How sweep it is, the Western Mustangs are on to the second round of the OUA playoffs after back to back 3-2 victories over the Laurier Golden Hawks.
It was an attack on all fronts from the Mustangs as each of Trevor Warnaar, Ray Huether, Spenser Cobbold, Rylan Bechtel, Ethan Szypula and Kolten Olynek netted a goal.
No marker was more impactful for the Mustangs than Cobbold’s game one overtime winner on Thursday night, though.
The winger missed two chances at the Golden Hawks vacated net in the third, icing the puck both times. The off-target shots allowed Laurier to tie the game at two, forcing an extra frame.
However, the fourth-year forward redeemed himself early in overtime by scoring an unconventional, no-look slap shot. The elated winger recounted the play after the game.
“I had a lane to the net and pretty much put my head down and heard the post and went in,” explained Cobbold. “So, yeah, pretty happy about that.”
More than just a game winner, the point blast was also a powerplay goal — something that has eluded the Mustangs all year. The powerplay tuck was a well-deserved reward for the unit. Both the first and second team squads had been working hard, moving the puck well all game.
The success of the powerplay was a positive takeaway from the game for head coach Clarke Singer.
“I thought we did a lot of things that we wanted to do tonight,” said Singer of his powerplay unit that finished one for four on the night. “We just got to continue to make sure we get our shots through.”
While the powerplay was important for the Mustangs in this series, both games were dominated by the goaltenders.
On Thursday night, Western’s goaltender, Luke Peressini, stopped 23 of 25 shots; on Friday he turned aside 35 of 37. All told, the third-year player finished with an incredible .935 save percentage and 1.95 GAA in the series.
After Thursday night’s goaltending showcase, fourth-year forward Ray Huether explained that Peressini’s play usually dictates the game.
“Obviously, he's our man,” said Huether. “You know, if he's usually not playing too good we kind of have a tough time. He's a hell of a goalie and hopefully he can keep 'er going.”
Although the goaltending was incredible all series, the Mustangs penalty kill was a cause for concern. After churning out a solid 86.7% penalty kill percentage during the regular season, Western allowed the Golden Hawks to score three goals on eight powerplay opportunities.
The Mustangs also had trouble with the Golden Hawks defensive scheme. By clogging up the neutral zone with a trap defense, Laurier cut off would-be Western break-ins. After Thursday’s game, Cobbold explained how the Mustangs could reverse the trend — by just going back to the basics.
“We could just simplify our game a bit more: get pucks deep, play more north-south instead of east-west,” explained Cobbold. “We're kind of getting in trouble with the turnovers at the blue line. But if we clean that up I like our chances.”
Even though the offensive break outs struggled, the Western attack was quite balanced. In fact, three separate lines scored a goal over the two games — and two lines scored two apiece.
The balanced attack will be important over the rest of the playoffs as the Mustangs will likely lose home ice advantage (and, as a result, last change) for the majority of their remaining games. However, by taking down a team that caused nightmares for them all season long, Western has shown the ability to battle.
The next series will begin after an extended break for the Mustangs, and, unless the Ryerson Rams implode and lose to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, Western will likely face the Brock Badgers.
The Badgers lost in the Queen’s Cup championship game last year to McGill and would represent a tough challenge for the Mustangs.