PLAYOFF PREVIEW: No. 1 Hawks battle Western
WATERLOO, Ont. (February 29, 2012) - The No. 1 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks will look to win their eighth OUA Championship in the last nine years this week as they tangle with the sixth-seeded Western Mustangs in a best-of-three series which opens tonight at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.
Puck drop for Game 1 is set for 7:30 p.m.
For Laurier, this is a return to the familiar after their run of consecutive championships was cut short early in the OUA Semifinals a year ago by the Queen's Gaels. After getting past the eighth-seeded Brock Badgers in the OUA Quarter-finals, the purple and gold survived a Game 1 upset to the hands of the seventh-seeded Windsor Lancers in the semifinals, winning the series in three games to advance to their 12th OUA Championship.
The Hawks have reached this stage in the season thanks to a relentless offensive attack that encourages the Laurier defenceman to be very active in jumping up into the rush. As a result, Laurier defenders have produced four goals and seven assists through five playoff games thus far with rookie defenceman Haley Baxter of Waterloo, Ont., leading the way with three assists.
Not only are the Hawks defenceman contributing, but the entire forward group as well. 14 different players have found their way onto the scoresheet this post-season led by the duo of Devon Skeats of Whitby, Ont., and Laura Brooker of Fergus, Ont. Skeats and Brooker both have five points in five game and make up one of the Hawks most dangerous lines playing with team captain Abby Rainsberry of Petrolia, Ont., who has three points of her own.
As for the Hawks opponent in this championship series, the Western Mustangs, they are in very unfamiliar territory as a program as this will be their first time ever playing for the OUA Championship. However, the Mustangs have reached this point of the year by beating two strong teams. In their opening round matchup, Western knocked off the Toronto Varsity Blues, completing a two-game sweep over the third-seeded Blues. Taking on the fifth-seeded York Lions in the OUA Semifinals, the Mustangs, similar to the Hawks, rebounded from a Game 1 loss to defeat the Lions in three games.
The Mustangs have been led in the playoffs by fourth-year forward Lindsay Gidomski of Mississauga, Ont., who has six goals and eight points in just five games. Teammates Carly Rolph of Guelph, Ont., and Stacey Scott of London, Ont., each have scored three goals and have been responsible for over 70 percent of Western's offence so far.
These two teams met three times in the regular season and although the Hawks won all three games, two of the victories were by just a single goal so fans can expect this series to be another close battle. With that in mind, look for the goaltenders to play a big role in who will be crowned OUA Champions. While Erika Thunder of Buffalo Point, Man., has carried the load for Laurier, starting all five games and posting a 1.21 goals against average and a 0.927 save percentage, the Mustangs have split their goaltending duties between Kelly Campbell of St. Thomas, Ont., and Olivia Ross of Huntsville, Ont. Both goaltenders have played well for the Mustangs, winning two games each, and they will need to be prepared to face a barrage of shots as Laurier as averaged 39 shots per game this post-season.
Tickets for Game 1 are $10 for Adults, $5 for Laurier students and $6 for Seniors/High School students. The game will also be webcast live on Hawkcast Live with live updates being provided on the Hawks Twitter account, @WLUAthletics.
Game 1: Western at Laurier - Wednesday, February 29 - 7:30 p.m. (Waterloo Rec Complex)
Game 2: Laurier at Western - Saturday, March 3 7:00 p.m. (Thompson Arena)
Game 3*: Western at Laurier - Sunday, March 4 - 7:30 p.m. (Waterloo Rec Complex)