By Gabriel Rodrigues
Laurentian’s men’s hockey team begin the 2014-15 OUA campaign undefeated with a pair of home victories versus the UOIT Ridgebacks and Concordia Stingers.
On Friday, Oct. 3, the Voyageurs began their season with a come from behind 4-3 overtime win against the UOIT Ridgebacks.
In the first, UOIT came out strong putting pressure on the Laurentian defenseman, forcing the Voyageurs to cough up the puck early in the period.
However, after ten minutes, the Voyageurs started to create chances of their own when forward Marc-Alain Begin was robbed point blank by Ridgebacks goaltender Brendan O’Neill.
After O’Neill’s save, UOIT carried the play forward, resulting in two goals, just four minutes apart, by Ridgebacks forward Kevin George, finally solving Laurentian’s net minder, Alain Valiquette.
Down 2-0, the Voyageurs would reply, less than one minute later, with a harmless looking shot by defenseman Beau Williams-Orser, which eventually found the back of O’Neill’s net, ending the frame with Laurentian just one goal behind.
In the second, Laurentian looked to tie the game throughout the period with numerous chances, but with 14 seconds left in the period, UOIT’s Brendan Wise scored, capitalizing on a Voyageurs’ turnover, giving the Ridgebacks a 3-1 lead going into the last frame.
Despite being down by two goals, Laurentian came out strong in the third, as first-year player, Darcy Haines and returning player, Dylan Fitze both scored five minutes apart, leveling the game at 3-3 at the end of the period.
In the five minute extra frame, both teams looked hungry to close out the contest, and with less than a minute left, Laurentian forward, Michael MacDonald, found himself on a breakaway until he was tripped up, eventually leading to a penalty shot against UOIT’s goaltender, O’Neill.
With 49 seconds remaining in overtime, MacDonald solidified Laurentian’s comeback by shooting the puck through the legs of O’Neill’s pads, ending the Voyageurs’ 11 game losing streak dating back to last year.
MacDonald proved to be Laurentian’s biggest threat, as he tallied one goal and one assist to lead the Voyageurs throughout the game.
Although Valiquette allowed three goals, the Voyageurs’ goalie made timely saves against the Ridgebacks and stopped 39 of 42 shots thrown his way.
Following Friday nights’ victory, on Saturday, Oct. 4, the Voyageurs took care of Concordia early and defeated the Stingers 5-2, giving Laurentian an undefeated start to the season.
In the first, the Voyageurs came out hungry, scoring two goals within the first five minutes, when forwards Jamie Haines and Sebastien Leroux capitalized on their opening chances of the game, giving Laurentian a 2-0 lead.
The Voyageurs wouldn’t let up, as they continued to throw pucks towards Concordia’s goaltender, Antoine Marchand, eventually ending the period with 16 shots compared to the Stingers eight.
In the second, Laurentian started the frame with two goals just 33 seconds apart with forwards Nick Esposto and Gary Horic scoring their first goals of the campaign, forcing Concordia to pull Marchand after four goals in favour for back-up goalie Robin Billingham.
Concordias’s Ben Dubois eventually solved Laurentian’s goalie, Valiquette, when he scored on a shorthanded chance in the middle of the second period.
However, the Voyageurs were not fazed, as they continued their on-slot of opportunities, adding another goal by Horic.
Although the Stingers scored another goal by Olivier Hinse, the Voyageurs closed out the game in the third period and won 5-2 to begin the season with two straight home wins.
Notable performers for the Voyageurs are Leroux, J. Haines and Esposto who all three tallied one goal and one assist, while Horic scored two goals to lead Laurentian past Concordia.
Once again, Valiquette proved to be a difference, as he stopped 35 of 37 shots, earning his second win of the season.
For Laurentian coach, Craig Duncanson, the two home victories are just the starting point and hopes his team can continue their play throughout the OUA campaign.
“We feel we are an improved club,” said Duncanson. “There’s not that many games in the season, so we are trying to get better every day and push each other. Moving forward, we need to put these games behind us. I’m glad we have them, but we have to get the guys looking for more.”
The Voyageurs’ next four contests are on the road, making Laurentian’s next home game is on Saturday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m. when they faceoff against McGill University at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.