LONDON, Ont. (from Western Mustangs) – The Windsor Lancers accomplished something Thursday night that no other team had been able to achieve in 2018: defeat the Western Mustangs in regulation time. The Lancers ended Western’s impressive 11-game point streak with a 5-3 win at Thompson Arena.
“It’s not the kind of game that we want,” said captain Jonathan Laser. “We’ve been successful lately taking care of our own end, and the offense worries about itself when you do that, and tonight we kind of got caught cheating a few times it hurt us.”
The loss was their first regulation loss of 2018, and ends the Mustangs impressive 11 game point streak. The Mustangs now move to 14-10-3 on the year, and sit tied for fourth in the OUA West alongside Laurier.
Prior to puck drop, the Mustangs honoured their five graduating seniors, Steven Beyers, Cody Brown, Trevor Warnaar, Rob Polesello, and Chris Corbeil, in a pre-game ceremony for the team’s annual Senior Day game.
The first period showcased both teams’ high energy, with the Mustangs set on honouring the seniors, while the Lancers came out ready to battle. By the end of the period there were 25 shots on goal, with Western outshooting Windsor 15-10.
“It just seemed like a bit of a pond hockey game tonight,” said head coach Clarke Singer. “Both teams trading chances, and three on two one way, and then a three on two the other way, it’s just not the way we’ve played since November.”
Both teams had significant scoring chances, with each side beating the goaltender, but not the post, in the first ten minutes of the game.
It was the Mustangs who got on the board first, scoring 11 minutes into the opening period. A routine dump and chase resulted in sustained offensive pressure for the purple and white, who quickly settled into a cycle before Ray Huether netted his first of the game off assists from Corbeil and Laser.
The Mustangs struck again just over a minute later, as Mitchell Brooks made a phenomenal effort carrying the puck into the zone, before dishing a cross-crease pass over to Mitchell Fitzmorris who tapped the puck in to double the Mustangs lead.
However, Windsor wasn’t to be counted out, rallying in the last minute of the frame to create a flurry in front of the net. Despite stopping the initial shot, and the first two rebounds, Luke Peressini couldn’t hold off the ferocious Lancers attack, with Ryan Shaw hammering home a rebound to cut the lead in half heading into the second period.
“I think we just need to focus on taking care of our own end, that’s not something that we don’t know how to do,” said Laser. “We just have to bear down and make sure we’re prepared for the games mentally, and hopefully we can come out with a better effort on Saturday.”
After killing off a penalty early in the frame, the Mustangs sprang into action, breaking out of their own zone with Warnaar leaving the box and creating an odd man rush. After carrying the puck deep down the right wing Warnaar sent it over to Fitzmorris, who scored his second of the game to restore the Mustangs two-goal lead.
“Personal success is always good, but at the end of the day it’s disappointing not to get the two points as the team,” said Fitzmorris. “That’s always the first mindset, but unfortunately I could only have two tonight.”
Western dictated the pace of play for the rest of the period, keeping the Lancers on the ropes. However, the Mustangs were plagued by bad puck luck, and despite numerous chances at open nets, Western could not control the puck enough to get it into the back of the net.
In a repeat of the first period, the Lancers came on strong in the last minute of play, with Alex Fiesen banging home a rebound to cut the Mustangs lead to one with 39 seconds left in the period.
“It’s focus and positioning, that’s all it is, being aware of how much time is on the clock,” said Singer. “Being aware of how important that last shift of the period is, especially when we get into next week in the playoffs you can’t be allowing those.”
Bad luck followed the Mustangs into the third period, failing to capitalize on another empty net opportunity, with the Windsor goaltender caught out of position.
Instead, it was the Windsor Lancers who struck first in the final frame, capitalizing on a Mustangs high sticking penalty. Brennan Fesey worked the puck around the collapsing Mustangs defence, before beating Peressini with a top shelf wrist shot and tying the game up at three goals a piece just over five minuets into the frame.
Fesey wasn’t done, as he dangled around Peressini a mere three minutes later for his second of the night. The goal would be the eventual game winner, as Blake Bondeel would score an empty net goal with under a minute left to go in the frame, solidifying the victory for the Lancers.
“Definitely a tough loss for us, we’ve been really good in our third periods this second half of the season,” said Fitzmorris. “To give one up there is not ideal, but to get it out of the way now before the playoffs start is better than in the playoffs.”
The Mustangs will be back in action Saturday night, as they head to Windsor for a rematch of tonight’s game in the final game of the regular season.