Thunderwolves set to host Gee-Gees
Lakehead’s “sophomore core” is expecting to do more this hockey season.
After taking over for key stretches last season, a group of second-year players is looking to make even more of an impact when the Thunderwolves make their debut this weekend in non-conference games against the Ottawa Gee-Gees at Fort William Gardens.
Puck drop today is 7:30 p.m.
“The first year, you always set your expectations pretty high,” said forward Mike Hammond, who was second on LU in regular-season scoring with nine goals and 18 assists. “You want the best of yourself. This year I’ve just got to keep it going and be more of a leader.”
Hammond and defenceman Mitch Fillman made a splash with OUA rookie squad honours, but Thomas Frazee, Keith Grondin and Jake Carrick found their touch for the university game late in the season, sitting among the team leaders in playoff scoring.
Not putting too much weight on those accomplishments, Thunderwolves coach Joel Scherban is just hopeful his 11 sophomores — which include forward Jason Grecica (limited last year by injury), defencemen Chris de la Lande, Danick Malouin, Luke Maw, Riley McIntosh and goaltender Jeff Bosch — improve from game to game.
“I think they already have quite a bit of responsibility,” Scherban said after practice on Thursday.
“We want to see them to continue to develop and get better. I don’t know if that means an increased role or not, but we want them to develop.”
Hammond, who’s majoring in education and political science, will be featured on a line with freshman Luke Judson and Matt Caria, last year’s leading scorer for Lakehead and one of the top offensive stars in the OUA. Thanks to a summer playing ball hockey in his hometown of Victoria, B.C., Hammond has remained sharp enough to hang with his new linemates.
“There’s great chemistry,” Hammond said. “We’ve all been talking and we’re looking forward to getting it going.”
The line — and Hammond — can generate more than points, stressed Scherban.
“There’s no doubt about Mike Hammond’s ability at all. He’s got incredible ability,” Scherban said. “He’s still learning how to play the game the right way — when to use his skill and when to just keep it simple. We expect big things from him this year.”
Thursday marked the Thunderwolves’ first practice at the Gardens after spending the last three weeks based mainly out of the Tournament Centre. The players’ class scheduling conflicts forced Scherban to find other ice time at Delaney Arena, Port Arthur Arena and Fort William First Nation Arena.
Now situated in their home rink, LU can concentrate on two non-conference games this weekend and two more the week after against Brock before hitting the road for the OUA regular season opener in Guelph on Oct. 5.
Notes: Fourth-year goaltender Alex Dupuis will get the start today with Bosch in net Saturday. . . . Scherban said defenceman Riley McIntosh and assistant captain Trevor Gamache will miss both games against Ottawa due to injury.