The Western Mustangs men’s hockey team squares off against the Royal Military College Paladins tonight at the John Labatt Centre. Head coach Clarke Singer believes the team needs to showcase consistent work and improvement to best RMC.
“We’re going to focus on the things we’ve been focusing on [all year],” he said. “We need to continue to work on our forecheck, and our play on special teams, but I think we’ve been showcasing consistent improvement.”
Western has been victorious in two straight games on the road in Toronto, topping Ryerson and the University of Toronto on consecutive nights. The back-to-back wins push the ’Stangs season record to 6-1-1, good for 13 points and a tie for first place in the Ontario University Athletics Mid West division. Mustang coaches and players alike are confident they can handle an RMC team that sits atop the Mid East division at 4-4-3, with 11 points.
“[RMC] is hard working, so we just have to do our thing,” said second-year winger Jesse Boucher. “We have to follow our motto of getting better every game, and [tonight’s game] is no different.”
The potent Western offence has been led by the torrid play of Kevin Richardson, a second-year winger from British Columbia who has seven goals in eight games.
“Kevin’s a natural goal scorer,” Singer said. “Last season, it took him some time to get to this level and it took me some time to determine what his strengths were. His success this season can be attributed to him working hard and finding his spots.”
Although Western came out somewhat slowly, losing in multiple exhibition games, the team has been firing on all cylinders lately. Continued consistent play should lead to further success.
“I think a lot of people in this locker room would agree that we’re inconsistent,” Boucher said. “We tend to play a good first period, and we just have to make sure that we keep the focus and effort consistent for a full 60 minutes every game.”
“We got out of the gates a little slow,” added second-year centre Kyle Piwowarczyk. “But, we seem to be finding our groove and I think all in all, we’re happy so far.”
The consensus around the locker room is the Mustangs can’t look past the RMC game and must be ready for a tough test.
“We can’t be complacent,” said defenceman Ryan Waldner. “Staying focused is important because we really don’t want to develop bad habits.”
While the players are happy about playing this season’s games at a quality facility like the John Labatt Centre, they noted more fan support would result in a much improved atmosphere.
“The ice is a lot better at the JLC,” Piwowarczyk said. “The atmosphere is not what we’d like it to be, but hopefully if we keep winning games we can get fans out there to fill the arena.”
Tonight’s game is particularly special, as Western Sports and Recreation will give away a spring break trip to Daytona Beach, Florida. To be eligible to win a pair of plane tickets, accommodations and $300 spending money, students must attend tonight’s game and register their Western “Livestrong-style” bracelet online.
Tickets can be purchased in the University Community Centre atrium or in the UCC basement at membership services. The puck drops tonight at 7 p.m.