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With Thunder Bay welcoming snow at home, Thunderwolves athletes were primarily on the road, collecting some wins in every active sport. The men’s hockey team were the sole Lakehead squad playing at home, though both basketball teams return to Thunder Bay next weekend. The women’s volleyball completed another bye weekend prior to next weekend’s three-game slate at Western.
With the Toronto Varsity Blues visiting the Fort William Gardens for a two-game stand, the Thunderwolves came out hot and opened the weekend’s scoring in Friday’s first period. The visitors netted a flurry of pucks in the second and third periods, however, with Toronto claiming for the first win 7-3.
“I thought we had a great start taking an early lead,” Thunderwolves head coach Andrew Wilkins said. “Toronto has a good team, and they took control for the majority of the game.”
The Blues came to Thunder Bay having played only two regular season games to the Thunderwolves’ six.
“It was a tough loss to a good team,” Wilkins added. “I thought as a team we had more to give.”
The Wolves in white found more to give on Saturday night, jumping out to a 3-0 lead against the visiting U of T’ers. Jordan King claimed one of those scores with Ben Badalamenti adding the other two.
“Great response from our group on Saturday,” coach Wilkins said. “We had great energy in front of electric crowd at the gardens, holding a 3-0 lead going into the 2nd period.”
The Varsity Blues responded with a few goals of their own, but ultimately Lakehead emerged victorious, final score 6-4.
“Give Toronto credit for coming back and tying it, but I really liked how we stuck with it and elevated our game to get the win,” Wilkins said. “It was a great way to end the first half of our season.”
Lakehead’s men’s hockey team currently sits at 3-5 going into the holiday break, as they will return to the ice in the new year with ten straight road games before finally coming home.
Thunderwolves skaters Tyler Ho and Kevin Stiles currently sits tied with a host of other players for the third-most goals in the OUA (4). Spencer Blackwell’s six assists currently has him tied for second in the league.
Goalie Brock Aiken currently has the fifth-most saves in the league with 154, and his save percentage is good enough to tie for the tenth spot in the OUA.
The Thunderwolves got off to a bit of a slow start in Waterloo on Friday. A hard-fought defensive matchup with the Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks saw the home team pull out to an early 14-9 lead. Neither team scored more than 15 points in a quarter, and the single largest lead of the game was eight.
“It was another game where we played solid defense but struggled to score,” Thunderwolves head coach Jon Kreiner said.
Lakehead held Laurier to 27% shooting in the game, and forced 11 Golden Hawk turnovers.
“We made a good comeback,” Kreiner said, “but we had one too many lulls in scoring and allowed one player to beat us.”
Laurier’s Cassidy Hirtle finished with 20 points. The heartbreaking loss for the Thunderwolves came down to the last minute as the teams jockeyed for position. Tiffany Reynolds scored with a minute left to make it a one-point game, but the Thunderwolves were unable to get over the edge.
Reynolds led the Thunderwolves with an absolutely stuff stat sheet: 14 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists. Eva Guilera added 8 points and 8 rebounds, while Sofia Lluch added 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.
It was a night of returns as well, however, as Paula Lopez played her first minutes of the season, picking up 9 points and 3 rebounds, and veteran post August Ricketts notched 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal in only 11 minutes of play.
The second night saw Lakehead return with renewed energy, as the Thunderwolves built an early lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“Great second quarter and overall team energy,” Kreiner said. Lakehead took a 34-18 lead into the half after holding Laurier to only 7 in the second frame. The Thunderwolves would emerge with the win, final score 68-57.
“Sofia and Tiffany were our best players today, as they should be,” Kreiner said, “but Eva Guilera really stepped up for us in a big way.”
Lluch finished with a game-leading 19 points, along with 7 rebounds. Reynolds once again stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 13 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Guilera finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds (including 4 offensive), and 2 steals.
Paula Lopez scored 6 points as a starter in the second night of her return to play, while August Ricketts added an efficient 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 steal in only 8 minutes of play.
Lakehead’s women’s basketball team currently sits 1-5 in regular season play. They return home next weekend where they will face the Western Mustangs in the final Thunderwolves women’s basketball action of 2021. Those games tip at 6:00pm on both Friday, November 26th, and on Saturday, November 27th.
The men’s basketball team fared similarly to the women’s hoopers, going 1-and-1 in a weekend split against the home team Laurier Golden Hawks. The Thunderwolves were undone in the first match by slow starts, both in the first quarter and coming out of the halftime break.
“We were overwhelmed by the aggressiveness and physicality of Laurier to start the game,” Thunderwolves head coach Ryan Thomson said. “Getting down early makes it difficult to find much flow or rhythm in the game and we felt that in game one.”
Laurier led 30-9 after the first quarter. The final score was 103-77.
“When we’re disciplined and active in the gaps we can be a competitive defensive team,” Thomson added. When we’re disciplined offensively and space the floor properly we can generate good shots, but our issue has continued to be our consistency possession after possession.”
Lakehead was led by Michael Okafor’s 26 points and 5 steals, while Dylan Morrison grabbed 8 rebounds and had 1 block, and Jared Kreiner added three deep bombs on his way to 11 points off the bench.
The second night appeared to be more of the same, with the Thunderwolves stumbling to a 15-point deficit after the first quarter. Lakehead took the next three straight frames however to emerge with the 89-80 win.
“Despite a slow start we were able to rally and get back into the win column,” Thomson said. “The difference between tonight and game one was the attention to detail, consistency defensively, and our ability to share the ball. We had 6 different guys in double figures, which is closer to how we need to play, rather than being reliant on one or two scorers.”
The Thunderwolves committed only six total turnovers in the win, and they held Laurier phenom Ali Sow to only 17 points on 4-17 shooting.
Lakehead’s men’s basketball team currently sits 2-4 in regular season play, however, they hold the third-highest RPI in the country.
Michael Okafor is currently 6th in the OUA in both scoring (22.2) and steals (2.6), while Dylan Morrison leads the province in blocks (2.4), and Laoui Msambya is 8th in assists (4.3).
The men’s basketball team returns home next weekend where they will face the Western Mustangs in the final Thunderwolves men’s basketball action of 2021. Those games tip at 8:00pm following the women’s games on both Friday, November 26th, and on Saturday, November 27th.
The Thunderwolves wrestlers travelled to Toronto this weekend where they battled in the York Invitational. The men’s team collected three first-place finishes on their way to winning the men’s team division, and the women’s team collected one gold and a fourth-place team finish.
“I was happy with the effort presented on the mat,” Lakehead coach Francis Clayton said. “I know [Thunderwolves assistant coach Brody] Evans was too.”
The men’s competitors were led by a bevy of gold medalists, including veteran maestro of the mat Abraham Mfonpa’re Ntienjem (82kg), Mike Zale (65kg), and Aiden Evenson (68kg). Mateo Ainsi, John Campbell, and Mike Haskel added silvers, and Hasan Ercan added a bronze.
The women’s competitors were led once again by top-of-her-category Madison Clayton, this time the gold medalist in the 67kg group. Erin Clayton and Isabelle Bédard added a pair of bronze medals in their respective weight classes.
“Ten medals is a good result,” coach Francis Clayton added.
The Thunderwolves wrestlers will return to the mats in January, when they will travel to St. Catharine’s for the Brock Invitational.