Bill McDonald’s first win behind the Lakehead Thunderwolves bench will have to wait at least another night.
Travis McIsaac scored the go-ahead goal 10:13 into the second Friday night, pacing the visiting University of Prince Edward Island Panthers to a 4-1 win at Fort William Gardens, spoiling McDonald's debut.
McIsaac added an insurance goal later in the third and was named the game’s first start for his efforts.
Junior Mike Hammond scored the lone Lakehead goal, bashing the puck past UPEI goalie Wayne Savage from the side of the net with six minutes to go in the first.
McDonald, who replaced interim coach Mike Busniuk in the offseason, said he knew he was in tough against a team that was playing their fifth game of the pre-season, with three wins under their belt.
“I hate to say it, I’m an old fox, but I kind of figured that’s the way it would go,” he said. “I knew they had a good team coming in.”
McDonald was impressed with his team’s effort, but the after a strong start, the finish showed the first-game jitters were front and centre for much of the contest.
“The second period was a total kind of collapse. We had a hard time with line changes in that end because it’s a long change. It did cost us one goal. We continued to play physical and we played with heart and energy, but we could have been a lot smarter,” he said.
Hammond, one of the few tested skilled forwards returning to a Wolves team hit hard by graduation and player departures, said it’s all about building off the loss and moving forward in Saturday’s rematch.
He’s already noticed a difference in the way the team plays with McDonald at the helm.
“He’s loud, he’s blunt and he’s straightforward. He lets you know when you’re doing something right and he also lets you know when you’re doing something wrong.”
Timing, speed and inexperience are all things that can be overcome, he added, not pushing the panic button just yet.
“There are a lot of factors that play in. We’ll just have to be better tomorrow night,” Hammond said.
Panthers goalie Wayne Savage was stellar in the UPEI net, especially in the first when the Wolves doubled their opponent, firing 12 shots his way. Overall he stopped 28 shots.
The UPEI offence started clicking in the second, Christopher DeSousa firing home a wrist shot that eluded LU starter Jeff Bosch, tying the game 1-1 at the 5:22 mark. Bosch faced 40 shots on the night, earning third-star honours.
Five minutes later McIsaac nailed his first of the night, giving the Panthers the lead for good.
UPEI coach Forbes McPherson, who tallied 103 points in 1996-97, his lone season with the Thunder Bay Senators under present-day LU athletic director Tom Warden, said it felt great being back in the old barn, especially so after skating away with the win.
“The one thing I remember about Thunder Bay is I just loved playing here,” he said, noting his team certainly benefited from an earlier start to their non-conference season.
“There’s no question the more games you play, you get more into your systems and a little bit more into the way you want to play,” McPherson said. “The one negative is we’re a little bit beat up right now.”
The game took an ugly turn midway through the third when Carson Dubchak was leveled at centre ice, and required the assistance of teammates to help him of the ice, unable to put any weight on his right leg.
“I can tell you it doesn’t look good,” McDonald said when asked about the sophomore forward’s condition.
Claw marks: Scratches for the Thunderwolves included Jason Grecica (elbow), Brennan Menard (concussion), Andrew Tessier, Paul Thompson, Chris de la Lande and Kelin Ainsworth ... Attendance was 3,444.
Scoring: 1. Lakehead, Hammond (Kaarela, Carrick) 14:08. Penalties: Grondin LAK (slashing) 3:44, Beck UPEI (hooking) 5:50, M. Quesnele LAK (interference) 9:20
Scoring: 2. UPEI, DeSousa (McNaughton) 5:22. 3. UPEI, Travis McIsaac (Metcalfe) 10:13. Penalties: Bench minor LAK (too many men) 1:33, Wilgosh UPEI (tripping) 5:25, Bench minor LAK (too many men, served by Kaarela) 7:18, Babineau UPEI (hooking) 11:28, Traccitto UPEI (high sticking) 13:18, .Dubchak LAK (slashing) 16:01, Brenton UPEI (slashing) 16:53.
Scoring: 4. UPEI, Brown (Malone, McIver) 6:01. 5. UPEI, McIsaac (DeSousa) 17:54. Penalties: Kaarela LAK (unsportsmanlike conduct), Metcalfe UPEI (roughing) 11:26,
GAME DATA – SOG – UPEI 6-19-0-0, Lakehead 12-11-0-0; Power plays (goals-chances): UPEI (0-6), Lakehead (0-5); Goaltenders – UPEI: Wayne Savage, Lakehead: Jeff Bosch; A: 3,444.
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