OUA West Hockey: Hawks' Daniels protecting his goal-den

I wrote a preview article about the Mustangs men's hockey team just before the season started and something that head coach Clarke Singer said to me stood out. He told me that his biggest competition would come from Lakehead, Waterloo and Guelph.

I immediately noticed he left out the Laurier Golden Hawks and I asked him about it. He told me that they would still be good, but they probably wouldn't be challenging any of those four teams.

In fairness to Singer, I don't think many people would have predicted the way Hawks goaltender Ryan Daniels has played thus far this season.

He's had to be great, because as Singer noted, this isn't a vintage Laurier team, especially offensively. The team is clearly missing the punch that Paul Bradley and the Voakes brothers once brought. Their leading scorer -- left winger Ryan Bellows -- is 30th overall in the OUA with 19 points.

Sure, they have had depth in scoring, but they still have only put up 60 goals in 17 games. I mean, that's good, but it's nothing to write home about. Prior to this past weekend, the Hawks had scored more than two goals only twice in November -- at least against teams not named RMC. Yes, I know Western lost to RMC. It doesn't make RMC a good team.

Naturally, that has meant that Daniels has needed to shoulder the load. And it's been quite a load to carry, considering he is facing 36 shots a game. To put that into perspective, Western's duo in net face only 31 per game -- and neither of them have played every game this season. Yet the man has the second best save percentage in the entire OUA, and the seventh best goals against average.

This weekend was a perfect example of what Daniels has meant to this team. Laurier emerged from its last two games of the semester with 4-1 victories over Guelph and York.

They were flat out dominated by Guelph, with the Gryphons outshooting the Hawks 44-24 -- that includes an 18-5 shot difference in the first period. Guelph had six powerplay opportunities to boot. Daniels came up with 43 saves, while a poor performance from his Gryphon counterpart, Andrew Loverrock, allowed the Hawks to steal one. I suppose defenceman Garrett Sinfield deserves a little credit too, scoring his first two as a Hawk.

They followed that gem of a performance by being outplayed by the superb -- i.e., last-place -- York Lions at home. They were outshot 36-28 and showed their lack of discipline, taking 26 minutes of penalties and handing York seven man advantages. Once again, Daniels allowed a single goal and did not allow York back in the game once his team took the lead for another crucial two points in the ultra-tight OUA West.

Laurier should probably be in the bottom half of the OUA West, but Daniels has put them right in the mix tied with Waterloo and one point behind Lakehead.

They might be pretty easy pickings for either of the Mustangs, Thunderwolves or Warriors come playoff time (the RPI agrees with this, putting Laurier at 15th, behind those three top 10 teams). But with Daniels between the pipes, you simply cannot count them out of any game. Now if only they could score.

Western 6-4 Brock
  • Mustang goal scorers: Matt Paltridge, Yashar Farmanara, Steve Reese (2), Kyle Lamb, Brandon Greenside
  • Mustang goaltender: Josh Unice - 10 saves on 13 shots, Anthony Grieco - 11 of 12
  • Badger goal scorers: Kaine Geldart, Joey Pell, C.J. Dickson, Matt Abercrombie
  • Badger goaltender: Kurt Jory - 18 stops on 23 shots, Vince Cusick - 11 of 12
This was an uncharacteristic game for both teams -- according to their respective coaches -- for several reasons:
  • Brock is normally a solid trapping team, allowing very few shots. Western peppered their net with 35, scoring 6 in the process. Brandon Greenside's winner was a brilliant top corner rocket after one of the worst defensive giveaways I've ever seen.
  • Brock also is a self-admitted poor offensive team. Yet they buried four goals on just 25 shots -- and they all came on the powerplay.
  • Western gave up four powerplay goals on six opportunities. Not great for one of the best defensive teams in the OUA.
  • Both starting goalies were pulled in the game.
Players of the Game
  • On a more positive note, the line of Yashar Farmanara, Kevin Baker and Steve Reese dominated again with 3 goals and 8 points between them. They stepped up in all-star Aaron Snow's absence.
  • Matt Abercrombie was probably Brock's best player, scoring his team-leading 10th and assisting on Geldart's opener.

Brock 5-3 Waterloo
  • Badger goal scorers: Adam Schwark (3), Jordan Gignac, Kaine Geldart
  • Badger goaltender: Kurt Jory - 19 of 22
  • Warrior goal scorers: Steve Whitely, Chris Ray, Tyler Moir
  • Warrior goaltender: Keaton Hartigan - 32 of 37
  • A good response from the Badgers after their loss to the Mustangs. Head coach Murray Nystrom challenged them to put together a better game and they did.
  • This was a better game for Brock's defence. Jory only saw 22 shots and Waterloo didn't get on the board until midway through the second.
  • Brock's powerplay remained on fire, adding two more to the four they scored on Western. Nystrom told me it was something they worked on a lot in practice this week.
  • This was a bit of a let down for Waterloo. They had a road weary Brock team in their sights with lots of time to prepare and they laid an egg.
Players of the Game
  • Schwark came into the game with a single goal, but was excellent with the hat-trick, two of which came on the powerplay
  • Hartigan was one of Waterloo's better players. Though he allowed 5 goals, he didn't get a lot of help, seeing 37 on the night.

UOIT 2-1 Windsor
  • Ridgeback goal scorers: Brendan Wise, Kyle Wetering
  • Ridgeback goaltender: Jason Guy - 35 of 36
  • Lancer goal scorers: Kyle Lang
  • Lancer goaltender: Jim Watt - 33 of 35
  • The Ridgebacks pull to within a point of the Lancers in the battle for seventh in the West thanks to their upset in Windsor.
  • UOIT had a single powerplay, but they cashed with Wise's opener in the second. Wise leads the team with 8 goals.
  • This game was always going to be a goaltender battle. York is the only team in the West that has fewer goals than these two powerhouses.
Players of the Game
  • Guy stopped 35 shots. You can't ask for much more from your goalie. It was a nice change from his usual 4.12 GAA and .877 save percentage.
  • Watt was unlucky not to emerge with the win, allowing only two goals on 35 shots. He may be the only goalie in the OUA that has been better than Ryan Daniels.
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1 comment:

  1. Hey, I read your previous article on Lakehead and thought it was a good read. I am glad Laurier is done with Lakehead after 2 games. It is good to see some OUA hockey coverage again on here. If there was still none by January I was going to offer my services if anyone was interested.

    Nice to see some OUA West articles, this is my 5th year following Laurier men's hockey, and I have attended almost every home game over the past 3 years and every one this year thus far. I watched Laurier in the preseason lose to Brock (the last place team last year) and 5-1 to Guelph and immediately thought they would be lucky to hit .500 this year. For the once high scoring team, the offense has suffered, losing 11 players each year for the past 2 years since their OUA Regular season first place finish in 2008-2009. Their defence is steady, but your article is bang on. Ryan Daniels is hands down one of the best goaltenders in the OUA, and as a Laurier fan, I am so glad he is on my team. I was really surprised he was not an invite to the FISU camp, but with Singer as the coach and Laurier's only game against Western a 7-2 loss, maybe that is to be expected.

    This weekend was a great example of Daniel's playing strong. Laurier was indeed absolutely dominated by Guelph and scored all their goals off of the rush. The second game was maybe closer than the 4-1 score, but Laurier was not really outplayed by York in my opinion. York peppered Daniels with shots from the outside, but was the better team only in the third period, once Laurier was content to sit back with a 3 goal lead.