THUNDER BAY – The Lakehead Thunderwolves struggled mightily with the man advantage prior to the Christmas break.
Santa may have delivered the team a power play for Christmas.
The Wolves scored a season-high three power play goals on Friday night and doubled up the visiting Guelph Gryphons 4-2 in non-conference OUA play at Fort William Gardens.
It’s a good sign said defenceman Jake Ringuette, who scored one of the special teams goals, charging in from the blue-line in the third and pouncing on a pinpoint pass from assistant captain Brennen Dubchak from behind the Gryphons net.
“Our power play’s been struggling,” said Ringuette, whose team will take a 6-8-1 record into the second half next Friday at home against the Windsor Lancers.
“You’ve just got to stick with it like we have been, just like tonight. You shoot the puck and hope for the best and keep working hard. It’s all going to transform for the best in the new year.”
Dubchak said Ringuette’s goal came off a set play, something the team needs to execute better at when the regular season resumes.
“We needed that coming forward into the new year. Power play goals didn’t come too often in the first half. It’s a big builder for us, for sure,” said Dubchak, who scored a beauty of his own in the third, rifling a slap shot from the right faceoff circle that trickled through the pads of Guelph goalie Jason da Silva.
The goal came on the power play with 3:05 to play, an insurance marker against a Gryphons team that had won 10 of its past 11 contests.
More importantly, it means the seventh-place Wolves will hit the second half on a winning note, knowing they’ve only got a one-point cushion on ninth-place Western.
The top eight teams in the OUA West make the playoffs.
“We know we can compete with all these top place teams. It’s just a matter of putting some goals on the board. We finally did that tonight and hopefully that’s going to transfer over to the second half,” Dubchak said.
LU coach Bill McDonald said it was the type of game he wanted to see from his troops.
“I really liked the effort and the passion that we played with. And we got a couple of power play goals, which was good,” McDonald said.
Lakehead’s Sam Schutt started the offensive ball rolling first, scoring with the man advantage 3:16 after the opening puck drop, just his second time lighting the lamp all season.
The goal stood up until the second, when Nick Boyer stripped the puck from Daniel Del Paggio and lifted a breakaway backhand past LU goalie Devin Green just 54 seconds into the middle stanza.
Del Paggio, who was later tossed for an alleged slur uttered at a Guelph player, made up for his initial miscue at the 4:10 mark, firing high on Da Silva, who was caught leaning the wrong way, anticipating a pass on the 2-on-1 rush.
The rookie forward was assessed a gross misconduct and a game misconduct in the third for something he said during an early-period scuffle that saw three other players draw minor penalties.
“I don’t expect much out of it,” McDonald said.
Ringuette’s goal upped the Lakehead lead to 3-1 two-and-a-half minutes later. Seth Swenson pulled the Gryphons within one at 9:36 of the third.
Scoring: 1. Lakehead, Schutt (Alexander, Jenkins) 3:16 pp. Penalties: Kudla GUE (high sticking) 3:01, Murphy LAK (slashing) 5:43, Thompson GUE (tripping) 10:40, Ma. Stevens GUE (slashing) 14:40, Simmonds GUE (cross checking) 17:24, Jenkins LAK (tripping) 19:50.
Scoring: Penalties: Wolframe LAK (high sticking) 13:27.
Scoring: 2. Guelph, Boyer (unassisted) 0:54. 3. Lakehead, Del Paggio (Leonidas) 4:10. 4. Lakehead, Ringuette (Dubchak, Gall) 7:31 pp. 5. Guelph, Swenson (Mi. Stevens) 9:36. 6. Lakehead, Dubchak (Murphy) 16:55 pp. Penalties: Hiff GUE (cross checking), Gialedakis GUE (slashing), Wesley-Chisel LAK (cross checking), Del Paggio LAK (gross misconduct, game misconduct) 7:23, Boyer GUE (kneeing), Swenson GUE, Donnelly LAK (roughing) 14:21, Kudla GUE (tripping) 16:05, Ma. Stevens GUE (slashing, roughing, misconduct), Donnelly LAK (roughing, misconduct) 19:33.
GAME DATA – SOG – Guelph 5-13-9-27, Lakehead 14-12-9-35; Power plays (goals-chances) – Guelph (0-3), Thunder Bay (3-8); Goaltenders – Guelph: Jason Da Silva, Thunder Bay: Devin Green; A: 1,916.