By Alex Wauthy
Following an electric Homecoming (HOCO) atmosphere to kick off Frankie the Falcon’s era of Bold hockey, the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team fell to the McGill Redbirds 4-0 Saturday afternoon at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
The Bold made seven lineup changes from last night’s matchup versus the Redbirds. TMU head coach Johnny Duco did so to allow different players to put their best foot forward. Another difference was the crowd’s energy as it fell flat compared to the raucous HOCO crowd.
“You definitely enjoy the atmosphere that was last night. You can get up for it, but this is how the league is. Sometimes you’ll be playing in front of a big crowd and sometimes [it will be] a seat night,” said Duco. “You get the energy from the crowd, but we got to find ways to be better than we were today.”
The Bold couldn’t hold their blue line to start the first period. The Redbirds found ease breaking into the offensive zone. They worked the corners, winning the 50-50 puck battles and using their body to fight for loose pucks. Their active sticks caused multiple turnovers in the Bold’s end, getting many high-quality chances.
The Bold’s second-year netminder Ryan Dugas stood on his head through the game’s first 10 minutes. Just under the halfway mark, second-year Redbirds forward Mikisiw Awashish had a point-blank, uncontested shot in the slot but Dugas turned it away.
“Since day one of camp, he’s been phenomenal,” said Duco of Dugas’ performance. “We feel we have two of the best goalies in the league in Kai [Edmonds] and [Dugas].”
The Bold did manage a couple of chances of their own, most notably third-year forward Aleks Dimovski, who broke into the offensive zone and fired off a shot on Redbirds second-year goaltender Fabio Iacobo, who swallowed up the scoring chance. Despite the occasional opportunity, the Bold couldn’t build any momentum, often getting opportunities off partial breaks in the neutral zone, using their speed to generate the odd chance.
The Bold only managed one shot in the first 10 minutes of the frame. As the period progressed, face-washing and fisticuffs regularly occurred following whistles. The game’s physicality picked up, but McGill still had the ice tilted in their favour.
The Redbirds finally found a crack in Dugas’ armour, finding the back of the net with 1:18 to play in the first. Redbirds’ second-year forward William Rouleau came streaking in off the right side and sent a pass to the middle of the slot.
After bouncing around for a second, the puck ended up on second-year defenceman Maxime Blanchard’s stick, who fed third-year Brandon Frattaroli for the game’s opening goal.
The Bold stifled any last-second push by the Redbirds, keeping them stuck in the neutral zone for the remaining 30 seconds of the first period. At the end of the period, McGill had an eleven-shot lead—18-to-seven—and took a 1-0 lead into intermission.
Despite the Bold not getting much in the form of shots, the game turned into a back-and-forth affair. That was until the Redbirds chipped the puck in the Bold’s end.
Awashish won the race for the puck and worked it in the corners. He found third-year McGill centre Caiden Daley just above the right hashmark, who, as quickly as he received the puck, sent a pass to third-year centre Alex Plamondon. He was alone in close, dangled Dugas and squeaked a shot under the goalie’s blocker to double McGill’s lead.
“It was a culmination of bad pass after bad pass after poor execution,” Duco said. “[It] leads you to play sloppy hockey and you end up defending and playing on your heels—a good team like McGill will pick you apart.”
Later in the period, third-year Redbirds forward Drew Bennett sent third-year forward William Poirier streaking up the left side with a tape-to-tape pass from their end of the neutral zone. Poirer rifled the shot past Dugas, extending their lead to three.
The Bold got their best scoring opportunities in the frame’s final minute. Second-year forward Ian Martin fed third-year defenceman Ryan Wells. Wells toe-dragged and ripped a shot, but Iacobo swiftly turned it aside.
Moments later, TMU third-year forward Jackson Doherty pounced on a Redbirds neutral zone turnover. He skated to the top of the left hashmark and dropped the puck for first-year forward Ty Collins, who was closely trailing behind. Collins fired a shot on target, but Iacobo stood tall.
In the dying seconds of the period, Redbirds forward Rouleau sent a cross-ice feed to sixth-year Adam Pilotte. He got the shot off, forcing Dugas to make a last-second desperation save to close before the buzzer rang. The Redbirds took a 3-0 lead into the second intermission.
Puck luck started going the Bold’s way in the third period. TMU got a couple of quick chances, finally mounting pressure on McGill’s end. Their best chance of the game came in the form of a breakaway for Dimovski. He had Iacobo fooled but sailed the puck just wide of the yawning cage.
“I just felt our execution was poor today. I don’t think it was an effort issue—I liked our effort. I thought we worked hard, we played hard, but [we] weren’t able to execute,” said Duco.
The game stayed relatively uneventful, minus a handful of fists thrown and scoring chances for either side. In hopes of igniting a momentous comeback, coach Duco pulled Dugas, giving the Bold an extra attacker with just over a minute to go. Despite a flurry of chances, McGill’s third-year forward Brandon Frattaroli buried an empty net goal with seven seconds to go.
The elation felt following their historic homecoming win came crashing down as Iacobo stonewalled the Bold offence, earning his first shutout of the preseason.
“You can take some positives from today,” Duco said. “I thought we battled in the third period, finished our checks and didn’t quit despite the game being seemingly out of reach. But that’s this league—it’s highs and lows.
UP NEXT: The TMU Bold men’s hockey team will make the trek to Fredericton to take on the University of New Brunswick Reds in the first game of another back-to-back matchup at Willie O’Ree Place on Friday, Sept. 29. Puck drop is set for 6:00 p.m.