This is not the time for the Lakehead Thunderwolves hockey team to hit a slump.
Yet Lakehead has now dropped six of their past eight contests as the playoffs loom closer on the horizon.
The Thunderwolves blew a three goal third period lead and Stephen Blunden scored the overtime winner with eight seconds remaining in extra time to lead the Ottawa Gee Gees to a 4-3 win in their Ontario university hockey tilt at the Fort William Gardens on Saturday.
“It’s a real good effort wasted,” said Lakehead head coach Bill McDonald. “The little things that push us over the hump to win games are the things we have to learn.”
An opportunity missed in the standings for No. 9 Lakehead (15-6-3) who could have moved just one point back of the OUA West Division lead after a fellow overtime loss by the Western Mustangs.
This resulted in disappointment from an evening that looked to have so much potential for Lakehead, who entered the final frame with a 3-0 edge and looked to be the far superior team.
That fateful period proved to be a mix of an early play haunting Lakehead as well as a general complacency.
The game got off to a rocky start for the Thunderwolves with top defenceman Mike Quesnele ejected just two minutes into the contest for a thunderous check that was called charging, a call disputed by McDonald.
While the Thunderwolves killed off the ensuing five minute power play, the residual effects from only having five blueliners caught up with the team later on.
“I expected the D to be fatigued. I know in a game like that the D get worn down,” McDonald said.
To make matters worse, Lakehead seemingly turned off their engine and allowed the visitors to mount a charge that was capped by the equalizer with 25 seconds remaining in regulation.
The Thunderwolves only put five shots on goal in the third period.
“We sat back and didn’t dump pucks in and go get,” Hammond said. “We let them break out so it is a learning curve. We have to keep pressing like we were in the first two periods and we let up and it goes to show that any team could come back.”
Early on though, despite the penalty, it was Lakehead
One night after they trailed by two just five minutes in, it was the home side that were the aggressors out of the gate.
Jake Carrick opened the scoring for Lakehead with a power play tally with five minutes remaining in the first period that just snuck through Ottawa starter Warren Shymko for the lone goal in the opening frame.
The Thunderwolves picked up what seemed to be plenty of insurance with a pair of second period goals to jump out to the three goal lead.
Ryan Magill struck for the team’s second power play goal of the game, tipping home a point shot from Mitch Fillman.
Rear guard Nathan Bruyere scored on a bizarre play where Mike Hammond found the crossbar on a breakaway attempt only for the puck to bounce straight up and land in front of the net for a waiting Bruyere.
After that third goal, Ottawa head coach Real Paiement pulled Shymko in favour of Friday night victor Robin Billingham.
That seemed to be one of the factors that turned the tide, as Billingham held down the fort and the Gee Gees defence stabilized around him.
Ottawa broke Bosch’s shutout bid in the early stages of the third with Charles Power converting.
The turning point, according to McDonald, came just past the halfway point when Thunderwolves forward Adam Restoule engaged in a physical altercation with a pair of Ottawa players and earned an extra penalty.
Blunden scored his first of the game with the man advantage by screening and tipping a shot from the half boards past Bosch.
Lakehead attempted to cling onto the lead until the final buzzer but was thwarted in the final seconds as Taylor Collins was left alone in front to send a centring pass into the goal.
Overtime appeared to solve nothing until the Gee Gees put together a last ditch rush and Blunden found himself alone past the Thunderwolves defence and beat Bosch.
Claw marks: The Wolves wore special jerseys that were auctioned off after the game...Lakehead has now lost their last three games (0-1-2) in the Gardens after winning their first nine regular season contests...The Wolves fall to 6-2-2 all time against Ottawa...Hammond leads the team in points with 24...The Wolves hit the road to face Western and the Brock Badgers.
Scoring: 1. Lakehead, Carrick 5 (Hammond, Wilkins) 14:39 pp. Penalties: M. Quesnele LAK (charging major, game misconduct) 2:02; Layton OTT (interference) 14:09; Foucher OTT (high-sticking) 18:13.
Scoring: 2. Lakehead, Magill 6 (Fillman, Ainsworth) 3:07 pp. 3. Lakehead, Bruyere 3 (Hammond, Ainsworth) 11:37. Penalties: Blunden OTT (interference) 1:15; Gilbert LAK (roughing) 5:12; Collins OTT (holding), Creppin OTT, Maw LAK (roughing, misconduct) 12:08; Foucher OTT (unsportsmanlike conduct), Grondin LAK (high-sticking) 14:39; Blunden OTT (slashing) 15:06; Vermette OTT (boarding) 19:27.
Scoring: 4. Ottawa, Power 4 (Krahenbil) 3:55. 5. Ottawa, Blunden 13 (Tanguay-Theriault) 14:30 pp. 6. Ottawa, Collins 7 (Power) 19:35. Penalties: Guertin OTT (roughing, misconduct), Restoule LAK (high-sticking, roughing, misconduct) 13:49; Tanguay-Theriault OTT (slashing) 15:52.
Scoring: 7. Ottawa, Blunden 14 (Tanguay-Theriault, Billingham) 4:51. Penalties: None.
GAME DATA – SOG – Ottawa 10-8-7-3-28, Lakehead 8-10-5-5-28; Power plays (goals-chances) – Ottawa (1-4), Lakehead (2-7); Goaltenders- Ottawa: Warren Shymko (10 saves, 13 shots) Robin Billingham (15 saves, 15 shots), Lakehead: Jeff Bosch (24 saves, 28 shots). Attendance: 2,413.
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