One point is better than none.
That lone point in the standings is the silver lining for the Lakehead Thunderwolves hockey team after a largely uninspired performance.
Despite surrendering a two-goal third period lead, the Ottawa Gee Gees blanked the Thunderwolves in a shootout to prevail by a 4-3 score in Ontario university hockey at the Fort William Gardens on Friday.
Ottawa struck early, leading 2-0 after the first five minutes and then carried a two goal lead into the final frame before the Thunderwolves found their legs.
“We started off slow. Obviously you never want to start like that, especially in your own building,” said Lakehead captain Andrew Wilkins, who came up with the equalizer with 11 minutes remaining.
“I think we’ll take that point. We’re satisfied with the way we came back and showed some character.”
That point may come pivotal for No. 9 Lakehead (15-6-2), as they sit two points back of the archrival Western Mustangs for the OUA West lead.
It was far from an ideal start for the Thunderwolves, trailing by two with the ice still shiny and fresh.
The first came off a blown matchup down low as Ottawa forward Andrew Creppin was left alone on the doorstep and was the beneficiary of a rebound off the pads of goalie Jeff Bosch after an initial deflected point shot was stopped.
The second tally for the Gee Gees came a little more than two minutes later after a defensive zone turnover led to a centring pass that resulted in Ottawa forward Matt White beating Bosch from the high slot.
“We weren’t good at the start,” admitted Lakehead head coach Bill McDonald. “We kind of sucked in the first half.”
The Thunderwolves were unable to get into a rhythm for the entire stanza and were plagued by turnovers and sloppy play.
The one bright spot came on the team’s first power play chance of the contest as rookie Cody Alcock got Lakehead on the board with his 13th of the campaign, jamming home a loose puck in front of Ottawa netminder Robin Billingham.
The Gee Gees outshot Lakehead by a 14-9 margin in the opening frame and only escaped with a one goal edge, courtesy of sharp play from Bosch who rebounded after the two early goals.
“I think it’s pretty obvious in the first period they were skating faster and they were more aggressive,” Wilkins said.
Ottawa (14-9-1) restored the insurance in the early half of the second period with their lone power play goal of the match as Mathieu Leduc teed up a boomer from the point.
That lead was carried into the locker rooms for the second intermission, but not before a sequence that McDonald believes served as a turning point.
With just less than three minutes remaining, Lakehead fourth line forward James Delory was assessed a pair of minor penalties for two physical checks.
Rather than be deflated by the upcoming four minute penalty kill, the home bench rallied and started to build momentum. They believe an increased physicality enhances their chance of winning games.
“One we picked up the physical play and got our pace up I think that’s the way we have to play. That’s what benefits us,” Wilkins concurred.
“It’s pretty evident that’s the way we have to play.”
Lakehead did succeed in killing of the power play, and then found themselves with a man advantage seconds later.
They took advantage as veteran defenceman Mike Quesnele pulled the trigger on a rocket from just inside the blue line that blew past Billingham.
For a power play that has been one of the worst of the conference and much maligned, that second of the game proved to be a shot of adrenaline.
“We just try to find our trigger and keep it simple for the most part,” Wilkins said of the unit’s success. “We want to utilize the guys that can shoot and get traffic on net.”
From there the Thunderwolves played with a sense of purpose that was non-existent through the first two periods.
It paid off minutes later when Wilkins and Alcock stormed the Ottawa goal in search of a loose puck, with Wilkins finally jamming it underneath Billingham.
Neither team was able to break that deadlock through the rest of regulation or overtime, prompting a shootout.
Ottawa jumped ahead with first shooter Matthieu Tanguay-Theriault beating Bosch. Alcock and Wilkins were both denied for the Thunderwolves before Rock Regimbald iced it.
Claw marks: Lakehead is now 9-1-1 at the Gardens during regular season play...The Wolves fall to 1-1 in shootouts this season...Alcock boosted his team-leading goals total to 13...With the two point night Wilkins has moved into a tie with Mike Hammond in the team lead for points with 22...The two teams play again on Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. start time.
Scoring: 1. Ottawa, Creppin 3 (Ouellette, Burns) 2:08. 2. Ottawa, White 4 (Guertin) 4:32. 3. Lakehead, Alcock 13 (Carrick, Wilkins) 12:05 pp. Penalties: Bench minor OTT (too many men, served by Burns) 10:27; Donovan OTT (tripping) 15:48; Carrick LAK (high-sticking) 16:15.
Scoring: 4. Ottawa, Leduc 3 (Blunden, White) 6:41 pp. Penalties: Blunden OTT (hooking) 1:04; Maw LAK (high-sticking) 5:21; Dubchak LAK (hooking) 6:23; Power OTT (high-sticking), Guertin OTT (elbowing), M. Quesnele LAK (roughing) 8:18; DeLory LAK (boarding, roughing) 17:38.
Scoring: 5. Lakehead, M. Quesnele 2 (Hammond) 3:07 pp. 6. Wilkins 7 (Alcock, Grondin) 8:30. Penalties: Landry OTT (boarding) 3:00; Ouellette OTT (roughing) 4:22; Carrick LAK (slashing), Regimbald OTT (high-sticking) 4:32; M. Quesnele (slashing) 8:30; Regimbald OTT (slashing) 14:40; Grondin LAK (charging) 16:12; Blunden OTT (interference) 18:02.
Scoring: None. Penalties: Blunden OTT, Vermette OTT, Hammond LAK, Maw LAK (roughing) 4:40; Leduc OTT, Dubchak LAK (roughing) 4:55
Ottawa: Matthieu Tanguay-Theriault (score)
Lakehead: Cody Alcock (miss)
Ottawa: Trevor Layton (miss)
Lakehead: Andrew Wilkins (miss)
Ottawa: Rock Regimbald (score)
GAME DATA - SOG - Ottawa 14-7-6-2-29 Lakehead 9-5-7-3-24; Power plays (goals-chances) - Ottawa (1-7), Lakehead (2-8); Goaltenders - Ottawa: Robin Billingham (21 saves, 24 shots), Lakehead: Jeff Bosch (26 saves, 29 shots). Attendance: 2,635.
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