THUNDER BAY – SPORTS – The Lakehead Thunderwolves hockey team will begin its 2017-18 campaign with a two-game home series versus the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks this weekend. Game times are 7:00 p.m. at the Fort William Gardens on both Friday and Saturday nights.
Last Time Out
This will be Lakehead’s first game since last February when the Wolves were swept in two games by the eventual Queen’s Cup Champion York Lions in the first round of the OUA playoffs.
The Ridgebacks have already played a pair of non-conference games this fall. The first was a 6-2 loss at Ryerson, followed by a 4-3 home win over Laurier.
Lakehead holds the edge in the all-time series between the two teams with a record of 14-5 over the Ridgebacks.
Ontario Tech visited the Gardens last November and took the Friday contest 3-2 in overtime, but the Wolves responded by drubbing the Ridgebacks 7-2 in the Saturday rematch.
There are 10 new players on the Lakehead roster this year, and some of them should make an immediate impact. Transfers Nic Renyard and Callum Fryer bring two years of NCAA experience, and the team has high expectations for freshmen Daniel Del Paggio and Josh Laframboise.
Despite the graduation of Lakehead’s top three scorers from last season, The Wolves have 17 returning players, so there is still a lot of experience on the team. Billy Jenkins, Dylan Butler, Brennen Dubchak, Sam Schutt, Grant Valiquette, Jake Ringuette, Dillon Donnelly, Patrick Murphy and other upperclassmen should play even bigger roles this season.
Competition in Net
With the addition of Renyard, there will be a three-way competition for time in the Lakehead net this year. Goaltenders Justin McDonald and Devin Green are both proven performers and give the Wolves an outstanding trio of puck stoppers.
About the Ridgebacks
Ontario Tech finished in seventh-place in the OUA East Division last season, and most of the key players from that squad are returning this year.
Forwards Danny Elser, Mike Robinson, Ben Blasko and Connor Jarvis are the top scoring threats, while defencemen Tyler Mayea and Alex Yuill anchor the blue line.
Goalies Tyson Teichmann and Brendan O’Neill split time in goal last season, and that trend is likely to continue.