THUNDER BAY – The teddy bears were tossed and with them came a much-needed momentum shift for the Lakehead Thunderwolves.
Greg Smith lit the lamp for the home side with about half a minute to play in the first, launching a cascade of stuffed animals that bombarded the ice, the OUA men’s hockey team holding its annual Teddy Bear Toss game on Saturday night in support of children in need.
At the time, the Thunderwolves were down 3-0, on their second goaltender of the night and looking lost on the Fort William Gardens ice, playing in front of a season-high 2,903 fans.
Though it would take a second multiple-goal comeback, thanks to a three-goal third, the Wolves (7-5-2) finally managed to outlast the last-place Waterloo Warriors, edging them 7-5 to pick up two key points in what should prove to be a tight playoff battle in the OUA West standings.
Tyler Ho, with his second of the night and fourth on the season, scored the winner on a spectacular feed from Olivier Pouliot,slamming the puck past Waterloo goaltender Dan Murphy seven minutes into the third.
“We stuck to it. Obviously we didn’t have the start we wanted, but after about 10 minutes we started picking it up and started playing our game. We got into some penalty trouble, but we stuck with it and came out with the win,” said Ho, a sophomore with the Thunderwolves.
Any penalty proved to be trouble against the Warriors, who scored three power-play goals in their first three power-play chances. Dan Walker, Brendan Bowie and Tate Popple, with a sharp-angled shot from the red-line, were the first to beat LU starting netminder Max Wright, who was chased after the third goal, replaced by Christian Cicigoi.
Down 3-1 after one, captain Tyler Jette ripped a high wrist shot over Murphy’s glove into the top corner of the Waterloo net, cutting the Warriors lead to 3-2, the power-play goal coming at the 4:49 mark of the second. Stephen Fox, who has a knack for scoring big goals for Lakehead, did it again at 11:02 of the middle stanza, taking a pass from defenceman Kyle Auger and burying it off the post to even the game 3-3.
The Warriors retook the lead 81 seconds later, Tyler Rose making a brilliant glove-hand snatch of Greg Smith’s clearing attempt to keep the play and seconds later Bowie deposited the puck behind Cicigoi. Rose struck himself two minutes later on a shot from just above the circle, and the Warriors jumped in front 5-3.
Ho cut the lead to one before the period closed, taking a feed from Keighan Gerrie behind the Waterloo net, then just 79 seconds into the third, Smith set up the equalizer, firing a pass to Pouliot on a 2-on-1.
Pouliot was also in on the game winner, another odd-man rush.
“I heard (the coach) scream 2-on-1,” Pouliot said. “As soon as he yelled that I knew I had to pass it to him. I knew he was going to score because he’s really good at it.
“Obviously it’s a team we’re probably going to have to battle to get a spot in playoffs, at least for right now. We needed that win, and we didn’t give them a point in overtime.”
Jette added his second of the night into the empty net to seal it with 15 seconds to go.
LU coach Andrew Wilkins said the Wolves weren’t left with much choice but to get into an ‘80s-style hockey game.
“It wasn’t a good start, obviously, them going up three quickly, but give our guys credit, they came back and we got the win.”
Scoring: 1. Waterloo, Walker 7 (Santia) 3:54. 2. Waterloo, Bowie 4 (Fraser, Campbell) 7:36 pp. 3. Waterloo, Popple 4 (unassisted) 10:08. 4. Lakehead, Smith 1 (Van Den Hurk, Stiles) 19:28. Penalties: Dempster LAK (high sticking) 6:13.
Scoring: 5. Lakehead, Jette 4 (unassisted) 4:49 pp. 6. Lakehead, S. Fox 3 (Auger) 9:02. 7. Waterloo Bowie 5 (Rose) 12:23 pp. 8. Waterloo, Rose (Campbell, Cascagnette) 14:46 pp. 9. Lakehead, Ho 3 (Gerrie) 15:47. Penalties: Lovie WAT (tripping) 2:01, Rose WAT (boarding) 3:24, Van Unten LAK (hooking) 11:57, Auger LAK (holding the stick) 12:53.
Scoring: 10. Lakehead, Pouliot 2 (Smith) 1:19. 11. Lakehead, Ho 4 (Pouliot) 7:02. 12. Lakehead, Jette (unassisted) 19:44 en. Penalties: Wood WAT (tripping) 2:28, Dempster LAK (holding) 17:28,
GAME DATA – SOG – Waterloo 13-10-6-29, Lakehead 12-11-10-33; Power plays (goals-chances) – Waterloo (4-4) Lakehead (1-3); Goaltenders – Waterloo: Dan Murphy; Lakehead: Max Wright (three goals, nine shots), Christian Cicigoi (10:08, first); A: 2,903.