The Mustangs men’s hockey team beat the Stingers 5-2 in the OUA bronze medal game on Saturday afternoon, earning a trip to Halifax, N.S. for the U Sports National Championship.
After a slow start to the game, Western University went down early as Concordia University winger, Chase Harwell, banged in a backdoor pass.
The Mustangs were able to answer before the end of the first, though, as defenceman Stephen Desrocher joined Franco Sproverio and Sean Montgomery on a three-on-two rush into the Stingers’ zone. Sproverio slid the puck over to Desrocher and the Mustangs' alternate captain tucked it behind Concordia goaltender Kyle Jessiman with 23 seconds left in the first.
After the game, Desrocher explained how the Mustangs were able to create some energy in the dying seconds of the first period.
“Yeah, we were saying on the bench – we wanted to get one before the end of the period to kind of get some momentum,” Desrocher explained. “Started with a huge hit from Kyle Pettit, absolutely hammered a guy. And that got the bench going – just gave us a boost of energy to get out there and put one in.”
With a tie game entering the middle period, the Mustangs turned up the physical pressure and jumped out to their first lead of the game.
Anthony Stefano added the team’s second goal mid-way through the period on a three-on-one rush and Kenny Huether blasted a one-timer on the power play to take a 3-1 lead two minutes later.
After the game, Stefano credited the team’s improved play in the second to an improved focus from the entire team.
“I don't know, I think we just buckled down,” said Stefano. “There's a lot of guys on the team from last year and we were so close, I think we just had a little talk in the room: tie game, in our barn, 40 minutes left, just leave everything out there. We don't know when we'll get a chance again.”
The Mustangs extended their lead to 4-1 on another Huether goal midway through the third period. The forward’s two-goal effort was just a sample of an incredible postseason for the third year forward, according to Singer.
“He's had a good year this year, but an exceptional playoff,” said Singer. “And I think he's been one of our best guys in the playoffs and one of the top guys on the ice tonight for either team. He got some big goals and, you know, the power play marker on the one-timer and then the fourth goal to just give us a little bit more breathing room and just a great kid and a great player for us.”
The Stingers’ second goal was scored on a five-on-three power play with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.
The power play marker was the last puck to beat Luke Peressini and after Cordell James lofted a puck into an empty Concordia net, the Mustangs secured the 5-2 victory.
Singer named Peressini the player of the game and Desrocher heaped praise on his teammate, when asked after the game.
“Yeah, no, I can't say enough about him, he's one of my best friends, too, and he's been an unbelievable goalie,” Desrocher said about the fourth-year player. “I'm sure he would have wanted to have a couple more wins, maybe a couple less goals in the regular season, but that doesn't matter. Obviously he shows up when it counts, so there it is.”
The goaltender is one of three fourth-year players on this Mustangs' team. With the win on Saturday afternoon, Western ensured that the three seniors would have a chance to play for a national title before graduation.
After the game, Desrocher highlighted his own excitement, before explaining how important the tournament was to the trio of veterans.
“Very excited,” Desrocher stated. “Just proud of this group, obviously coming from eighth place. Proud of our veteran guys, guys that are leaving next year. Peressini, Fitzmorris, Bechtel, obviously. Huge for them. I think Clarke told us it's been 20 years, or something, in a row that there hasn't been a guy in the program that by his fourth year hasn't gone to nationals.”
“I'm just really excited to get to Halifax,” he said.
The U Sports National Championship tournament kicks off this Thursday.