They were out-shot and at times, out-hustled Saturday night.
But the Lakehead Thunderwolves won the battle where it counts – on the scoreboard.
Keith Grondin and Jake Carrick broke open a 1-1 game in the second, enough to push the Wolves past the RMC Paladins 5-2, completing a season-opening weekend Fort William Gardens sweep.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said coach Bill McDonald, undefeated in OUA play after one weekend. “I give RMC credit. They played hard. They came at us hard. They threw two guys in.
“In the third period (my team) did what I asked them to do. We limited a lot of their chances and then it got a little hairy there toward the end.”
NCAA transfer Kelin Ainsworth, with his first regular-season goal in an LU uniform, opened the scoring in the first on the power play.
Trevor Gamache added an insurance marker with seven minutes to play in regulation and another into the empty net with 7.3 seconds to go to wrap up the scoring.
Like he said a night earlier, McDonald admitted the Wolves aren’t quite there yet.
“I think everybody knows that. But I thought the young (Justin) McDonald kid played really well tonight. He held us in there and had some tougher saves tonight, that’s for sure,” the veteran coach said. “The line of (Mike) Hammond and Carrick played good. For the most part everybody contributed.”
Justin McDonald, subbing for the injured Jeff Bosch, made 33 saves to earn his second straight victory between the pipes.
Not the ideal situation, by any means, Bill McDonald said, his team about to hit the road for a date with the always tough Guelph Gryphons.
But it’s good to know his No. 2 goalie is up to the task so early in the season.
“It’s not comfortable, I can tell you that,” he said, counting the weeks until Bosch returns. “But he’s a quality kid and you know what, maybe he’s just feeling his way too. He played really good tonight and nobody can say he didn’t.”
McDonald was at his finest late in the second, with LU facing a 5-on-3 shorthanded situation for 79 seconds. With six seconds to go in the first minor he stopped McDonald cold, snaring a quick shot with his glove to preserve the two-goal lead.
Grondin said the pre-season offensive struggles are behind the 2-0-0 Thunderwolves.
“We struggled through the pre-season just scoring goals in general,” whose unassisted marker at 6:05 of the second came 32 seconds after Scott McDonald’s equalizer for the Paladins (0-2-0).
“They were obviously good teams, but for us to come out and get two wins here and for us to help contribute to the team’s success, that’s a good feeling.”
Scoring: 1. Lakehead, Ainsworth 2 (Carrick, Hammond) 6:33 pp. Penalties: Louis-Seize RMC (high sticking double minor) 0:51, Pym RMC (high sticking) 5:49, Magill LAK (boarding) 7:57, Wright RMC (roughing), Smerek RMC (slashing) 8:49, Hammond LAK (interference) 13:56, Cook RMC, Carrick LAK (roughing) 16:48.
Scoring: 2. RMC, McDonald 1 (Bullen, Smerek) 5:33. 3. Lakehead, Grondin 1 (unassisted) 6:05. 4. Lakehead, Carrick 1 (Hammond) 12:07. Penalties: Bruyere LAK (roughing) 14:20, Hammond LAK (hooking) 15:02.
Scoring: 5. Lakehead, Gamache 1 (De la Lande, Maw) 13:01. 6. RMC, Domenico 1 (Quinlin, McDonald) 15:49. 7. Lakehead, Gamache 2 (Fillman, Bruyere) 19:52 en. Penalties: Thompson LAK (slashing) 5:57, Domenico RMC (tripping) 6:42, Cook RMC, De la Lande LAK (roughing) 18:18, M. Quesnele LAK (interference) 18:49.
GAME DATA – SOG – RMC 8-14-13-35, Lakehead 12-5-13-30; Power plays (goals-chances): RMC (0-6), Lakehead (1-4); Goaltenders – RMC: Evin Deviller, Lakehead: Justin McDonald; A: 2,132.
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