Dan Speer hasn’t scored often this season. In fact, prior to his goal in Saturday night’s 8-2 win over the Windsor Lancers, the Lakehead Thunderwolves forward hadn’t lit the lamp since Oct. 30, a second-period marker in a 3-2 loss to Waterloo.
In fact, prior to his goal in Saturday night’s 8-2 win over the Windsor Lancers, the Lakehead Thunderwolves forward hadn’t lit the lamp since Oct. 30, a second-period marker in a 3-2 loss to Waterloo.
The fifth-year veteran, a former Ontario University Athletics scoring champion, upped his regular-season goal total to three and added two assists, in a game that saw the Wolves stop the defensive bleeding in an all-around effort worthy of a team chasing a championship.
It was nice to finally get the monkey off his back, said Speer, benched as a healthy scratch the night before by coach Joel Scherban.
“Maybe I should sit out a few more Friday nights,” was all the Thunder Bay native would say when all was said and done on Saturday.
Scherban, missing top scorers Brock McPherson and Scott Dobbenn due to injury, said he was counting Speer to step up his game in their absence. He got the answer he was looking for.
“I thought Dan Speer played great. It was probably the best game he had all year. He brought a lot of energy and that’s what we like to see from him. He’s one of the top players in the league and we need him to play like that when we go down the stretch, ” Scherban said.
“It was a tough decision to sit him, but we have to hold him accountable like we hold everyone accountable, and he responded well, so that’s great to see.”
But Scherban isn’t ready to say the team has completely righted a sinking ship just yet, though.
What he’d really like to see is the cliché full 60-minute effort from everyone, not just a select few, or troublesome times will surely lie ahead, with a pair of games against Western and Laurier looming on the horizon.
“The first 32 minutes I thought we played great. We did everything we talked about. The big thing was cleaning up the neutral zone. We had probably 30 turnovers in the neutral zone yesterday, and that’s why they had so many shots and played in our end so much,” Scherban said.
In those first 32 minutes, the Wolves seemed unstoppable at both ends of the rink, killing a lengthy two-man disadvantage at one point -- though to the Lancers credit, it`s a feat they`d already achieved themselves.
Ryan McDonald scored his third goal in four games midway through the first, the only goal of the period. Speer doubled the LU lead 58 seconds into the second with a power play goal, and three minutes later, with Matt Dias in the box for slashing, Kris Hogg potted his 10th of the year, beating Windsor goalie Jim Watt. Mark Soares slapped home a shot from the top of the faceoff circle to make it 4-0, but then things started to get interesting.
“We had a bit of a lapse the final eight minutes of that second period and they got two goals,” Scherban said. “I think they had 14 shots in the final seven-and-a-half minutes and that was a bit of a wake-up call for our team.”
Kyle Lang and Kyle Tront, a Thunder Bay native and former Superior International Junior Hockey League player, notched the Windsor goals, markers that came exactly five minutes apart beginning with Lang’s at 9:58.
But veteran forward Shandor Alphonso dashed any comeback dreams, beating Watt with 10 seconds to go in the period and Lakehead took a 5-2 lead into the third.
It was the first of two Alphonso, the game`s first star, scored on the night, but was happier about the team`s overall effort than he was about individual accolades.
“As of late we’ve been struggling in the defensive zone. It was something we need to focus on and I think today we definitely showed that. It was all around a much better game than we’ve been playing of late.”
Alphonso made it 6-2 five minutes into the third, and then Matt Dias and Andy Hyvarinen, with just his second of the season, wrapped up the scoring in the final 64 seconds of play.
Windsor coach Kevin Hamlin said the game didn’t have the feel of an 8-2 affair, but the Wolves had something to prove and the Lancers just happened to get in the way.
“We played a team that was embarrassed last weekend, just like we were embarrassed this weekend,” Hamlin said. “We pride ourselves in being the hardest-working team in the province, and tonight at times we weren’t. That’s very disappointing, but we played a team that perhaps has come of age a bit.”
THIRD PERIOD Scoring: 8. Lakehead, Alphonso 7 (Caria) 4:53. 9. Lakehead, Dias 3 (Soares, Speer) 18:56 pp. 10. Lakehead, Hyvarinen 2 (Sergerie, Anilane) 19:17. Penalties: Smith LAK (interference) 5:49, McDonald LAK (check from behind, game misconduct, served by Smith), Sciacca WIN (cross checking), Smith (roughing after the whistle) 10:30, Caria LAK (slashing) 13:13, Nishizaki WIN (slashing) 17:02.
GAME DATA – SOG – Windsor 7-15-16-38, Lakehead 11-15-15-41; Power plays (goals-chances) – Windsor (1-8), Lakehead (2-5); Goaltenders – Windsor: Jim Watt, Lakehead: Kyle Moir; A: 2,904.
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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