Sunday, February 3, 2008

Another sweep for LU

This time, most of the drama between the Lakehead Thunderwolves and the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks was served up on the ice.
Delayed airplanes, a snowy tarmac and league appeals stepped aside as the two bitter OUA hockey rivals got together for a penalty-ridden, goal-happy 7-5 Lakehead win on Saturday night at Fort William Gardens. The victory leaves the No. 5-ranked Thunderwolves one win or a Western Mustangs‘ loss shy of clinching the top seed in the West conference.
“You want to be playing your best hockey at the end of the season going into the playoffs,” said Thunderwolves centre Tobias Whelan, who scored twice and added two assists. “With nine wins in a row now against some pretty good teams, it‘s good confidence for us.”
Whelan, scoring one of his team‘s five powerplay goals on the night, and Brock McPherson, who set the team points record in a regular season with his 43rd, scored to open the third period and erase a 3-2 Golden Hawks lead. Kris Hogg pushed the lead to 5-3, but J.M. Rizk and Riley Moher of the Golden Hawks scored late to nullify Andrew Brown‘s would-be insurance empty net goal.
Whelan wrapped up Lakehead‘s 21st win of the season – tying a team record – with one last goal into the empty cage.
“We needed two late empty-netters there,” Lakehead coach Don McKee said. “We‘re pretty confident all night long we were taking the play to them.”
Many on both sides, namely McKee, tried to move on from Friday‘s sticky situation when the Golden Hawks arrived at the arena an hour before the scheduled game time due to travel delays and asked for a postponement of the game.
McKee refused, forcing Golden Hawks coach Kelly Nobes, who told reporters after their 3-2 loss on Friday that the Thunderwolves pushed through with the game to continue for monetary purposes over the well-being of his players, to file an appeal to the OUA.
Twenty-four hours and another road loss later, he was short with the media.
“I believe it‘s already gone to the (Laurier athletic director). The process has already started,” he said of the appeal. “It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I said what I said (Friday) and I‘m not going to get into it now.”
Thanks to the 22 total powerplays handed out by referee Grant Sherred, Saturday‘s win posed another test to the Thunderwolves in another tight game: Don‘t get burned on late penalties. Lakehead killed two of three Golden Hawks man-advantages to survive.
“Late in the game we had to bear down,” defenceman Mitch Maunu said.
Mark Soares and Dan Speer also scored for the Thunderwolves while Kyle Moir made 26 saves, including a stretching block on Luke Girard‘s breakaway attempt in the second period, for the win.
“All in all in the second period, Moir gave us some big saves while they were pressing a little,” McKee said. “I give him a lot of credit for his patience and we were able to get it going in the third.”

Dog Tags: Mike Wehrstedt and Matt Jacques had their families ushered onto centre ice before the game while they were honoured on seniors night. Wehrstedt added an assist – his 100th point in a Lakehead uniform – in the win. . . . Lakehead (21-3-1) wraps up the regular season on the road next weekend with a game against Toronto and two games against Western. Should they clinch the top seed, they wouldn‘t open the playoffs until the conference semifinals on Feb. 20. . . . Hogg left the game late in the third period after colliding with a Laurier player. He was favouring his left leg, but returned to watch the end of the game from the bench.