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(Photo Credit: Adam Gagnon)
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Men's hockey opens season against Nipissing
WATERLOO, Ont. (October 7, 2011) - One year after surprising most pundits around the league by finishing second in the OUA West and advancing to the OUA Quarter-finals, the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men's hockey team will look to build on that success as they open their 2011-12 campaign against the Nipissing Lakers Friday night at the Waterloo Memorial Recreational Complex.

Head Coach GREG PUHALSKI has brought in a strong recruiting class to replace a couple of big names that graduated in the off-season. Gone from last year are three of the four Hawks leading scorers including Ryan Bellows of St. Catharines, Ont., team captain Jezn-Michel Rizk of Dunham, Que., and defenceman Ryan Bernardi of Etobicoke, Ont. To replace them, Puhalski has brought in eight new players in his first official recruiting class. Included in the group are NCAA Division I transfer Brett Vandenberg of Burlington, Ont., and former Ontario Hockey League players Mitch Lebar (Aurora, Ont.) from the Kingston Frontenacs and Chad Lowry (Waterloo, Ont.) from the Kitchener Rangers.

While the Hawks have gotten younger this season, the purple and gold still have experience where it matters and it begins between the pipes with last year's OUA West Most Valuable Player Ryan Daniels of Pickering, Ont. Daniels was the talk of the league last season as he played in all 28 of the Golden Hawks' games, winning 15 while posting a 2.52 GAA and a 0.929 SV%. He will be back for his third year with Laurier and his experience will be a steadying influence for Puhalski's squad.

In front of Daniels, Laurier boasts a strong defensive core led by new team captain Kyle Van De Bospoort of Pickering, Ont. Joining Van De Bospoort on the blueline are a trio of veteran defenceman including Garrett Sinfield of London, Ont., Zack Shepley of Milton, Ont., and Phil Magistrale of Tsawwassen, B.C. Van De Bospoort, Sinfield and Shepley are all known for their shutdown style of play which should make Daniels life easier while Magistrale has an offensive flair to his game that will be key with the departure of Bernardi.

Up front, Thomas Middup of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Mitchell Good of Wellesley, Ont., are the two big offensive players that are back from a year ago. Middup, a rookie in 2010-11, finished second on the team in goals (11) and points (25) and will be trying to build on those numbers in his second year. As for Good, he has 37 points in 56 games over two seasons with the Hawks and his ability to put up consistent numbers bodes well for Laurier.

Middup and Good will not be alone in their quest to find the back of the net. Laurier showed in their final preseason contest against Ryerson that they have a number of offensive weapons. Three rookies, Lebar, Tyler Stothers of Oakville, Ont., and Joseph Vanni of Caledonia, Ont., had multi-point performances and should provide an offensive spark throughout the season.

With a veteran presence in net and on the blueline and a young, talented offensive group of forwards, the Hawks can be expected to once against make noise in the OUA West Division. 

Puck drop between the Hawks and the Lakers is set for 7:30 p.m.

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