By Jacob Stoller
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team’s Saturday matinee against the Concordia Stingers may have been an exhibition game, but the intensity throughout what wound up being a 6-3 loss for the Bold was in mid-season form.
Before the puck was even dropped, the Stingers and Bold forwards aggressively jawed at each other in the face-off circle, foreshadowing the type of game this was going to be.
“Every time we play, it turns into a street fight brawl, and I don’t know if that’s the Quebec vs Ontario [rivalry] or what,” Bold head coach Johnny Duco said with a slight chuckle.
The Stingers came out hard, seeking out any chance they could to finish a body check even if it was irrelevant to the play. While Duco was excited to see the ramped-up intensity, he was frustrated at some questionable hits the Bold endured. Nevertheless, he thought his players responded well to the hand of cards they were dealt.
“The players want to stick up for each other and have one another’s back and you never want to see one of your teammates get hurt, especially when they’re in a vulnerable position and a guy takes a bit of a liberty on them,” said Duco.
Duco said the most frustrating part of the game for the Bold was the team’s slow start.
TMU defenceman Elijah Roberts scored 17 seconds after Concordia netted its first goal of the game. In fact, the PA announcer hadn’t finished stating the visitors’ marker when Roberts put the puck in the back of the net.
The Bold spent most of that period stuck in their own zone. They could not sustain any offensive pressure, struggled to hit seams on passes and were suffocated in transition. Concordia outshot the Bold 17-5 through the first 20 minutes, but the score was 1-1 at the break.
“If it were a one-off, just today, it wouldn’t be a huge deal, but it’s [been] four consecutive games where we haven’t played very well in the first period,” said Duco.
The first half of the second period was more of the same, with two strikes from Stingers forward Mathieu Bizier widening Concordia’s lead. Then, the Bold found their footing and the tide began to turn. Duco attributed the turnaround to the Bold simplifying their game.
“We stopped turning pucks over and we started shooting,” said Duco.
Kyle Bollers, who scored two of TMU’s goals, thought that once the team found their physicality, it helped them get their game into sync.
“Once we got physical, their [defence] kind of backed up a bit and that’s when we kind of took advantage of their defenceman and turned it up a little bit,” said Bollers.
The Bold narrowed the shot gap down as they found a way to hem the Stingers in their own end for much more prolonged periods of time. The first of Boller’s two goals came in the final five minutes of the period, with the 23-year-old forward driving the net hard on a powerplay to narrow the Bold’s deficit to just one.
Then, things tapered off in the third. The Stingers regained control and the Bold fell back into the bad habits that hindered them at the start of the game. Above all else, that inconsistent effort was the biggest takeaway for Bollers.
“At the end of the day, we haven’t put a full 60-minute [effort] together yet,” Bollers said.
Duco said the team needs to have a more collective effort.
“We can’t have any passengers and I don’t think we had 18 guys at their best today,” said Duco.
UP NEXT: The Bold men’s hockey team will face the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in a rematch of last year’s U Cup quarter-final on Sept. 30. Puck drop is set for 6 p.m. at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).