The Western Mustangs men's hockey team's Queen’s Cup playoff charge continued this weekend as they cleaned up a three-game set against the Brock Badgers.
In the first game, the Mustangs — who entered the series as underdogs — dominated the opening period, took a step back in the second and charged from behind in the third frame for the 3–2 victory.
In the second game, the team dominated action throughout, but unfortunately they couldn’t put more than two pucks behind Brock’s goaltender, Logan Thompson, dropping the 3–2 decision.
The absolute control Western exerted in Friday’s game carried over to the final match, as the team essentially sealed the Badgers fate after just two periods of play en route to a 7–1 win.
Throughout the series, the depth on the offensive side of the puck was evident. Western’s combination of size and skill overmatched the Badgers defenders on multiple occasions.
The third line of Ray and Kenny Huether and Kyle Langdon was a force all series, but they were particularly dominant in game two.
After Friday’s contest — in which the group accounted for both of Western’s goals — head coach Clarke Singer lauded the line’s ability to control offensive possession.
“They've been playing gritty,” asserted Singer. “I think their corsi tonight was at 74 per cent — one of the top we've had all year. They had a great game for us.”
It should be noted as well that each of the other three lines combined for at least one goal in the series.
The defensive corps played a major role in this offensive upsurge by consistently moving the puck into dangerous offensive positions. Specifically, Stephen Desrocher opened eyes with his offensive ability.
Ethan Szypula — who finished the series with four points — heaped praise on Desrocher and the defensive corps as a whole after Friday’s loss.
“Our [defencemen] are great for us,” said Szypula. “When they come down and help us on the rush that generates a lot more for us, as well. They're really active and they're really great with that. Especially [Desrocher], he's been playing really solid.”
Creating offence off the blue line helped boost the Western powerplay. After compiling just 12 goals in 28 regular season games, the unit exploded for four goals in the series.
While one side of special teams was unusually dominant, the penalty kill was somewhat weak — allowing three goals in the first two games.
The killers cleaned up their play in the deciding game, though. In total, the Mustangs shut out the Badgers powerplay on seven opportunities on Sunday night.
The final game of the series was the ultimate display of strong playoff hockey for Western: their special teams were strong, the goaltending was great, the offence was flying and, perhaps most importantly to their head coach, they played a gritty game.
The team cycled the puck well, pushed for goals in the dirty areas of the ice, played the body effectively and didn’t back down from any post-whistle skirmish.
According to Szypula, physical play is a product of the post-season — when everyone is required to produce more.
“Playoffs are something where everything has got to do a little bit more,” explained Szypula. “I felt playoffs, that's where the players really show out and that’s when games really, really matter."
The Mustangs will need to keep searching for more as they close in on a berth in the Queen’s Cup Championship game.
Up next, Western will take on the Guelph Gryphons in the OUA West championship series.