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Thunderwolves battle back to double up Lumberjacks

Rookie Spencer Blackwell fights through a scrum to net game-winning goal in non-conference contest.

THUNDER BAY – If Jordan King doesn’t score, odds are good the Lakehead Thunderwolves are going to struggle to find the back of the net this season.

The newly named captain is the only one of four players who cracked double digits in 2019-20 who has returned for the 2021-22 campaign. The next closest player, Fort Frances, Ont.’s Jordan Larson, had five and is no longer with the team.

While several newcomers could step up and add to the Thunderwolves offence, having a veteran presence like King leading the way on and off the ice is key to any success the team will have in its return to the OUA hockey grind.

Saturday night showed that not even 18 months on the sidelines could derail his offensive prowess, which he perfected in junior A, where he scored 28 and 30 goals in back-to-back seasons before landing in Thunder Bay.

King scored twice, including the equalizer early the third, and the Wolves completed the comeback later in the period, Spencer Blackwell and Kevin Stiles beating Northland College Lumberjacks goaltender Viktor Wennberg to claim a 4-2 triumph.

“I just try to work hard every game and the goals will come. Luckily I had two good linemates tonight and hopefully that will carry over into the regular season.”

Sometimes you have to be lucky to be good, he said.

Take the tying goal, for example.

King went to the net while Dexter Kuczek darted around the perimeter of the slot, Kuczek fired at the net and King was simply in the right place at the right time.

“It was nothing pretty. I just got to the front of the net and Dexter Kuczek took a shot on net. It just hit my hand and it went in. But I’ll take it,” King said, agreeing it was the momentum changer the team needed after the Lumberjacks erased a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes with a pair of Marshall Nikitin goals in the second.

“It was good to get that at the start of the period, because then after that I think the boys really bounced back after that and we really took it to them in the third.”

Blackwell got the eventual winner on a goal that would make Phil Esposito proud.

The former Quebec Remparts winner, who spent last season in New Brunswick, joined a scrum in front of Wennberg and kept digging at the puck, prying it loose and slamming it home. Stiles added an insurance goal less than two minutes later, holding onto the puck on a partial 3-on-1 and powering it into the Lumberjacks net.

The Wolves were shorthanded at the time and held their opponent to no goals in six power play attempts.

“I thought that third period of ours was really good,” said Thunderwolves coach Andrew Wilkins. “I thought the second period wasn’t going our way, I thought they outworked us. I thought they had the momentum and then to start the third we had a couple of good shifts in a row and seemed to get the momentum back,” said Lakehead coach Andrew Wilkins.

Max Wright made 26 saves for Lakehead, while Wennberg was good on 31 of 35 shots he faced.

Attendance was 1,103, 

Scoring: 1. Lakehead, King (Van Den Hurk) 17:04. Penalties: Miles TB (kneeing double minor) 3:00, G. Fox LAK (hooking) 8:22, King NC (slashing) 12:11, Peters LAK (kneeing) 15:29, Coutre NC (interference) 15:58.

: 2. Northland College, Nikitin (Chartrand, Honold) 2:29. 3. Nortland College, Nikitin (Chartrand, Evans) 17:42. Penalties: Auger LAK (holding) 5:46, Nikitin NC (roughing), Chartrand NC (roughing), Peters LAK (roughing) 7:36, King LAK (roughing) 11:38, Liwiski NC (holding) 13:49.

: 4. Lakehead, King (Ho, Kuczek) 2:38. 5. Lakehead, Blackwell (G. Fox, S. Fox) 5:13. 6. Lakehead, Stiles (unassisted) 6:59 sh. Penalties: Mack LAK (slashing) 5:53, Kuczek LAK (roughing) 9:55, Mack LAK (cross checking) 13:50, Lamberty NC (slashing) 17:09,

GAME DATA – SOG – Northland College 6-11-11-28, Lakehead 13-9-13-35; Power plays (goals-chances) – Northland College (0-6), Lakehead (0-4); Goaltenders – Northland College: Viktor Wennberg, Lakehead: Max Wright; A: 1,103.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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