The Lakehead Thunderwolves said goodbye to the soft part of their schedule with an easy win over the visiting Laurentian Voyageurs on Saturday night.
Cody Alcock added a goal and an assist, while defenceman Mitch Fillman had a pair of helpers in a game that saw the Wolves out-shoot their opponent 44-17, including a 15-0 count in the second.
It marked the first time in Thunderwolves hockey history that they held a team without a shot in a period.
But the true test begins next Friday at Fort William Gardens for the No. 7 Wolves, who rode one-goal, two-assist performances from forwards Jake Carrick and Mike Hammond to the 6-2 non-conference victory.
The first-year Voyageurs, with just four wins in 15 OUA contests were a Christmas week tune-up for the rocky road ahead, a seven-week stretch that will see Lakehead face just one opponent with a sub-.500 record at the break.
While the first-half slate delivered a slate of teams that combined to go 33-62-9, just two teams at .500 or better, in contrast, the Wolves will face a combined second-half record of 63-39-7, starting with the Toronto Varsity Blues (9-5-2), who invade Fort William Gardens Friday and Saturday night.
It was important to get the ball rolling and shake off the holiday rust, said Alcock, second among OUA rookies with 10 goals.
“I’m sure everyone ate a lot of turkey. That’s our first games back. It was kind of hard getting into the swing of things, but it’s a good test for us. We played them before and we knew what they were capable of. They’re a hardworking team, so it was good for us to work on our power play when we had one, and our penalty kill and just everybody involved. It was a good couple of games coming back,” Alcock said.
The ex-OHLer said the players are trying not to put too much stock in the calibre of opponent they’ll face in the second half.
“We’ve played some good teams. We’re going to be playing some good teams coming up too. I know a lot of the guys in the room and even the coaches, we don’t really care about the records. We’re just going to go into every game and we’re just going to play our best,” Alcock said.
Coach Bill McDonald said everyone on the team knows the second half won’t be a cake walk.
“It’s definitely going to be tough,” he said, adding from what he’s seen he thinks the Thunderwolves can hang with Toronto.
Beyond that, he’s not too concerned.
“I’ve watched different teams play other teams. For sure we’re going to be in a lot tougher than we were in the first half, but hopefully the state of mind we’re in and what we’ve learned I think we can run with some of these teams,” McDonald said.
Carrick started running in a hurry in this one, potting the game’s first goal just 29 seconds after the opening faceoff. Keith Grondin doubled the lead at 7:41 of the first, though Jordan Carroll cut it to one just 21 seconds later.
Alcock’s goal, an unassisted shorthanded tally at 17:20, restored the two-goal lead before the period ended.
Hammond made it 4-1 on the power play 3:39 into the second and then four minutes later Luke Maw’s shot from the point deflected off a Laurentian defender and over the shoulder of Voyageurs goalie Alain Valiquette.
After more than 24 minutes without as much as a shot, Cameron Genge shovelled the puck past Lakehead’s Justin McDonald early in the third to make it 5-2, but Kelin Ainsworth responded five minutes later with the Wolves second power play goal of the night to wrap up the scoring.
It wasn’t perfect, but exposing weaknesses in non-conference play should help them disappear in the regular season. At least that’s what Bill McDonald hopes.
“Hockey is a game of mistakes. If you really look at the stats, we don’t give up many. I guess everyone thought we would score. We scored some, but we haven’t changed our system and we’re going to stay with it. But the mistakes we make in the second half are going to be way more magnified.”
Claw marks: McDonald said he made a play for San Francisco Bulls forward Brett Findlay, who leads the ECHL team with 20 points, but the Echo Bay, Ont. native decided to stay in the professional ranks … Lakehead forward Trevor Gamache could be done for the season with a broken wrist, but team officials are holding out hope he might return ... Former Wolves forward Luke Judson has two goals in 20 games with the Bulls. Defenceman Kalvin Sagert, acquired midseason by the Bulls, has six assists in 13 games. Matt Caria, after a slow start, has four goals and six assists with the Kalamazoo Wings. Across the pond, former captain Adam Sergerie is tearing it up with 34 goals and 17 assists in 18 games with the Erfurt Black Dragons in the German third division.
Scoring: 1. Lakehead, Carrick (Hammond, Fillman) 0:29. 2. Lakehead, Grondin (Alcock) 7:41, 3. Laurentian, Carroll (Davis, Gliebe) 8:02. 4. Lakehead, Alcock (unassisted) 17:20 sh. Penalties: Therrien LAU (slashing) 6:09, Wilkins LAK (boarding) 7:19, Fitze LAU (boarding) 14:34, Carrick LAK (spearing double minor) 16:18, Eddy LAU (holding) 17:47.
Scoring: 5. Lakehead, Hammond (Fillman, Carrick) 3:39 pp. 6. Lakehead, Maw (Magill, Kaarela) 7:53. Penalties: Eddy LAU (tripping) 3:33, Fitze LAU (boarding) 4:26, Leroux LAU (slashing double minor) 8:25.
Scoring: 7. Laurentian, Genge (Howes) 4:16. 8. Lakehead, Ainsworth (Carrick, Hammond) 9:23 pp. Penalties: Ainsworth LAK, Fitze LAU (slashing) 0:02, Bench minor LAK (too many men, served by Thompson) 1:56, Hammond LAK (slashing) 4:40, Leroux LAU (roughing, misconduct) 8:02, Eddy LAU (slashing) 8:26, Dubchak LAK (spearing double minor) 12:07, M. Quesnele LAK (interference) 13:09, Senecal LAU (tripping) 19:01, Restoule LAU (holding) 19:08.
GAME DATA – SOG – Laurentian 9-0-7-16, Lakehead 12-15-16-43; Power plays (goals-chances) – Laurentian (0-5), Lakehead (2-8); Goaltenders – Laurentian: Alain Valiquette (17 shots, 12 saves), Charlie Millen (7:53, second), Lakehead: Justin McDonad; A: 2,218.
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