This year’s CIS event being hosted by Western, Mar. 15-18
By Pat Payton
LONDON – The Western Mustangs are hosting the 2017-18 Canadian women’s varsity hockey championship here at Thompson Arena, Mar. 15-18.
St. Marys native April Clark is leading the Mustangs in scoring this season, and the third-year forward will likely play a big role in any success Western achieves at the eight-team national tournament.
“We’d like to get to the OUA final, and show that we’ve earned our way in (to the Canadians),” ‘Stangs’ coach Kelly Paton told the Independent recently. Western was still in the OUA playoffs at the time of the interview.
“From a team goal standpoint, at the end of the day, we just want to compete. If we do everything that we can, it will give us a chance to be successful. You want to do everything you can for that teammate sitting beside you.
“If we do well in the OUA playoffs, it will give our group some confidence and earn respect among our peers. We want to play as much hockey as we can, leading up to the national tournament.
“This year, our league has been really tight at the top of the standings. There are several teams that could win the McCaw Cup. It just comes down to preparation and focus. The team that wants it more is probably the team that’s going to come up with the trophy.”
Guelph is the two-time defending OUA women’s champions. Queen’s, Nipissing and Toronto are other teams that will provide stiff competition as well, Paton predicts.
Strong regular season
The Mustangs, meanwhile, had a strong regular season. In 24 games, Western finished third behind only Queen’s and Guelph in the OUA standings. Mustangs (14-3-5-2) finished their regular schedule with six straight victories. Both Western and Guelph finished with 50 points, two behind Queen’s.
“Overall, the season has been really positive in our development,” Paton said. “We’re pleased with our position in the standings, and getting home ice in the (McCaw Cup) playoffs meant a lot to us.”
One of the reasons for Mustangs’ success in the regular season was the 20-year-old Clark, who led the team in scoring with 12 goals and 22 points. After leading the country in goals at the Christmas break, the hard-working winger was closely checked in the second half of the OUA schedule.
Clark finished fourth in Ontario in goals scored and tied for sixth in total points. She had four powerplay goals, which was second best in the province.
Good vision, coach says
“April has really good vision around the ice,” coach Paton says. “When she has the puck, her creativity is certainly something that she leans on to get herself in good shooting areas and to create plays for her teammates. Overall, her fundamentals have continued to get better, and she has been rewarded because of that.
“As a staff, we give her the chance to play a pretty big role on the powerplay, and she has seen success in that area as well.”
The Western coach has also watched Clark’s defensive game improve significantly over the course of the 2017-18 campaign. “Over the second half of the season, she probably leads the team in face-off wins,” she noted.
–Western swept Toronto Blues two straight in the first round of OUA playoffs. Mustangs won 3-2 in overtime at Western, and 4-2 in Toronto. Western played Guelph in the semi-finals.
–Mustangs’ first game at the Canadian women’s championships is Thursday, March 15, starting at 4 p.m.
–April Clark played in the St. Marys minor hockey system until she was nine years old. She played one year on a Novice (boys) travelling team.