay just over half way through the second period.
It was a huge relief for a team that fired eleven shots on net in the first period to no avail.
However, while they had the lead, Western had to keep Windsor off the board.
The team made a valiant effort through the remainder of the second period, but they were much slower out of the gates in the third. Singer explained that the team was too comfortable with a one-goal lead.
“I thought the third was probably our weakest period,” said Singer. “I thought we just sat back a little bit with the lead there.”
The Lancers’ made the Mustangs pay midway through the frame as Windsor’s Alex Friesen caught the Mustangs out of position in their own end and tucked in the game-tying goal.
After neither team was able to break the tie in the final half of the third, the game was pushed to overtime.
During the extra frame, another Western slip-up cost them the the game.
Playing three-on-three — which caters to all-or-nothing offence — the Mustangs turned the puck over with all of their players deep in the offensive zone. The Lancers broke off on a two man breakaway and, predictably, fired home the game winner.
It wasn’t the ending that the team deserved through two periods, and it certainly wasn’t the ending that goaltender Luker Peresinni deserved.
The veteran goaltender has struggled out of the gates and a win against the best in the west would have been a great boost.
After the game, Montgomery was apologetic for how his netminder’s strong game ended.
“Yeah, he was also really good,” said Montgomery. “We kinda let him hang out to dry for the overtime goal. But, he was really good too.”
Overall, though, Singer was impressed with how his veteran goaltender played. And he predicted that Peresinni would find his groove as the season continued.
“Like I said, his game has been coming,” said Singer. “[It’s] unfortunate [that] we've not been great in front of him, but tonight was a nice combination. I thought we played well in front of him and when we needed him, he made the big saves."
“Luke's gonna be there in the end. He's got pedigree. He's a great kid. He works hard. You know, he's got great game. He's been our back-to-back MVP. We're looking forward to him playing a lot more and playing well for us.”
Peressini and the Mustangs will get a chance to build on their strong play during a road contest against the Guelph Gryphons next Thursday at 7:30 p.m.