By Sam Beaudoin
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team snapped their three game losing skid Friday night, with a thrilling 2-1 overtime win over the University of Windsor Lancers in a highly anticipated matchup.
The two programs entered the game separated by three points in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Western Conference standings, with this matchup having enormous implications on who will ultimately secure the number one seed.
“We’re a team, we’re not about just one or two guys,” said TMU head coach Johnny Duco. “We’ve got 26-27 players on our roster, we feel strongly that with 20 of those in our lineup, we can beat anybody.”
TMU students packed the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) and brought the energy all night long as the game marked the university’s Winter Homecoming.
“That’s the first time I’ve had a crowd like that since I can remember,” said Bold defenceman Zachary Shankar. “It felt really good, it felt like playing in the [Ontario Hockey League] again.”
Fresh off their loss to the Western Mustangs, the Bold came out as the aggressors early on in the first period, trapping the Lancers in their own end and maintaining early offensive pressure.
Despite two of the OUA’s best offences being on display, both teams were able to limit high-quality scoring chances in the period. The two teams limited defensive zone turnovers and played extremely well in the neutral zone.
“For us, we’re trying to be a team that plays defence first,” said Bold defenseman Elijah Roberts. “Defence leads to offence … it’s definitely been a focus of ours to be better defensively.”
Moments after having a goal waved off due to a high stick, Lancers forward Brady Hinz found himself alone in front of the net. After an initial save from TMU netminder Garrett Forrest, Hinz potted his own rebound to put Windsor up 1-0 late in the period.
The Bold continued to be shut down to begin the second period, with the Lancers playing extremely tight defensive hockey and clogging up the middle of the ice.
TMU was finally able to break through just under six minutes into the frame as Roberts pulled off a nifty 360 spin to shed a defender at the blueline and wristed it past netminder Nathan Torchia to even the game at one apiece.
“We just gotta keep rolling, now is a great opportunity to start a winning streak,” said Roberts. “We got a couple days off this weekend, maybe a few drinks and then right back at it Monday.”
The passive play style continued throughout the back half of the frame with quality scoring chances coming very rarely for both sides, keeping the score deadlocked at one.
The physical play picked up immensely in the third period with multiple massive scrums ensuing after whistles, bringing the MAC crowd to their feet.
“Emotions are riding high for sure, we did a lot of good things,” said Duco. “The guys have earned it, they’ve been working really hard.”
The period saw a style of play resembling that of a playoff game, with both teams playing hard and physical hockey resulting in the score remaining tied after 60 minutes of play, sending this game to overtime.
With time expiring in overtime, Shankar broke behind the Windsor defence and found himself on a breakaway with the game on the line.
Shankar went from his forehand to his backhand and tucked it above Torchia’s right pad to send the MAC into a frenzy and earn TMU a massive win over their Western Conference rivals.
“It’s always nice to get the big goal in the game,” said Shankar. “It felt even better to get the win … that’s a big rival of ours and this closes the gap in the standings.”
The Bold pull within two points of the Lancers and will look to continue shrinking that gap when they travel to Guelph next Thursday.
“Every game from here on out, we’ve identified is gonna be like playoff hockey,” said Duco. “If we don’t play with that level of urgency, we’re gonna leave disappointed.”
UP NEXT: TMU will look to get back in the win column when they travel to Guelph to take on the Gryphons next Thursday. Puck drop is set for 7:30pm.