The team looked comfortable in its new home despite missing a handful of veteran scorers. Ryan Hare, Mike Rice, Jesse Boucher and Jamie Chamberlain were all sidelined due to injury or suspension.
Western jumped to an early lead 22 seconds in when Craig Kennedy snapped a rebound past Waterloo standout netminder Curtis Darling. The Warriors rebounded quickly, tying the game before Kyle Piwowarczyk slid a backhander home on a breakaway to regain the lead, all within the game’s first three minutes.
The ’Stangs applied pressure consistently and caused problems for the Warrior’s power play unit, frustrating first-year head coach Brian Bourque.
“We had too many defensive breakdowns leading to good chances for the Western scorers,” he said. “It’s not a question of composure for our guys; we just need to make sure the execution is there.”
With key offensive players out of the lineup, Western needed production from other areas and got it in from Matt Bannan. The fourth-year blue liner was a force against the Waterloo attack and showed his offensive prowess by adding a power-play goal.
“I’m definitely going to try and produce offensively for the team, but we have a lot of guys capable of that,” Bannan said of the Mustangs’ depth. “We have guys that can contribute when they have to, not necessarily on the score sheet, but hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.”
The line of Steve Benedetti, Craig Kennedy and newcomer Evan Kotsopoulos caused problems all game for the Waterloo’s defence, combining for two goals and nine points.
“This was the first time those guys were able to play together in a game so they definitely meshed the way we had hoped,” said Mustangs head coach Clarke Singer.
Western has the offensive keys to have a productive season, but a young defence could prove challenging for the ’Stangs.
“We were hurt most in the offseason on defence, losing a couple key guys from last season,” Bannan said. “Judging from tonight’s game, it doesn’t look like we’ll be hurting too much on the blue line.”
Singer agreed with Bannan entirely.
“It’s tough losing guys to graduation, but it’s the same every year in university hockey,” he said. “You can replace talent and work ethic but you can’t replace the people you’ve lost. That’s just something you have to deal with and success sometimes depends on how well you cope with it.”
Dickie was solid between the pipes for Western, mostly shutting down the Waterloo attack. He made some key saves in the second period, giving Western a shot in the arm, and leading to goals 11 seconds apart to secure the win.
Waterloo handed Western a 5-3 loss Saturday, dropping the Mustangs’ season record to 1-1. Waterloo scored four unanswered third period goals, in a frame blanketed with Western penalties.