Sometimes fewer is better.
The Lakehead Thunderwolves penalty-killing unit proved the theory true on Saturday night, scoring three shorthanded goals en route to their fourth-straight OUA triumph, a 5-2 defeat of the visiting Toronto Varsity Blues at Fort William Gardens.
Captain Andrew Wilkins was in on all three tallies.
In the first he wrestled the puck away from Toronto’s Lane Werbowski and fed Ryan Magill, who beat Varsity Blues goalie Brett Willows with a quick shot. Five minutes into the third, the Wolves clinging to a 3-2 lead, Wilkins was on the receiving end of the pass, securing the win with his third of the OUA campaign.
He iced it with an empty netter from the centre-ice red line in the final minute of regulation.
“We were kind of joking around and calling it the power kill,” said Magill, who saw extended ice time with Trevor Gamache out for the season and Jake Carrick, who left with a "lower-body" injury, leaving LU shorthanded up front.
“You don’t want to take penalties, but it was nice and kind of turned the tide, that’s for sure.”
Wilkins, who said he’s not sure he’s ever collected three shorthanded points in one game before, said it’s a testament to the Wolves’ special teams.
“We’re killing really well right now and happened to execute on some of their turnovers,” Wilkins said.
It wasn’t any one thing that was the difference, he added.
“I think that night in and night out our kill’s been progressing. We’ve been getting better. I think as a unit we try to stay aggressive and take away their time and space. As of right now it’s been working,” Wilkins said.
“Whenever you get a chance on odd-man rushes shorthanded, you’ve got to go for them. I think (Mike Hammond) had a chance in the second too.”
Luke Maw, with his first of the season, and Cody Alcock, with his 11th, were Lakehead’s other goal scorers.
Connor Cleverley and Jeff Brown replied for Toronto (9-7-2), who were out-shot 11-4 in the first, but rallied back in the second and third to make it a closer contest.
Cleverley’s goal came on the power play with 3:30 to play in the second, but the Wolves had the answer and in a hurry. Thirty-seven seconds later Alcock ripped a quick shot that beat Willows cleanly, restoring the two-goal advantage.
But 61 seconds after that Brown pulled the Varsity Blues within a goal again.
Lakehead coach Bill McDonald would have preferred a cleaner win.
“It was a really, really good first period, but the second period wasn’t really, really good,” McDonald said, adding the team is still figuring out how to play with the lead.
“It was really bad in my books. But we’re just trying to learn how to win the close games and we talked about that in between the second and third period.”
Jeff Bosch made 30 saves in the Lakehead net.
Lakehead (13-3-0) hits the road next weekend, with stops at Brock and Western.
Scoring: 1. Lakehead, Magill 3 (Wilkins) 4:16 sh. 2. Lakehead, Maw 1 (De Lory, Dubchak) 5:49. Penalties: De Lory LAK (interference) 3:28, Boddy TOR (tripping) 10:44.
Scoring: 3. Toronto, Cleverley (Liukkonen, Boddy) 16:30. 4. Lakehead, Alcock (M. Quesnele, Grondin) 17:07 pp. 5. Toronto, Brown 8 (Turcotte) 18:08 pp. Penalties: Turcotte TOR (cross checking) 9:46, Dubchak LAK (roughing) 14:05, Oakley TOR (kneeing) 16:44, Grondin LAK (slashing) 17:57.
Scoring: 6. Lakehead, Wilkins 3 (Dubchak) 4:46 sh. 7. Lakehead, Wilkis 4 (unassisted) 19:17 sh en. Penalties: Gilbert LAK (holding) 3:09, Knight TOR (roughing after the whistle) 5:06, Boddy LAK (tripping) 9:16, Maw LAK (hooking) 11:57, Liukkonen TOR (hooking) 13:59, Maw LAK (ineligible player), Quesnele LAK misconduct 18:48, Turner TOR (roughing), Restoule LAK (high sticking) 20:00.
GAME DATA – SOG – Toronto 4-12-16-32, Lakehead 11-13-9-33; Power plays (goals-chances) – Toronto (1-5), Lakehead (1-5); Goaltenders – Toronto: Brett Willows, Lakehead: Jeff Bosch; A: 2,270.
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