The Lakehead Thunderwolves will have to take the backdoor approach to get to the University Cup.
The Wolves were swept from the OUA hockey playoffs on home ice Saturday night, blowing an early 2-0 lead en route to a 6-2 series-ending loss to the Windsor Lancers in the best-of-three OUA West final.
Defenceman Kenny Bradford potted the winner, rifling a shot through traffic that beat Jeff Bosch, the power play goal coming at 6:56 of the second period.
Lakehead’s season isn’t done quite yet, however.
The Wolves can still earn the sixth and final berth at nationals next weekend in the OUA’s one-game, bronze-medal contest, on the road against either McGill or Carleton.
"Obviously you never want to go through the back door. We're going to be ready to go. We're going to practice this week, work hard and prepare," said Lakehead captain Andrew Wilkins, playing his final game in front of the home crowd.
"We want to go to nationals, so we're going to be all over that."
Wilkins isn't sure what went wrong against Windsor, who clobbered the Wolves 7-1 in Thursday's opener.
"We didn't play the way we wanted to the first game. We regrouped. We played pretty good tonight. I don't think we got the bounces that we'd expect. But you've got to give them credit. They're a good team. They were blocking shots. They did a lot of things that winning teams (do)," Wilkins said.
LU coach Bill McDonald said it was a disappointing end to the team's OUA championship bid, especially since he thought his side played just as good a game.
"I thought maybe the score didn't indicate the play of the game. But they're a good team and we should congratulate them. They worked hard. They've been here the last couple of years in the final. This year they've got a little bit of the hunger," McDonald said. "I thought we had a game plan and we obviously didn't win. We played pretty good throughout."
The Lancers, OUA West bridesmaids two years running, clinched a spot at nationals and will take on the winner of the McGill/Carleton series in next weekend’s Queen’s Cup final. That series is tied at a game apiece after McGill squeaked out a 3-2 win Saturday night.
The Lancers erased their two-goal deficit in a hurry, 15 seconds to be exact.
Just 52 seconds after Kelin Ainsworth cut across the Windsor net and beat goalie Parker Van Buskirk for a 2-0 LU lead, Julian Luciani quieted the sold-out Fort William Gardens crowd of 3,629, blasting a rocket from just inside the point that Thunderwolves net-minder Jeff Bosch never saw as it raced just under the crossbar.
Off the ensuing face-off the Lancers cruised back into LU territory and promptly scored again, Evan Stibbard’s second of the post-season coming at 13:12.
Up 3-2, MacAulay McDonnell slipped the puck past Bosch at 17:07, just nine seconds after Lakehead's Jay Gilbert was banished to the box for a check to the head. Blake Blondeel added Windsor third goal of the period with 1:20 to go.
Bosch found himself on the bench to start the third, lifted in favour of rookie Justin McDonald, who stopped the only three shots he faced.
It just wasn't his night, Bill McDonald said.
"You've got to see the games to look at that," the first-year coach said. "I think we all know Jeff Bosch stood on his head for us all year. He probably didn't have a good night tonight. I told the guys in the room that. I thought it was a good time to change. The goals add up. But if you really analyze the game, we probably territorially outplayed them. Probably shot-wise we did out play them. But they're an opportune team. They scored and we couldn't seem to find the back of the net."
He's already put the game behind him.
"Obviously you get as far as you go. Nobody knew where we were going in August and September. And we worked and we battled and we got to within two games of winning the OUA (West). It obviously sucks when you lose. It's a downer right now, but as a coach you've got to find a way to pick these guys up off the ground, get a couple of practices in and try to win a game, whoever we play on the road, and I guess you can say sneak in the back door," McDonald said.
Ryan Magill scored Lakehead's first goal, a backhander that beat Van Buskirk at 2:29 of the opening stanza.
Claw marks: The Wolves were without their leading scorer in the playoffs, Cody Alcock, who missed the game with the flu. Also sidelined was defenceman Andrew Tessier.
Scoring: 1. Lakehead, Magill 3 (Grondin, Wilkins) 2:29. 2. Lakehead, Ainsworth 2 (Fillman) 12:05. 3. Windsor Luciani 1 (Pommels, Palmer) 12:57. 4. Windsor, Stibbard (Luciani) 13:12. Penalties: M. Quesnele LAK (interference) 8:26, Carrick LAK (high sticking) 17:08, Beaudoin WIN (hooking) 18:28.
Scoring: 5. Windsor, Bradford (Posa, Palmer) 6:56 pp. 6. Windsor, McDonnell (Pommels, Palmer) 17:07. 7. Windsor, Blondeel 2 (Stibbard, Crevatin) 18:40. Penalties: Dubchak LAK (slashing) 5:52, Pommels WIN (interference) 14:42, Gilbert LAK (check to the head, misconduct, served by Restoule) 16:58.
Scoring: 8. Windsor, Beaudoin (unassisted) 18:17 en. Penalties: Pommels WIN (tripping) 0:39, Posa WIN (ineligible player) 4:30, Carrick LAK (boarding) 4:49, Quakenbush WIN (holding) 14:28, Kaarela LAK () 19:16.
GAME DATA – SOG – Windsor 7-11-4-22, Lakehead 12-10-8-30; Power plays (goals-chances) – Windsor (2-5), Lakehead (0-5); Goaltenders – Windsor : Parker Van Buskirk, Lakehead: Jeff Bosch, Justin McDonald (0:00, third); A: 3,629.
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