By Ankur Kumar
(WINDSOR, ON) – Western. Windsor. Wednesday. What other details would you need to know? Perhaps time and location; 7:30 pm at South Windsor Arena.
Aside from that, the game is a straightforward invitation for supporters of either side to witness. It is the last game for both teams this semester and the final OUA regular season game scheduled in 2014.
Sixteen games have passed and the Lancers are 14-1-1. Only one game saw the Lancers not earn a point and yet they have remained in first place the entire semester. Even the 4-2 lead the Lancers had heading into the third period against the Waterloo Warriors last Friday dissipated into a 5-4 come-from-behind victory for the Black & Gold.
“It has always been back and forth. There’s a history and we know they’re always difficult,” explained team captain Drew Palmer. “Waterloo is a highly skilled team. We still got a point out of it and we’re 14-1-1.”
The surrender in the second overtime produced a positive result for the Lancers. The Lancers resumed their winning ways the next night against the York Lions in Toronto with a 3-1 win.
“It was high intensity and same as UOIT. Both teams worked hard,” elaborated Palmer.
Palmer assisted rookie scorers JC Houde and Dylan Denomme against the Lions. Whether it was to redeem his own output from 24 hours earlier or to set a better example for the freshmen, the team is back on track before another challenge.
Similar to the Warriors, the Mustangs bring an extensive winning streak to South Windsor Arena. Both teams will reconnect on Wednesday for the first time since the OUA West semi-finals, when the Lancers pulled off the memorable comeback en route to the Queen’s Cup.
Just as the stakes were high in last season’s OUA West semi-finals, this time is no different.
“No matter what happens, it’s going to be a great game,” continued Palmer. “It’s the last game of the year for both teams and that makes it far more important to get the win. It’ll define the season.”
For head coach Kevin Hamlin, the Lancers have been underestimated when they meet the Purple Ponies during the regular season. Not this time, however. This is the Lancers’ time.
“It’s always exciting to play Western at any point in the year,” explained Hamlin. “We’re hoping things fall in line for us even though the Mustangs are playing really well.”
The Mustangs are second to the Lancers in the OUA West division and, if they defeat the Lancers, they wouldn’t trump Windsor for first place of the division and the conference.
Western is led by Greg Dodds’ .938 save percentage and 2.06 goals against average, those are some of the best numbers beyond the OUA, Dodds’ save percentage is second best in Canada and his GAA has him in the top ten.
While the Mustangs have an optimal presence in the crease, the Lancers have the best scoring threat in the OUA and the CIS.
Spencer Pommells has 10 goals, while his 22 assists are the most in the OUA and CIS. Pommells’ points totals through 16 games currently has him in the lead in scoring race in the CIS. It took Pommells 28 games last season to achieve that exact number of points.
Halfway through this season, Kevin Hamlin knows there is plenty left to accomplish in the season starting on Wednesday against the Western Mustangs.
“He [Pommells] won’t be measured by his stats at the Christmas break,” stated Hamlin “But by his stats at the end of the season.”
Even more so, Kenny Bradford leads the CIS in goals amongst defensemen with seven; five of them coming on the power play. The blue line has been demonstrative of some of the strongest offensive capabilities in the OUA and CIS.
Last Friday against the Warriors, three defensemen collected points on the first goal of the game.
Bradford dished a pass to sophomore partner Julian Luciani and went for a change. Luciani waited for the next defender to step onto the ice. Saverio Posa joined the play towards the boards, opposite the Lancers bench, and Luciani connected the pass to him.
Posa then banked a shot off the glass that caught goaltender Mike Morrison out of position, leaving the entire six-by-four frame wide open and receptive of the bouncy puck for a goal.
The unique play did not go unrecognized by any one in the crowd or on the bench, especially head coach Hamlin.
“We’ve been fortunate to have their contributions,” Hamlin said. “We didn’t play as well as we could have, but it was nice to get that kind of help.”
The blue line of the Lancers will be relied upon by Hamlin and the rest of the team. With the admirable numbers achieved so far, they are capable as any one else on the front lines to collect goals and help the team end the first semester on a high note.
No one would have anticipated this team at the start of the season.