'Wolves ready to pounce
By Gary Moskalyk
Thirty-plus hockey players ventured up Inchiquin Ave. near Port Arthur Arena for hockey’s version of chemistry class. A group of hopefuls and 21 returning veterans getting in a little pre-practice run to get the blood flowing and muscles warmed up. Scrimmage would begin in an hour, with jobs on the line. First round of cuts are today.
“More bodies. It creates more competition, so obviously the pace picks up,” offered Lakehead University Thunderwolves head coach Bill McDonald, comparing last year’s camp to this one. “Actually, I’ve been pretty impressed not only with some of the guys from last year, but also with of the so-called walk-ons and new guys. It’s been good.”
“This is the first time I’ve done this where we go straight into four days of scrimmage, but I’m able to do it because of the numbers. I think it’s all worked out pretty good.”
Last year’s captain Andrew Wilkins is feet away from McDonald, observing the action. His new role is assistant coach. His old role is one McDonald is looking to fill.
“There’s been thoughts,” said McDonald of Wilkins’ captaincy. “There’s four or five guys who could fill the bill. They’ve got some big shoes to fill. With that being said, it’s a process going forward. Hopefully in a week, week-and-a-half we’ll know by then. Not know.”
Forward Cody Alcock will be one of the mainstays on the Thunderwolves attack this season. The 22-year-old from Oshawa managed to stay relatively injury-free last year.
“Pace is up. A lot of the guys are just trying to get their chemistry going with some other guys,” said Alcock. “The new guys that came in look good. Look like they want to be here. Pretty competitive.”
“We have two good goaltenders too,” he continued, referring to returnees Jeff Bosch and Justin McDonald. “I think that’s important. If one gets hurt, you always have that back-up. Our defence looks solid back there. And then on forward we’re going to have four deep lines. It’s going to be good.”
Alcock led the team with 24 goals last year, including eight goals and five assists in six playoff games.
“I try not to keep track of that,” said Alcock of his stats. “I know that I did better in playoffs than regular season. I’m hoping to just keep that going through the regular season this year and playoffs. Just keep it going.”
Kelin Ainsworth played 40 games last year, playing mostly with Mike Hammond and Jake Carrick.
“It’s going well. A lot of new faces,” Ainsworth remarked. “A lot of guys vying for spots. It’s been pretty competitive so far. It’s going well.”
Ainsworth, who turns 23 on Christmas Eve, considers himself a bit of an elder statesman.
“I’m looking to bring some of the same stuff and add a little bit of maturity. I’ve been here one year so I think I can bring a little bit of leadership presence this year. Just add on to that this year. Just add to the positives. Try to do everything a little bit better. Bring a little defensive role and offensive role to the team.”
The Thunderwolves see action against the Mount Royal Cougars on Sept. 19 and Sept. 20 at the Fort William Gardens.