The Western Mustangs beat the Concordia Stingers by a score of 4–1 in their home opener Friday night at Thompson Arena, before dropping their second game of the season to the McGill Redmen on Saturday night.
On Friday night, the Stingers came out flying off the opening puck drop. Concordia had scored 17 goals in five games entering Friday and they were determined to add an 18th early against the Mustangs.
However, Western stymied their fast attack by setting a physical tone and taking away space from the Stingers. With help from star goaltender Luke Peressini, Western’s plan worked. The Stingers were held off the scoresheet for the first two periods of play.
In the final minutes of the first period Western imposed their will on Concordia, hemming the Stingers deep in their own zone, out-battling them for pucks.
The Mustangs' strong play was ultimately rewarded when Stephen Desrocher found an open Mitchell Brooks in front of the net. Brooks received the pass cleanly and roofed a backhand up over the stick-side shoulder of the Stingers goalie for the first goal of the game.
The second period was a mess of hard, chippy play as the officials desperately tried to take control of the game. In total nine penalties were awarded including a 10-minute misconduct to Concordia forward Chase Harwell. Mustangs assistant coach Patrick Ouellet noted that there has to be a sense of purpose in the physical play for it to be effective.
“The line between intensity and stupidity sometimes is really thin,” explained Ouellet. “I think we handled our own tonight… There's no fights in the league, but you have got o stand up for your players and make sure the other teams know that they're not gonna walk all over us.”
The Mustangs penalty kill, which had been excellent all night, made a massive stand in the second period, killing off consecutive 5-on-3 man advantages. After the game, Ouellet noted that overcoming these penalties shifted momentum in the game.
“I think that was the turning point after going on those three five on threes,” said Ouellet. “I think that gave us the momentum.”
Just over halfway through the second period, second-year defenceman Stephen Desrocher scored his second goal of the year on a hard shot from the slot. Despite a fair amount of contact and traffic in front of the Stingers netminder the officials deemed it a good goal.
Concordia mounted a small comeback in the third as Phillipe Hudon added a power play goal three minutes into the final period. Concordia’s captain fished out a rebound in front of the net off of a hard point shot from Bradley Lalonde and played the puck past Peressini for the Stingers first and only goal of the game.
Despite allowing a late powerplay goal, the Mustangs penalty killing unit was on fire all game, holding Concordia to a poor 1-for-5 with the man advantage. The Stingers powerplay has been a major focus point in the young season as it has produced nine goals for an impressive 30 per cent conversion rate.
Ouellet explained that pre-scouting and good game-planning allowed the Mustangs to cool the fire of the Concordia special teams unit.
“[The powerplay is] definitely something we checked on the game tapes,” said Oullet. “We knew it was a shooting power play and that they kind of put everything at the net.”
In order to stop this high volume power play, Ouellet explained that Western’s willingness to block shots was key.
“That’s the plan. Get in the lane—in the shooting lane. Hopefully it doesn't get to the net. And if it does, Peressini makes the first save and then clears the rebound.”
Western cleaned up the game with two more insurance goals from Anthony Stefano and Mitchell Brooks.
Brooks’ two goals on Friday night notched the first and second goals of his Ontario University Athletics career. After the game, the first-year player explained that he had predicted his impressive game before puck drop.
“Not going to lie, I had a bet with someone that I would get two goals tonight,” said Brooks. “And that has never happened before, so I'm pretty happy. I can't tell you what the bet was, though."
Along with an important win to even the team’s record at 3–3, the players noted how nice it was to have a solid fan presence for their home opener.
“It was nice to see a couple people in the seats for once,” said Peressini. “Just gets everyone into the game.”
Saturday night saw the Mustangs fall short to McGill, as Western dropped to 3–4 with their 2–1 loss. Olynek scored his second of the season for the Mustangs, while both Redmen goals were scored by Nikolas Brouillard.