THUNDER BAY – The Lakehead Thunderwolves penalty kill was working overtime on Friday.
It’s a good thing.
The Wolves killed off seven of eight power plays afforded the visiting Waterloo Warriors and Daniel Del Paggio added a shorthanded tally late in the third that broke open a one-goal game, the home side pulling away for a 5-2 win that snapped a four-game, pre-Christmas losing streak.
“We took a lot of poor penalties today, a lot in the neutral zone, a lot in our offensive zone,” said Del Paggio said.
“We definitely want to get away from that. But, we showed a lot of character and resilience. We had a lot of good kills, and honestly I think our PK kind of picked up our game and kind of gave us a boost for the last period.”
Lakehead, playing without suspended captain Dillon Donnelly, had some of their best opportunities to score while playing down a man.
Brennen Dubchak had two great chances in the third, unable to convert a cross-crease pass from Josh Laframboise that caught Waterloo goaltender Trevor Martin going the wrong direction.
“We were looking at our chart and we had six shorthanded chances. I thought the guys played really good on the kill, but they had a lot of practice tonight,” said first-year coach Andrew Wilkins, whose game plan did not include quite so many trips to the penalty box.
It was the timing of the penalties that got under Wilkins’ skin.
“We took one while we were on the power play and one while we were in the offensive zone out of frustration. When you take so many of those, they’re eventually going to score and then Dylan Butler broke his stick on the penalty kill and it was almost like a 5-on-3 at that point,” he said.
“It’s almost like we had it coming to us. I was happy with the way our penalty kill played, getting a shorthanded goal in the third, but going down the stretch we can’t be taking penalties, that many, in the offensive zone.”
Waterloo struck first, but the lead was short-lived.
Just 15 seconds after defenceman Mike Moffatt deflected home a Jacob Cascagnette past behind LU goalie Nic Renyard, Thunderwolves forward Jordan King crashed through Martin’s crease, sending both the goaltender and the puck into the Waterloo net.
After a brief discussion the on-ice officials agreed it was a good goal and the game was tied at one apiece.
Laframboise, who snapped a 13-game scoreless streak last Saturday during non-conference play, scored for a second straight contest, giving Lakehead a 2-1 lead 4:26 into the second. Caleb Boman doubled the LU lead at the 7:12 mark, roofing a wrist shot on Martin.
But Connor Lovie kept the last-place Warriors (5-10-4) in the hunt with just under eight minute to go in the middle stanza, rifling a shot from just inside the blue-line, the power-play goal cutting the Lakehead lead to 3-2, an advantage they’d hold through 40 minutes.
The Thunderwolves (9-7-1), who killed a Daniel McKitrick’s double-minor assessed two minutes into the third, added to their lead with five minutes to go in regulation. Del Paggio broke free on the penalty kill willed the puck past Martin for a 4-2 lead.
“It was a scrum with (Jordan King) in the middle. He kind of battled off a few guys, kicked the puck up to me and the puck was in between me and a defenceman, kind of in no-man’s land,” Del Paggio said. “The D pinched and luckily I got to the puck first.”
Callum Fryer added an empty-netter to close out the scoring.
The two teams will wrap up their two-game series on Saturday night at Fort William Gardens.
Scoring: 1. Waterloo, Moffatt 3 (Cascagnette, Murphy) 9:38. 2. Lakehead, King 5 (Gall, Leonidas) 9:53. Penalties: Dubchak LAK (tirpping) 10:12, Dubchak LAK (tripping) 12:57, Leonidas LAK (high sticking) 19:17.
Scoring: 3. Lakehead, Laframboise 4 (Wolframe, Murphy) 4:26. 4. Lakehead, Boman 5 (Kuczek, Murphy) 7:12. 5. Waterloo, Lovie 3 (Cordssen-David, Morgan) 12:02 pp. Penalties: Murphy LAK (cross checking) 2:15, Masters LAK (roughing), Siddall WAT (roughing, cross checking, served by Coulter) 5:08, Wolframe LAK (cross checking) 11:24, Coulter WAT (roughing) 14:38, Laframboise LAK (high sticking) 15:00,
Scoring: 6. Lakehead, Del Paggio 7 (unassisted) 14:23 sh. 7. Lakehead, Fryer 2 (Larson) 19:47 en. Penalties: McKitrick LAK (high sticking double minor) 2:27, Leitch LAK (cross checking) 13:35, Chyzowski WAT (high sticking) 19:32.
GAME DATA – SOG – Waterloo 8-9-11-28, Lakehead 8-13-13-34; Power plays (goals-chances) – Waterloo (1-8), Lakehead (0-3); Goaltenders – Waterloo: Trevor Martin, Lakehead: Nic Renyard; A: 1,919.