Thunderwolves look for spark

Sophomore forward Tomas Soustal was named the Thunderwolves men’s hockey team’s RBC athlete of the month on Tuesday. Soustal and the Thunderwolves host the Concordia Stingers Friday and Saturday.

After nine regular season games, the Lakehead Thunderwolves sit in ninth place in the 10-team OUA West Division with a 3-5-1 record — just one point ahead of last place.

Not the place they envisioned to be in during this bye week.

The Thunderwolves will try to improve on their 0-4-0 mark at home when they host the rough and tumble Concordia Stingers for a weekend pair of games at Fort William Gardens.

“We’re just more or less excited to play,” said LU coach Andrew Wilkins said on Tuesdays. “I think we’ve had a couple of good weeks. We’re at the point now where we want to get out there and prove it to ourselves, play the type of game we can play for 60 minutes. It’s exciting.”

When a team is heading south, their power play and save percentage are big indicators of problems. Lakehead’s power play sits at 1-for-36, last in the OUA. There’s a goal differential of minus-12, a team save percentage south of .900, and there are a number of players with two, one or zero points.

A solid showing on the weekend gets Lakehead back in playoff territory. Having two road trips of three games each earned the Thunderwolves a week off.

“We worked on everything,” Wilkins said on how they used their week without games. “We look at our power play, in the last couple of games it’s struggled to get the looks. I think early on when we weren’t getting the results, the stats, the numbers but we were getting good looks. It’s a good refresh, a good reset. It’s still very early in the year. We’re taking it for what is and trying to get better.”

Concordia leads the league with 210 minutes in penalties (LU sits at 100) so the moribund power play unit will have likely have a chance to improve.

“The league’s tight. You can’t look too far ahead. You can’t look in the past honestly,” said Wilkins. “You just can’t. You’re doing a disservice to yourself. Stay in the moment. We’ve got games this weekend. Try to get points on Friday.”

Defenceman Callum Fryer and forward Tyler Jette are both out with upper body injuries, and back-up goaltender Brandon Bodnar (lower body) is working his way back to playing.

Fryer, a fifth-year senior, is a minutes-eater on the blue-line. His absence has forced others to fill the void. Due to the lack of health and experience behind starting goaltender Nic Renyard, the Thunderwolves have been forced to ride their senior.

“When we’ve won this year (Renyard has) been a big part of it,” said Wilkins. “I feel he’s one of the better goalies in the league.”

Josh Laframboise leads the team with nine points (five goals, four assists) in nine conference games. Daniel Del Paggio has three goals and five helpers. Forward Tomas Soustal, who was named the team’s player of the month for October on Tuesday, has four goals and six points, and freshmen Geoff Dempster and Kyle Auger have five points each.

Soustal spoke to the mood in the room.

“It’s not the way we want it,” said Soustal, a six-foot-two, 195-pound Czech Republic native. “At the same time it’s better to be down early and keep building with what we have kind of thing. . . . We had a good break, a week. As bad as it is right now I think it’s better to go through the slumps at the start of the season rather than have a smooth first half and start falling off like we did last year.

“We are not too down,” he added. “Honestly I think some of the games we could have won. They just didn’t go our way.”

Third-year coach Wilkins remains philosophical and upbeat.

“You can’t look back. How do we fix it? How do we make it better?” he said. “That’s the stage we’re at. Stats don’t lie, obviously. There’s proof in the numbers of where we need to get better.”

Recommended for you