If the Thunder Bay Chill were a hockey team, their Corsi numbers Sunday would have been off the chart.
The Premier Development League squad, playing its second and final pre-season tune-up against the Winnipeg Lions, dominated ball possession en route to a 2-0 win at Fort William Stadium.
Coming off a disappointing 1-1 tie the night before, it was just the type of effort the team was looking for, an opening-night date with a less forgiving WSA Winnipeg staring them down on Saturday night.
“We definitely came out a little more focused, a little more prepared,” said sixth-year forward Gavin Hoy, one of the few Thunder Bay natives on the 2014 Chill squad.
“Normally this team we come out and bury them in the first game and it was a little bit different this year. We had a bit of a chip on our shoulder. Obviously we tied last night, but it felt like a loss coming out of that game.”
Keeping the ball away from the opposition is something Hoy and his teammates are hoping to turn into a nightly theme as they advance their way through the PDL schedule.
The other team can’t score if they don’t have the ball.
But the Chill will have to shake the scoring rust off.
Though they won by a pair, it easily could have been a five- or six-goal difference, given the number of chances they had to bury the ball.
A couple of posts and several shots fired wide of their target leave the Chill something to work on in practice, a reminder they don’t have all the kinks worked out just yet.
Hoy, who broke free on several occasions, including a nifty second-half solo effort that saw him waltz through the entire Lions defensive corps, only to be stopped by Winnipeg goalie Sean Golden, said it’s too early to panic.
“That’s what these games are for. As long as we’re making the opportunities, the goals will come. As long as we keep getting in front of the net, we keep getting shots on net, they’ll come. And that’s exactly why we play these games, to get ready,” Hoy said.
Chill coach Tony Colistro said the weekend was all about trying to control the tempo and control possession.
Unlike Hoy, Colistro was a little concerned that his strikers missed at least two golden first-half opportunities. In the 35th minute, forward Simon Cote-Kouchima fired wide from inside the box. Two minutes later Vitor Huvos had two chances at the goal line, missed the first and hit the post on the second.
“Those are concerns that our strikers should have,” Colistro said. “That’s why they’re here to do and if they don’t do that, we find other players that will. The pressure is always on. You have to score goals and there’s no room for making errors, whether it’s pre-season or not.”
The Lions best chance to score came early in the first half, but Chill goalie Daniel Alvarado was up to the task, punching away an Adam Hajkowski shot that had eyes for the back of the Thunder Bay net.
Huvos opened the scoring for the Chill, converting a penalty shot in the 10th minute. Ivan Argos Ocerin doubled the lead in the 23rd, breaking free up the middle to beat Golden with the game’s second goal.
Ice chips: Chill defender Paul Dillon survived a second-half scare when he crashed face-first into Winnipeg’s Kristian Zanette. Team officials said Dillon will likely need a couple of stitches on his lip. He left the game as a precaution.
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