Bill McDonald says his Lakehead Thunderwolves can’t compete with the depth of the Alberta Golden Bears.
Facing a roster full of ex-major junior snipers, the Wolves held tight for the first 10 minutes or so on Saturday night. But once the No. 1-ranked team in the nation got rolling, there was no stopping the offensive juggernaut as Alberta rolled to an easy 7-2 triumph at Fort William Gardens.
One glance at the pedigree of the players the Golden Bears brought to play the non-conference series – they swapped five players into the lineup that sat in Friday night’s 7-5 win and didn’t skip a beat – was the first clear indication of a mismatch.
Alberta boasts 11 former Western Hockey League 20-goal scorers, four of who lit the lamp 30 or more times in a single season.
The Thunderwolves, in comparison, have two – Cody Alcock and Jake Carrick.
Add to that the Golden Bears were a bit embarrassed after allowing a season-high five goals the night before and had to rally for the win, giving them extra incentive to push even harder in the rematch.
They came to play, and despite a brief setback in the first half of the first period when LU erased a quick 2-0 Alberta lead, it was all Golden Bears from there on in.
“I like the compete level, but depth-wise and skill-wise, we’re not with them guys yet,” said Lakehead coach Bill McDonald, also upset at his team’s lack of discipline at times in the contest.
He singled out Carrick, who took an inopportune cross-checking major that came accompanied with a game misconduct early in the third.
It led to an Alberta power play and cost the Thunderwolves a goal when Levko Koper beat embattled LU goalie Justin McDonald to extend the Golden Bears lead to 6-2. Earlier he took a double-minor for high sticking that also cost his team a goal.
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not picking on Jake Carrick. He’s played unbelievable this year. He’s a real good player. But we’ve got to learn as a group. When you play a team like that the frustration level goes up, especially when you get a competitor like him,” McDonald said.
Ryan Magill, who tied the game in the first, 2:27 after Carrick got the Thunderwolves on the board at 7:19, said it was a good measuring stick for the team. It also showed there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“It was faster than we were used to, but I think we adjusted as we went on both nights. Obviously it wasn’t the results we were looking for, but you’ve got to go for the small victories and hopefully some of the play there will translate into the regular season,” Magill said.
Sean Ringrose, one of those previously mentioned 20-goal threats, was the first to beat McDonald, connecting at 4:22 of the first. Fifty-two seconds later Jordan Hickmott, who had a hat trick the night before, netted his first of two on the night.
Magill stepped over the blue-line and fired to tie the score, but just 77 seconds passed before defenceman Ian Barteaux blasted one from the point, striking the post behind McDonald. The puck sat unattended for what seemed to be an eternity before Zack Dailey pounced and whacked it into the net for what proved to be the game-winner.
Winnipeg’s Johnny Lazo added a goal before the period came to a close and the Golden Bears were off and running.
“We played more of our game tonight for 60 minutes. We had a couple of lapses, gave up those couple of goals. But that was more of our team that you guys saw tonight,” said Alberta coach Ian Herbers, a former NHLer who played 65 games with Edmonton, Tampa Bay and the New York Islanders after four years manning the Alberta blue-line.
Thomas Carr scored the lone goal of the second, with Koper and Hickmott rounding out the scoring in the third.
Keith Grondin had the Wolves best chance to score in the final period, breaking in alone on freshman Alberta goalie Luke Siemens, but was turned aside. In the first they failed to convert on a 1:45 two-man advantage, a sign of things to come.
The Wolves hit the road next weekend as they return to OUA play against first-year Laurentian.
Scoring: 1. Alberta, Ringrose (Rowley, Dyck) 4:22. 2. Alberta, Hickmott (Ferguson, Craige) 5:14. 3. Lakehead, Carrick (Ainsworth, M. Quesnele) 7:19. 4. Lakehead, Magill (unassisted) 9:46. 5. Alberta, Dailey (Barteaux) 11:03. 6. Alberta, Lazo (Ringrose, Barteaux) 13:45 pp. Penalties: Carrick LAK (double minor, high sticking) 13:14, Ringrose ALTA (high sticking) 16:04, Rachinski ALTA (cross checking) 16:23
Scoring: 7. Alberta, Carr (Ringrose, Dyck) 8:43 pp. Penalties: Gilbert LAK (high sticking) 8:30, Craige ALTA (tripping) 10:33.
Scoring: 8. Alberta, Koper (Ringrose, Lazo) 6:35. 9. Alberta, Hickmott (Foster, Rowley) 9:31. Penalties: Yadlowski ALTA (kneeing) 4:49, Nichol ALTA (roughing after the whistle), Carrick LAK (cross checking major, game misconduct), Thompson LAK (roughing after the whistle) 6:17, Bruyere LAK (high sticking) 9:09, Gilbert LAK (cross checking) 18:16, Dyck ALTA (slashing), Gamache LAK (cross checking) 19:15.
GAME DATA – SOG – Alberta 10-11-15-36, Lakehead 6-5-5-16; Power plays (goals-chances) – Alberta (2-5), Lakehead (0-4); Goaltenders – Alberta: Luke Siemens, Lakehead: Justin McDonald; A: 2,724.
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