Mroczkowski the OT hero in Game 1 as Laurier beats Windsor 4-3

(Photo: Kha Vo)
(Photo: Kha Vo)

WATERLOO, Ont. (February 15, 2017) – Christian Mroczkowski scored the game-winning goal 11 minutes into the first overtime period as the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men's hockey team rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Windsor Lancers 4-3 in Game 1 of their best-of-three OUA West Quarter-final series on Wednesday night.

Mroczkowski, a second year forward from Kitchener, Ont., banged home a rebound off an Alex Adams' (Orangville, Ont.) point shot for his second goal of the contest, handing Laurier their first playoff victory since 2013 and giving them a 1-0 lead in the series.

"It's a good feeling," said Mroczkowski on scoring the game-winning goal. "It's a huge win for us, especially at home here. We'll be looking to finish it on Friday on the road and get the weekend off."

"It's huge," added forward Brandon Robinson on the comeback. "It was a close game the whole way through. They went up two goals in the third but our systems never changed. We knew we would break through. Same in overtime; sometimes you think you need to do too much in overtime to get the win but we stuck to our plan, chipped pucks in and got a greasy goal in front of the net. It's good to go there up 1-0."

In what was the first playoff meeting between the two schools since 2000, it was the Lancers who jumped ahead early after the Hawks got into penalty trouble in the opening frame. Third year forward Kyle Hope of Blenheim, Ont., ripped a shot up over the glove of Laurier netminder Colin Furlong of Cambridge, Ont., on Windsor's second powerplay of the period to give the visitors a 1-0 advantage after 20 minutes.

The Hawks stepped up their game in the second period, outshooting Windsor 18-4 in the frame. Laurier had a number of opportunities to tie the contest during the period but Windsor goalie Blake Richard of Hamilton, was up to the task each time, including making impressive gloves saves on Alex Annecchiarico of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Adams.

However, late in the frame, Laurier was finally able to break through courtesy of rookie forward Brandon Robinson of Pickering, Ont. After taking a long bounce pass from Adams, he broke in all alone on Richard before dekeing the Lancers' netminder out of position and wrapping the puck around into the empty net to tie the game at one after two periods.

Despite the Hawks having momentum on their side heading to the third, it was the Lancers who struck quickly in the third. First, Dylan Denomme of Windsor, Ont., put home a loose puck after a bad bounce off the boards before Tyson Ness of Grand Prairie, Alta., fired home a Laurier turnover to stake Windsor to an unlikely 3-1 lead just five minutes into the frame.

"We were excited the whole game, even when they were up 3-1," said Robinson. "We knew we were going to come back. I think that's the mindset you need to have in the playoffs. There are a lot of ups and downs throughout the game."

Needing a spark, the purple and gold got it from their number one line of Robinson, Andrew Fritsch of Brantford, Ont., and Danny Hanlon of Waterloo, Ont. Midway through the third, the trio connected as Hanlon and Robinson combined to set up Fritsch in front of the net to cut the Lancers lead to 3-2.

Then, with five minutes remaining, Mroczkowski supplied a highlight-reel goal to tie the game. The former Waterloo Siskin circled in the neutral zone before splitting the Lancers defence and backhanding the puck past Richard to force overtime.

"I just saw a split second open in the middle there and I thought I would take a chance," said Mroczkowski of his game-tying goal. "It worked out well."

With the shots heavily favouring the Hawks entering overtime, Laurier continued to lean on the Lancers and were rewarded with the game-winning goal midway through the first overtime. After keeping the puck in the zone, Adams fired a shot on goal which was kicked out by Richard but right to Mroczkowski who made no mistake in tucking it home, giving Laurier their sixth consecutive victory dating back to the regular season.

Furlong, who was making the third playoff start of his Laurier career, earned his first postseason win for the Hawks as he made 29 saves.

Richard took the loss for Windsor, stopping 47 of the 51 shots fired his way.

Laurier will have a chance to win the series and advance to the OUA West Semifinals on Friday night when they head to Windsor for Game 2. 

"It's a smaller rink (in Windsor) so we're going to have to work extremely hard and finish our checks," said Mroczkowski looking ahead to Game 2. "There's going to be no pretty goals in that rink so we're just going to have to crash the net and get some garbage goals."

Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. on South Windsor Arena and the game will be broadcast live on OUA.tv.

NOTES: The win was the first for Laurier in the OUA playoffs since winning Game 1 of their first round series against the Guelph Gryphons back in 2013…the Hawks and Lancers were facing each other for the second straight contest after the two teams closed out the regular season against each other last Saturday, a game that Laurier won 3-2…the Hawks improved their record to 3-0 against Windsor this season and 6-0 in all-time playoff meetings

Source: Laurier Golden Hawks