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Another cold weekend in Thunder Bay saw the return of regular-season OUA play for a few of our athletes. The basketball teams helped warm up the Thunderdome by defending home court, while the men’s hockey team hit the ice as visitors. The high level of play from both Lakehead and opponent athletes served as a great reminder that the OUA is Elite.
The men’s hockey team was the first Thunderwolves squad to see action coming off the public health hiatus. Our skaters travelled to southern Ontario, but they couldn’t escape the bit of rust accumulated from the break in play.
“It was an extremely tough weekend for our group,” Thunderwolves head coach Andrew Wilkins said. The three-game slate saw the Lakehead team go winless, dropping a Thursday-night tilt to the Brock Badgers and then two straight to the Toronto Varsity Blues on subsequent nights.
“Our mistakes seemed to pile on defensively,” Wilkins said. Lakehead opened scoring on Thursday, netting a first-period goal against the home-team Badgers, but Brock would pick up two more before ultimately pulling away for a 6-2 victory.
Friday night would see a different opponent for the Thunderwolves as they travelled to Toronto to face off against the Varsity Blues, but the result seemed to follow them—Lakehead opened scoring before the home team pulled away, and the Thunderwolves dropped the game 9-3. Thunderwolves netminder Blake Weyrick faced 61 shots on goal in the match, stopping 52.
“Again our mistakes seemed to pile on defensively and we were unable to create an offence,” Wilkins said.
Lakehead then closed out the weekend with a third loss 8-2—the second to the host Toronto squad.
Colin Van Den Hurk finished the weekend with a team-best four points (1 goal, 3 assists), while goalie Brock Aiken added an assist to his 54 saves spread across two games.
“This was a weekend that our program will learn from,” Wilkins said. “We will get back to a week of practice, address our game, and work to prepare for Brock.”
Lakehead’s men’s hockey team returns home this coming weekend where they will seek to avenge their losses to the Badgers. The puck will drop at 7pm on both Friday, February 18th and Saturday, February 19th.
The Thunderwolves women’s basketball squad hosted the visiting Guelph Gryphons in a pair of sold-out games, with the LU squad dropping both.
“It was great getting on the floor after a long break,” Thunderwolves head coach Jon Kreiner said. “We were down bodies but we competed hard.”
The first game saw the Thunderwolves come out fighting, with veteran post August Ricketts scoring two straight field goals to get Lakehead on the board. The home team held an 18-17 lead after the first quarter, but Guelph’s 1-3-1 zone defence stymied the Thunderwolves going forward and the Gryphons took the first match 62-55.
“We held a very good Guelph team well below their season scoring average,” Kreiner said, “but we really struggled to score against their zone defence.”
Lakehead finished with 27 turnovers, the vast majority of which were generated by tipped passes stemming from the Gryphon zone clogging offensive lanes.
The Thunderwolves were led by the trio of Tiffany Reynolds, Eva Guilera, and Ally Burke, all of whom scored 10 points. Burke added 6 assists and two steals, while Guilera grabbed five rebounds and Reynolds picked up 4 steals, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. Kaylah Lewis added 8 points on 3-3 shooting in addition to 6 rebounds in her encouraging return to play.
Saturday’s game saw the Lakehead squad turn the tables on ball control, picking up 17 combined steals while committing a manageable 14 turnovers. The leaden legs of the injury-stricken roster coming off hiatus impacted their shooting, however, and a field goal percentage of 23.6 resulted in a 66-44 loss, giving the Guelph team a weekend sweep.
“Overall I was happy with our looks at the basket,” Kreiner said, “we just couldn’t get them to drop.”
Lakehead’s women’s basketball team travels to Sault Ste. Marie next weekend, where they will face the hosting Algoma Thunderbirds. Home action will return to Thunder Bay on March 4th and 5th when the Thunderwolves will face the Windsor Lancers in a weekend back-to-back.
The men’s basketball team, looking to build off their exciting OT home win back in late November, welcomed the Guelph Gryphons into the sold-out Thunderdome. The Lakehead squad sent their fans home happy, and their opponents with a handful of Ls.
Friday night’s match saw Eric Gonzalez hit an early three to open scoring, and the Thunderwolves never relinquished their lead, ultimately winning 87-81 in a match that never felt as close as the score might suggest.
Laoui Msambya and Michael Okafor dropped 23 each, and Lakehead shot 45.5% from the floor as a team. Dylan Morrison added 9 rebounds and 1 acrobatic block, while the aforementioned Gonzalez added 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 steals. Alston Harris led all bench scorers with 10.
“The guys we’re eager to get back on the court and compete,” Thunderwolves head coach Ryan Thomson said. “We knew it would be two tough games, especially after getting a win on Friday night.”
Saturday night’s rematch saw the home team Thunderwolves scrape out a narrow 37-35 at half, and a third-quarter run by the Gryphons saw the Lakehead squad facing a four-point deficit going into the final frame. Just as in the OT win back in November, Laoui Msambya scored a crucial bucket to ultimately put the home team in blue ahead with less than a minute remaining, and Lakehead won 71-69.
The Thunderwolves were led by reserve Nathan Bilamu, whose 21 points more than eclipsed his previous USPORTS high of 10. Gonzalez provided a well-rounded 18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals to go along with possibly the best facial hair in the OUA. Dylan Morrison grabbed 7 rebounds to go along with 4 spectacular blocks, each of which sent the Thunderwolves crowd into frenzy of ecstatic cheers.
“I’m happy with our weekend results,” Thomson said. “It’s never easy to get a sweep, but credit to the guys for playing through some fatigue and overcoming some turnovers and tired shots.”
Coming off the weekend, Lakehead’s men’s basketball team’s is currently 9-5 in USPORTS play—the 15th best record in the country—and currently holds the 7th best RPI in Canada. The Thunderwolves’ OUA record is currently 5-5, tied with the Laurier Golden Hawks for fourth in the OUA West division.
Laoui Msambya is currently 5th in Canada in assists-per-game, averaging 5.1 (including a tied-for-second-best 12 in a single game back in November). Dylan Morrison currently leads the country in blocks-per-game, at 2, and Michael Okafor is currently 2nd in steals-per-game in Canada at 3.1. Okafor is also currently 9th in the OUA in points-per-game at 19.
The men’s basketball team travels to Sault Ste. Marie this coming weekend, where they will face the Algoma Thunderbirds.
“We’re looking ahead to Algoma this coming weekend for what should be another tough weekend,” Thomson said.
Lakehead’s men’s basketball team returns home on March 4th and 5th when the Thunderwolves will face the Windsor Lancers in a weekend back-to-back.