St. Thomas University transfer Andrew Fritsch, pictured here against Ohio State, will be an impact player for Laurier in 2016-17 (Photo Credit: Ric Kruszynski)
WATERLOO, Ont. (October 5, 2016) - Following a tough end to their 2015-16 season in which the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks bowed out of the OUA playoffs in two games at the hands of their bitter rivals, the Western Mustangs, optimism surrounds the purple and gold heading into 2016-17 thanks to a strong recruiting class and a deep group of returning athletes.
Determined to increase the talent level on the ice, head coach GREG PUHALSKI
brought in a group of 11 recruits, five of which possess major junior playing experience, to bolster his team. Included in the 11 players is St. Thomas University transfer Andrew Fritsch
, a local product from Brantford, Ont., who has two years of CIS experience under his belt along with his time in the OHL with the Niagara IceDogs, Owen Sound Attack and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Joining Fritsch as fresh faces on the purple and gold are Brandon Robinson
, who most recently suited up for the Kitchener Rangers, as well as Braydon Blight
, formerly of Kingston (OHL) and Saint John (QMJHL), Alex Annecchiarico
(Owen Sound - OHL) and Lucas Batt
(Victoriaville, Moncton and Quebec - QMJHL). All five players promise to have a big impact with the Hawks this season and will feature prominently in their lineup.
While the new faces bring excitement to the team, the Hawks also have a strong core returning, centred around fifth year forward Derek Schoenmakers
. Schoenmakers is coming off a great year in which he scored 17 goals, tied for sixth overall in the OUA, and finished the year with 24 points. Other impact players returning for Laurier included defenceman Matt Franczyk
and Mac Clutsam
, a member of the OUA West All-Rookie team last season, and forwards Will Cook
, Kyle Morrison
, Christian Mroczkowski
and Erik Pushka
Perhaps Laurier’s most important returning player though may be goaltender Chris Festarini
. The former Erie Otters and Niagara IceDogs netminder returns to the purple and gold after sitting out all of the 2015-16 season due to injury. His addition is an instant boost to the Golden Hawks crease which also includes returning veterans Vinny Merante
and Colin Furlong
. With Festarini back in the fold, the Hawks deepest position for the season is most assuredly in goal.
Laurier showed glimpses during preseason play that they can play with some of the top teams in, not only the province, but the country. The Hawks posted impressive victories against Western and Saint Mary’s, two top programs in Canada, by identical scorelines of 4-2. However, the team also had some tough losses to Waterloo, Dalhousie and Ohio State from which they will look to learn from moving forward.
The Hawks open up their regular season schedule on Thursday night, October 6, when they travel to Toronto take on the Ryerson Rams at the Mattamy Athletic Centre.
Puck drop is set for 7:15 p.m. and the game can be seen live on OUA.tv