Faceoff at the forks January 30th

Mustangs Men's hockey team loses a nail bitter at home

Steve Kopp

The Western Mustang men’s hockey team fell to 2-9 at home this year as they lost 4-3 to the first place (and 5th nationally ranked) Toronto Varsity Blues at Thompson Arena Wednesday night.

Western got on the board first when first year player Franco Sproviero scored his 14th goal of the season on a nice give-and-go with Ethan Szypula on the power play.  That gave Western a 1-0 lead after the first period, a period that saw Western stay in the game due to the nice goaltending of David Ovsjannikov, who turned aside all 17 shots that he faced.  Western had 12 shots on goal against Varsity Blue starting goaltender Alex Bishop.

Four goals were scored in the second period, with Toronto netting three of the four.  The Blues scored at the 4:29 mark to tie it at 1-1 on a goal by Kyle Potts who jammed the puck past Ovsjannikov at the side of the net.  Just 2:08 later, the Blues went ahead 2-1 on a goal by David Thompson, his 16th of the season.  He came out of the corner, untouched, and slid the puck between the pads of the Mustang goaltender.

Later in the period, the Mustangs caught a break when a checking from behind penalty was not called against them.  Instead, a Toronto player took a slashing penalty in retaliation and Western would score on the ensuing power play.  It was Sproviero who faked a shot, then stickhandled around a fallen Toronto defenceman before passing the puck in the slot to Sean Montgomery who buried his 9th of the season.  That tied the score at 2.  The Blues would add one more before the second period ended after a Mustang turnover.  Jared Leslie finished off a nice three-way passing play to give the visitors a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.  Shots in the second favoured Toronto 15-12.

At 3:18 of the third period, Varsity Blue Kyle Clarke made a nice tip of a shot from the point to give Toronto a 4-2 lead.  Western would score on the power play for the third time (they went three for four on the power play in the game) just 3:28 later with Sproviero notching his second goal (15th of the season) and third point of the game as he finished off a nice three-way passing play between Cordell James and Ethan Szypula (his third assist of the game).

Despite a total of 18 shots in the final frame and some close chances in the last three minutes, the Mustangs could not get the equalizer.  Western ended up outshooting Toronto 42-41 on the game.  They also held the vaunted Toronto power play (number one in the league with a success rate of 33.7%) to no goals and few shots during the two times the Blues had the man advantage.

The loss was Western’s 9th in 11 home games this season and dropped their record to 10-10-4, good for 24 points and a tie for 7th place with Lakehead, both of who now hold down the final playoff spots in the western conference.  Waterloo, Western’s opponent at home on February 1, lost on Wednesday night and sit four points out of a playoff spot behind Western and Lakehead.  Laurier, Western’s opponent at home on February 7, is one point ahead of Western in 6th place. 

A playoff spot is not assured as yet, but is a real possibility for the Mustangs.  But first, they have to take on the 3rd place Guelph Gryphons at the “Faceoff at the Forks” game on Thursday, January 30 at the Budweiser Gardens.  Game time is 7:00.