Losing leads late in games is becoming a trend for Western’s men’s hockey team. Thursday night, the Mustangs suffered yet another scare at the John Labatt Centre.
Western weathered the storm against the York Lions, earning a 3-2 victory largely in thanks to surprisingly solid goalie Ryan Riddle.
Riddle, the backup goaltender, made three key saves late in the game to preserve a much-needed victory.
Despite out-shooting and out-chancing the Lions for most of the game, Western’s inability to convert chances into goals — especially on the power play — kept York alive.
York goalie Kevin Druce left early in the third period with what appeared to be a groin injury. He surrendered two goals on 37 shots. Domenic DeFrancesco was solid in relief, giving up one goal on 14 shots.
Western’s constant pressure was rewarded as struggling winger Jeff Martens opened scoring at 5:43 of the first period. Martens grabbed his first tally of the campaign by shelving a wraparound on Druce’s short side.
“I think we played a lot on our heels tonight,” said York head coach Bill Maguire. “As I said [earlier to the players], we have to respect every opponent we play against. I think we almost over respected Western tonight.”
A hungry Mustangs team kept York at bay for most of the first period before allowing Lions sniper Matt Passfield to tie the game with his fourth goal of the season. Passfield scored shorthanded, firing a laser beam from just above the right faceoff dot.
Forward Sal Peralta gave Western the edge late in the second frame after a fairly lackadaisical period from both teams. Peralta dangled a confused York defence before backhanding his fifth goal of the season.
The ’Stangs relinquished the lead in the third on another Passfield goal; Western seemed destined for yet another disappointment.
However, the Purple and Silver regained its lead a minute later on a power play, after defenceman Ryan Waldner buried a rebound off forward Jesse Boucher’s point shot.
A late power play onslaught by York was stopped by Riddle, who closed the door on three consecutive opportunities from the top of the crease, culminating in a great glove save.
After the game, a dejected Passfield said consistent pressure throughout the game is crucial.
“We’ve been saying the same things all year — we have to put 60 minutes together,” he said. “We can’t just have a good third and expect to win hockey games; the coaches are stressing that.
“It was a one-goal game for a while, and we didn’t put 60 [minutes] together.”
Western dominated the York zone for most of the game. Most of York’s chances came off Western penalties, a problem plaguing the Mustangs all season. Maguire felt his team gave Western too much space.
“We didn’t bring it to them like we can, and that’s the frustrating part,” he said. “It was a one-goal game and I felt that we really struggled tonight.”
It was a coming out party for the Mustangs, as they finally played a complete 60 minutes and held a lead late in the third.
“It has been tough lately and we needed a big one; our goalie made some key saves and guys battled a little harder,” Peralta said. “I think that was the difference today. We outworked them the whole game, so you know it was more deserving, too.”
“It’s a big win for us,” Peralta said. “With the exception of the last five minutes, I think there was a lot more flow than some of the other games we’ve had early [at the JLC].
“It would be nice for some of our guys to get rewarded with goals, [but] we have to get through this period where we’re not scoring a lot by playing good defence and getting good goaltending.”
Western forward Matt Manias hyper extended his elbow Thursday and was held out of Saturday’s 4-2 road win against Brock. He will be re evaluated this week.
The Mustangs visit the Royal Military College next Friday.