By Ankur Kumar
(WINDSOR, ON) – The Lancers have their work cut out for them in the 2015 portion of this season’s schedule.
The Concordia Stingers will return to South Windsor Arena this Friday for the first time since the 2011-12 season, opening a Friday-Saturday doubleheader. The Stingers are in eighth place, out of nine teams in the OUA East, with a 7-13-0 posting, but they have managed to dethrone the best when it has counted.
After all, they are one of few teams who can boast about their defeat of the East leading Carleton Ravens.
The Lancers’ 11-0-0 run has since transformed into a 15-3-1 achievement. While they maintain top spot in the OUA West, the question becomes, “For how long?”
The Western Mustangs have gotten themselves back on track and are closing in. They are in second place in the West with 29 points, just two shy of the Lancers. The Waterloo Warriors are a little further behind with 25, but their eighth consecutive win last weekend, over the McGill Redmen, has alerted the OUA that something bigger is happening for the Black & Gold.
“As much as I respect Western, I hate losing to them. They came into our building and embarrassed us,” recalled head coach Kevin Hamlin. “I could care less about [CIS Top 10] rankings. As far as I am concerned, we shouldn’t be ranked nationally until we beat the best teams in our league. I stand by that.”
“We have to be stronger. When games count in the playoffs, we cannot let bad plays happen,” explained sophomore defender Julian Luciani, after the loss to the Mustangs on December 3. “We take a lot of penalties and that has to stop.”
After nine infractions in each of the two exhibition games against UNB Varsity Reds, the Lancers were charged 12 penalties in game one against Laurentian. There was slight improvement the next night in their 4-1 redemptive win as that number dropped to nine, yet it was still reminiscent of their outing in New Brunswick.
Counter that with a staggering power play.
One successful output on 12 opportunities against the Varsity Reds and scoring only once on nine opportunities in their series against the Voyageurs.
“The teams in the [OUA] East work hard,” elaborated team captain Drew Palmer. “Some of those teams have won strictly because how hard they work in the corners or on the boards.”
The Lancers are 6-2-0 against OUA East opponents this season, surrendering just one loss on home ice to the rival division.
“The second half is a big deal and we have to flip the page. We still have a lot of work to do and we have to keep improving,” said Palmer. “We know what we have to be like and what we’ll have to compete against.”
With the loss of an elite defender such as Saverio Posa to the ECHL, Luciani was bumped to the first power play unit alongside fellow St Catharines Falcon alum Kenny Bradford. With 11 points on the season so far, Luciani has a cannonading shot that can build upon his current statistics.
Posa’s 11 points through 16 games were second to Kenny Bradford’s 21 points, among Lancers defensemen. Posa left his mark on the team this season in some memorable games, such as the bounce shot off the glass into a wide open net as Waterloo’s Andrew Morrison stepped out of the crease expecting a rolling puck along the stanchion.
There was also the time when Posa took a hit from behind on the numbers from Toronto’s Casey Knight and returned in the third period to score a goal, inching the Lancers towards a 10-3 win over the Varsity Blues.
The former Windsor Spitfires captain was a member of last season’s Queen’s Cup championship team, an accomplishment shared with former Spits forward Derek Lanoue. Besides having their grips on both trophies, they both now add the commonality of removing themselves from the Lancers roster this season for other opportunities.
The timing for the transition works well for everyone. Posa’s at the top of his game and is ready to pursue the professional route, while Bradford establishes himself as a leading defenseman in the OUA, and the entire Canadian Interuniversity Sport.
The transition makes sense, but how worthwhile the experiment will be is yet to be seen starting this weekend against an unpredictable OUA East Stingers.