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T-Wolves stung in push for nationals berth

Concordia downs Lakehead 4-0 in OUA bronze medal match
Thunderwolves forward Tyler Ho attempts to navigate past Stingers defenceman Christopher Inniss during the OUA bronze medal game at the Fort William Gardens on Saturday, March 11, 2023. (James Mirabelli photo)

THUNDER BAY — The Lakehead Thunderwolves campaign ended up one win short of their first national championships appearance in 13 years.

Lakehead was swarmed by the Concordia Stingers from the opening puck drop all the way to the final whistle, dropping the OUA bronze medal game 4-0 in front out of a sold out Fort William Gardens on Saturday night.

It was a tough loss, noted Thunderwolves captain Tyler Jette, but the team's strong campaign — which included a first-place finish in the OUA West regular season standings — wasn't lost on him after Lakehead failed to reach the playoffs last year.

"We're obviously disappointed with the way it ended but I couldn't be more proud of the 28, 29 guys we have in that room, whether it's from the coaching staff all the way down. I think everybody gave us their all this year," the senior blueliner said.

"We proved a lot of people wrong."

Freshman Christian Cicigoi, recently named to the OUA West all-rookie team, was given the start in net for the Thunderwolves after only allowing one goal in last weekend’s overtime Game 2 victory against Windsor.

Cicigoi was busy early and often, turning aside 41 of the 44 shots he faced, including 20 in a scoreless first period.

"Obviously they were coming out with some pressure but we weathered the storm early," the 21-year-old Thunder Bay product said. "We stuck in there. Unfortunately, things just didn't end up the way we wanted them to [Saturday night]."

After giving up three second-period goals in their Game 3 defeat the previous weekend, it was the middle frame that again cost Lakehead.

Concordia opened the scoring just less than three minutes into second period. An unforced Thunderwolves turnover deep in the Lakehead defensive zone behind the net ended with Stingers forward Charles-Antoine Giguere lifting a shot over Cicigoi’s shoulder.

The Stingers doubled the advantage just past the halfway point of the frame, with Concordia’s Tyler Hylland beating Cicigoi on the glove side.

The visitors added extra insurance less than two minutes later, when Stingers forward Julien Anctil corralled a loose puck just after an offensive zone face off and fired a shot past Cicigoi.

Lakehead head coach Andrew Wilkins, who was recognized post-game after being named as the OUA West coach of the year earlier in the week, gave the Stingers credit for the victory and said they "have as good a chance as anyone" at the nationals in Charlottetown next week.

"We knew they were going to be good coming in," Wilkins said. "I thought as the game went on they showed how good they were in the [offensive] zone."

Lakehead showed signs of life in the third, but were unable to crack Concordia's defensive pressure.

"They're fast, they work hard. I think they were a little more hungry than we were," Jette said. "They played a full 60 minutes and I thought we didn't play our best for the first 40."

Nicholas Girouard added an empty netter with 24 seconds remaining to close out the scoring.

Claw marks: Announced attendance was 3,604…The Stingers outshot Lakehead 20-5 in the first period, and by an 18-7 margin in the middle period. The Thunderwolves had the edge in third period shots 9-7…Lakehead’s most recent bronze medal game appearance came in 2014, where they fell 7-4 to the Carleton Ravens.

Matt Vis

About the Author: Matt Vis

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Matt is the managing editor of the Newswatch websites and is honoured to be a part of telling the stories of the region.
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