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(Photo Credit: Thomas Kolodziej)
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PREVIEW: MHKY hosts Lakehead in season opener

WATERLOO, Ont. (October 3, 2014) - The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s hockey team kicks off their 2014-15 regular season schedule at home Saturday night when they welcome the Lakehead Thunderwolves to the Waterloo Recreation Complex.

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m.

After a disappointing season in 2013-14, one that saw the Hawks riddled by injury and ultimately miss the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, head coach GREG PUHALSKI has brought in a talented recruiting class to join what is now a healthy lineup. Competing in what is a difficult OUA West division, Puhalski and the Hawks appear to have the right mix of youth, experience and talent to guide them back to the post season.

Highlighting the list of rookies that is 11 deep includes former OHL players Zach Lorentz of Waterloo, Ont., and goalie Christopher Festarini of Oakville, Ont. Lorentz, a former Kitchener Ranger, played last season with the Plymouth Whalers where he had 27 goals and 54 points in 68 games. As for Festarini, he enjoyed a five-year career with the Erie Otters and Niagara IceDogs before attending Montreal Canadiens rookie camp back in 2012.

The incoming group joins a roster that continues to grow under the tutelage of Puhalski, now entering his fifth year behind the Hawks bench. Up front, team captain Tyler Stothers of Oakville, Ont., and fellow forward Joe Vanni of Caledonia, Ont., are the veterans of the group and will be looked upon to provide leadership. Stothers is coming off his toughest season since coming to Laurier but with 60 points in 74 career games, will be a focal point of the Hawks attack.

Vanni and Stothers won’t be alone up front though as third year players Greg Cerilli of Barrie, Ont., and Derek Schoenmakers of Kitchener, Ont., promise to make an impact for the purple and gold in 2014-15. Schoenmakers led the Hawks in scoring a year ago in his first full season and will be looking to build off his 26-point performance while Cerilli will look to regain his scoring touch from his rookie season that saw him pot 11 tallies.

One other name to keep an eye in the forward core is Mike Webley of Stittsville, Ont. Webley joins the Hawks after playing with the NCAA’s UAH Chargers and showed his scoring touch in the preseason, recording a hat-trick against the Waterloo Warriors.

On the backend, Puhalski has a solid core of four third-year players that will anchor the blueline. Included in the group are Matt Provost of Oakville, Ont., and Frank Riddle of St. Catharines, Ont. Provost has been one of Laurier’s most consistent players since joining the Hawks three years ago, chipping in on both offence (21 points in 52 career games) and on defence. As for Riddle, he looks to make an impact as he returns to the lineup after missing the entire 2013-14 season due to injury.

In goal, Festarini is the expected starter for the Golden Hawks but will have a solid backup in Vinny Merante of Niagara Falls, N.Y. Last season, Merante earned the starting job halfway through the year and ran with it, posting a 4-6-0 record along with a 3.03 goals against average and a 0.915 save percentage.

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