Warriors look to woo new fans

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The Waterloo Warriors men&rsquo;s hockey team opened 2015 play in an unusual setting: the William Allman Arena in Stratford. The Warriors lost a close matchup against the Western Mustangs on Sept. 16 in the venerable home of the junior level Stratford Cullitons. The meeting opened their four-game pre-season, in which the Warriors will take on the crosstown rival Laurier Golden Hawks before jetting out to Nova Scotia to take on Saint Mary&rsquo;s University and St. Francis Xavier.</p>

The visit to Stratford was more than a matchup between opponents in neutral territory: it was also a chance for the Warriors to expand their audience and interact with the greater hockey-loving public outside of Waterloo. The night started with a free hockey clinic from Warriors head coach Brian Bourque, teaching any attendees about defensive zone coverage, forechecking, faceoffs, and goal setting. The players also had a meet-and-greet with fans immediately preceding the game. Given the foothold that the University of Waterloo has in Stratford with its digital media campus, the efforts to reach out to the community and build the Warriors brand isn’t surprising.

The team’s veterans sat out the contest, giving them rest and allowing the Warriors’ younger players to get some more ice time. This is a pretty standard procedure for exhibition games: it gives new players experience in the league and provides coaches with the opportunity to evaluate their players and team, which helps them set lineups and minute distributions for players during the regular season.

Fourth-year defenceman Paul Bonar and third-year forward Mitchell Smith both contributed goals in the game. Their goals helped shrink a 3-0 deficit, but the team was unable to add another and extend the game.

OUA men’s hockey begins in earnest for the Warriors on Oct. 8, when they take on the Brock Badgers at home in their first regular season matchup.

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