Lancers overcoming odds
By Garrett Fodor
The University of Windsor men’s hockey team is proving the benefits of staying the course.
The Windsor Lancers were eliminated last season in the first round of the OUA playoffs after having a mediocre .500 season. One year later they are showcasing the benefits of staying the course and not panicking. The Lancers 2016-2017 roster is made up of 42 per cent of skaters from the Windsor and Essex area. Entering this year with eight new faces on the team, expectations were tempered. That quickly changed when the Lancers held the University of Michigan Wolverines to one goal in their first game of the season. The same Wolverines team which had nine players on their roster drafted to the NHL.
Wolverines captain and Victoria B.C., native Nolan de Jong said he feels there are similarities between the Wolverines and Lancers following their Oct. 2 meeting.
“The style of play is a little different,” said de Jong. “The shot blocking stands out for me. When you get to the Big Ten you see more people sacrificing the body and I think the face shield has something to do with it. The skill level is definitely there and there are guys who have played in similar leagues as us.”
Fast forward to February and the Lancers ended the regular season with a 13-13-2 record, while having one of the youngest teams and also coming in under sized with the team average standing 6-0 and 183 lbs. Their road in the OUA playoffs was not going to be easy.
Lancers captain Blake Blondeel said the team is used to being looked at as the underdog.
“We have faced adversity all year,” said Blondeel. “It’s just a little bit more now.”
The Lancers would go on to defeat Laurier and then the Number One seeded Ryerson Rams to advance to the OUA semi-finals. In order to make to the OUA gold medal game, the sixth seeded Lancers would have to beat the Number Two York Lions. The Lancers dropped game one before traveling to York for Game Two and Three. The Lancers won Game Two 4-2 to avoid elimination but dropped Game Three 6-3, losing the best of three series.
Lancers head coach Kevin Hamlin said he likes his team’s chances.
“Against a team like York, McGill, Queens you can’t give your opponents opportunities, you have to play all 60 minutes,” said Hamlin. “We have been underlooked all year and this does not change it.”
The Lancers faced off against McGill for OUA bronze and a chance to go to Nationals. However with the Lancers playing on the larger ice in McGill, the team struggled offensively and fell 6-3. With the loss it concluded their season, finishing fourth in the OUA after being seeded fifth in the Western conference.