The Western Mustangs defeated the Waterloo Warriors by a score of 4–3 on Friday night at Thompson Arena.
The first period featured end-to-end action with sloppy play from both teams. An unlucky bounce as the Mustangs were exiting the defensive zone led to a close chance for the Warriors. Fortunately, goalie Luke Peressini was able to stop the Waterloo attacker point-blank.
Trevor Warnaar rewarded his goalie’s effort with a goal later in the first period. A turnover in the defensive zone by the Warriors led to a battle behind the net. Ethan Szypula won the puck for Western, shovelling a perfect pass in front to find Warnaar for his fourth goal of the year, putting the Mustangs in front 1–0.
With just under three minutes to play in the first, Waterloo got on the scoresheet with a hooking call on Michael Morgan. However, despite struggling with a 65.7 per cent penalty kill percentage this year — ranking them 22nd in Ontario University Athletics — Waterloo was able to hold Western to just one shot attempt and just 19 seconds of sustained offensive zone time.
Ethan Szypula explained after the game that Waterloo’s penalty killers simply had a good read of the Mustangs power play.
“I felt like they were good at closing us off,” said Szypula. “They wanted us to move the puck quicker. After that they were able to cut us off at the blue lines or even the neutral zone.”
The Mustangs didn't look any better at the start of the second period. Their sloppy play ultimately cost them as the Warriors potted three goals in four and a half minutes to take a commanding 3–1 lead.
Each of Morgan, Andrew Cordssen-David and Nick Chyzowski scored. Even worse, Cordssen-David and Chyzowski’s goals came within 14 seconds of each other. Head coach Clarke Singer, seemingly disgusted with the Mustangs play, called a time out to regroup the team.
After the game, Warnaar explained that Singer’s timeout came at the perfect time.
“You play the way that we were playing for those five minutes; that's not acceptable,” said Warnaar. The alternate captain continued to say that Singer simply told the team, “‘Hey, it's OK, and we'll just get back to it. You know what to do; just do it.’ ”
The Mustangs eventually pulled the game back to within one on an unusual play. Szypula, emerging from a two minute penalty for throwing his stick over the glass, found himself all alone on the Warriors blue line. Jonathan Laser recognized the open man and fired a beautiful stretch pass, allowing Szypula to walk in and snipe the puck glove side past Waterloo’s goaltender.
Coming into the matchup, the Warriors had posted the most penalty minutes in the OUA, with 197 minutes of time in the sin bin — almost double the Mustangs total.
The Warriors undisciplined style of play eventually made its way into the game as pushing and shoving escalated to both Rylan Bechtel and Nick Halagian dropping the gloves for a spirited bout at the Western goal line. As a result of the fight, both players were sent off the ice for the rest of the game and will serve a one-game suspension during their next game.
Warnaar was amazed that the extracurriculars after the whistle escalated to a fight.
“I've been here for five years, and I've never seen a fight,” said Warnaar. “It's not something that happens very often but for [Bechtel] to step up there,... he was throwing some. It was a good tilt, I'll just say that.”
After struggling through two periods of play, the Mustangs came out of the dressing room on fire in the third. Anthony Stefano scored the tying goal seven minutes into the final period. Szypula added his second goal of the game just under three minutes later to win the game, marking the rookie’s first game winning goal in the OUA.
Warnaar, one of Szypula’s line mates, was incredibly proud of the first-year player’s three-point performance.
“Obviously he's new, he's a rookie on the team, but he's got a lot of skill,” said Warnaar. “To see him with that confidence out there to make the plays that he's making, it's a lot of fun to play with him and watch that happen. I'm really happy for what he did today, and going forward, I think he'll do a lot of good things for us.”
After the game, assistant coach Patrick Ouellet was cautious not to get too high on the win.
"We got the win today; maybe we didn't deserve it,” mused Ouellet. “Maybe it's karma, right. Maybe we deserved to win last Saturday and we didn't get it. Tonight we [came] back with average effort and we got the win.”
On Saturday the Mustangs played competitively, but ultimately, they fell to the Laurier Golden Hawks 2–1 in a shootout. Warnaar scored the lone Mustangs goal late in the second period before Laurier's Jeremy Pullara tied the game up midway through the third period.
In the shootout, the Mustangs were unable to put the puck in the back of the net, while Laurier scored on both attempts to steal the win at Thompson Arena.
With the 1–1 split over the weekend, the Mustangs now sit at 4–4–1 on the season, which is good for sixth place in the competitive OUA West Division. They rank last in the division in scoring, but are tied for second in goals allowed. If they can improve on offence, they should move up the division's standings.
Western will have a chance to correct their poor play when they play the second half of a back-to-back Saturday night against the Golden Hawks at Thompson Arena at 7 p.m.