With playoffs looming, the Lakehead Thunderwolves had some past demons to vanquish.
They did just that on Saturday, eliminating the team that brought an early end to their campaign last year.
Mike Hammond scored a dazzling game-winner with 13 seconds remaining in overtime to lift Lakehead to a 3-2 victory over the Waterloo Warriors in the Ontario university regular season finale for both squads at the Fort William Gardens on Saturday.
The win, combined with an earlier Windsor Lancers loss, ensures Lakehead (17-8-3) finishes in second in the OUA West Division.
Meanwhile Waterloo (12-12-4), the team that upset Lakehead in the first round of last year’s postseason, falls on the short end of a three team tiebreaker for the final playoff berth and will end up in ninth.
It was a series that had payback written all over it in the week leading up to the games.
“I wasn’t here the past couple of years when Waterloo knocked us out or our seasons ended because of Waterloo but paybacks are whatever you want to call them,” said Lakehead head coach Bill McDonald.
“I know a lot of guys that played the last couple of years took it to heart and it was a good feeling for them to beat Waterloo.”
Added senior forward Ryan Magill, “We wanted those two points to keep them from getting in the playoffs. It was definitely a playoff like mentality out there.”
Hammond almost didn’t have an opportunity to create magic, as Lakehead had to overcome a 2-0 deficit.
A lot of the rally can be attributed to goaltender Jeff Bosch, who stopped 38 shots in the victory despite allowing two early goals.
His biggest save came in the overtime period, denying Warriors forward Colin Behenna on a penalty shot.
The approach used by Behenna gave Bosch flashbacks to the Olympic match between the United States and Russia where a certain American shooter scored numerous goals with a similar slow, methodical approach.
“I was watching the Olympics this morning and all I could think of was TJ Oshie and I threw a poke check out there because I know he has a good set of hands just to get in his head and mess him up and it wasn’t the move he wanted to do,” Bosch recalled.
In a game that had playoff intensity on the ice, the Warriors showed they were a squad with nothing to lose.
Kain Allicock put the visitors ahead on their first shot of the game just two minutes after the opening puck drop, beating Bosch on the glove side with the puck just staying inside the post.
The lead was doubled five minutes later as Waterloo converted on a delayed Lakehead penalty with Brett Mackie tipping home a Justin Larson point shot in traffic.
And Bosch definitely settled down. Waterloo had a golden opportunity to go up three in the final stages of the frame but the netminder used his glove to rob Warriors forward Jarred Parent's backhand attempt.
“I just told myself to buckle down and give these guys a couple saves,” Bosch said.
“Lucky enough if you get down early there’s still a lot of hockey to play and we took that attitude for the rest of the game.”
Despite a lackluster second, Lakehead was able to provide a spark late when Ryan Magill netted a shorthanded goal in the final minute of play to solve the puzzle of Waterloo goalie Mike Morrison.
“It was nice to get. It’s frustrating sometimes, you’re working hard and you’re cycling but things aren’t going your way and you get a good bounce,” Magill said.
“(Mike Quesnele) drove and then Andrew (Wilkins) made a nice pass. It sparked everyone for sure.”
The Thunderwolves wasted little time coming out of the dressing room, as Cody Alcock knotted things up with a booming power-play marker.
The rest of the third featured continuous end to end action with each team trying to end it in regulation. With a Waterloo win, the two teams would have met in the first round of the playoffs once again.
Hammond had other ideas in the dying seconds of overtime. Despite nearly giving up the puck at the blueline, he weaved his way through a trio of Warriors defenders before beating Morrison upstairs.
Claw marks: Lakehead will now face the seventh seeded York Lions in the first round of the playoffs...Seniors Ryan Magill, Brennan Menard and Andrew Wilkins were honoured in a pre-game ceremony where they each received a keepsake jersey and watch with their parents brought on the ice…Hammond finishes as the team's leading point-getter with 34 in the regular season...Alcock finishes as the team's regular season goals leader with 14.
Scoring: 1. Waterloo, Allicock 4 (Lynes, Clarke) 2:14. 2. Waterloo, Mackie 12 (Larson, Allicock) 7:29. Penalties: Clarke WAT (elbowing) 9:47.
Scoring: 3. Lakehead, Magill 7 (Wilkins, de la Lande) 18:18 sh. Penalties: Molle WAT (slashing) 2:34; Smith WAT (tripping) 14:43; Ainsworth LAK (high-sticking) 15:48; Tessier LAK (tripping) 17:59; Mackie WAT (high-sticking) 19:30.
Scoring: 4. Lakehead, Alcock 14 (Hammond, Carrick) 0:32 pp. Penalties: Lynes WAT (hooking) 0:56.
Scoring: 5. Lakehead, Hammond 13 (unassisted) 4:47. Penalties: None
GAME DATA - SOG - Waterloo 10-12-13-5-40, Lakehead 6-9-6-3-24; Power plays (goals-chances)- Waterloo (0/2), Lakehead (1/5); Goaltenders- Waterloo: Mike Morrison (21 saves, 24 shots), Lakehead: Jeff Bosch (38 saves, 40 shots); Attendance: 2,430.
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