Lakehead wins OUA west puck title

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:02 AM ET

If the Western Mustangs want to make it back to the men's national hockey championship, they are going to have to take the long road to do it.

The Lakehead Thunderwolves won the Ontario universities West Conference championship with a 5-2 win over the Mustangs this Saturday at Thompson Arena in front of 1,100.

The win gave the Thunderwolves the best-of-three series in two straight.

Western has one more shot at making the national tournament. The Mustangs have to play Trois Rivieres in Trois Rivieres Saturday in a third-place game. The winner moves to the nationals.

"You can say it's kind of like a mulligan," said Mustangs' defenceman Scott Aarssen. "We sure don't want to be in this situation but we get one more shot at it. I don't think we're going to get that again so we have to make the most of that opportunity."

The Mustangs came into the game with all the pressure on them. With the Canadian championship tournament already being held in Lakehead, the Thunderwolves had a guaranteed spot.

Even though the Mustangs finished ahead of them in the regular season, the first game of the series was played in Thunder Bay, a game won by the Thunderwolves 4-1.

There was very little room for error if the Mustangs wanted to make it back to the nationals after winning a silver medal there last year.

The Mustangs looked ready to force this series to a deciding third game that would have been played Sunday at Thompson Arena.

"It's nice to have another chance but you don't want to make that trip," said Mustangs' Adam Nemeth. "(Trois Rivieres) is a good team. It's a long trip."

All it took one funny bounce to change Saturday's game.

The Mustangs defeated Trois Rivieres 5-1 earlier this season in London.

The Mustangs had taken a 2-0 lead in the first period and appeared in control of the game.

Mike Sharp tapped in a two-on-one play with Luc Martin when the Mustangs were killing a penalty midway through the first period.

Before the period was over, Keaston Turkiewicz whipped a wrist shot past Thunderwolves starter Alex Dupuis.

The 2-0 lead looked as secure as any 2-0 lead could look. The Mustangs were playing a solid defensive game and Keyvan Hunt looked solid in net.

But even though they had a couple of good chances, the Mustangs would find the killer third goal.

All it takes in 2-0 games is one bounce to get the team that trails back into the game and that puck took a favourable bounce for the Wolves.

With just less than nine minutes left in the period, Lakehead's Ryan McDonald slapped what looked like a harmless shot at the end. There were some bodies in front of Hunt. The puck hit one, went up in the air and flipped into the net as Hunt was on his knees.

It rattled the Mustangs and gave life to the Thunderwolves.

"Up 2-0 at home, is there you want to be," said Aarssen. "We were looking for the third goal because it's huge. They come down, the puck takes a couple of bounces and goes in.

"It seemed to take a lot out of us. We didn't seem to have it after that. We were playing pretty well until then."

Western began to turn the puck over, giving up several odd-man rushes.

With 1:16 left in the second, the Mustang defence backed in on Hunt allowing Dan Speer to let a wrist shot go. It fooled Hunt to make it 2-2.

The seconds late, the Mustangs got a chance to go on a power play but that too turned sour.

They turned the puck over in the offensive zone giving Scott Dobben a breakaway. Mustangs Ryan Martinelli dove at Dobben and brought him down.

Referee Ray McManus awarded a penalty shot with eight seconds left in the second. Dobben rang one off the post and in to give the Thunderwolves a stunning 3-2 lead going into the third.

The power play really let Western down. It was 0-6 on the night and didn't generate a lot of chances.

"I don't know if there is any one thing that we didn't do well," Aarssen said. "We have to go back and work on it and look on film but there's no excuse for being 0-6. You have to score at least once."

The intermission wasn't enough to allow them to recover. Three minutes into the third period, they gave up yet another odd-man rush and Shandor Alphonso converted an easy one into the vacated net.

The Mustangs pressured but ran out of gas and time, allowing a fifth goal to Mark Soares late in the third period.

Game Glance

  • Lakehead 5, Western 2
  • Goals: Western-Mike Sharp, Keaton Turkiewicz; Lakehead-Ryan McDonald, Dan Speer, Scott Dobben, Shandor Alphsonso, Mark Soares.
  • Next game: Saturday against Trois Riviere in Trois Rivieres 7 p.m.


E-mail morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca

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