By Todd Ash-Duah
The Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team defeated the McGill Redbirds 4-2 in their 2023 Homecoming (HOCO) game on Friday night in front of a record crowd at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
The MAC was over-capacity for HOCO, setting a record attendance of 2,750. Many fans had to stand by the boards as barely any seats were left available. With the new mascot—Frankie—being unveiled before puck-drop, the raucous crowd resulted in an electric atmosphere at the MAC.
“We wanted to play with our pace for 60 minutes,” said TMU head coach Johnny Duco. “We wanted to play a fast brand of hockey, we wanted to be physical and we wanted to win the net battle on both ends of the ice.”
The Bold fed off of the crowd’s energy right out of the gates. Second-year Bold forward Connor Bowie passed the puck to second-year TMU defenceman Evan Brand, who nailed a slick wrist shot into the net just a minute and 27 seconds into the game. And just like that, TMU held a 1-0 lead.
“It meant so much more with this being HOCO,” said Brand. “The crowd was going nuts and it felt so good to score the first goal for our fans.”
Just a few minutes after the first goal, TMU was on the attack again. Third-year Bold forward Jackson Doherty got a nice shot on goal, but Redbirds third-year goalie Alexis Shank was able to make a great pad save.
Things got a little feisty around the 13-minute mark of the first period, with both teams getting into a small skirmish. The Bold emerged out of the tussle by nearly getting on the board again, as second-year defenceman Jaden Condotta had a slapshot go slightly over the top right post.
With less than eight minutes left in the period, McGill got their first power play opportunity when Brand collided with a Redbirds player. Redbirds first-year centre Xavier Fortin was able to get a solid shot on net, but TMU second-year goalie Kai Edmonds made a slick stick save, denying McGill a game-tying goal and helping the Bold go one-for-one on their first penalty kill opportunity.
With mere seconds left in the opening period, TMU nearly extended their lead to 2-0. However, first-year forward Daniil Grigorev’s wrist shot went just wide of the net. Even with that, the Bold went into the second period with a 1-0 lead.
Both teams had their chances to begin the second period, but both goalies made big saves to keep the opposing team out of the net. Glove saves, turnovers and broken sticks were the name of the game through the first half of action in the period.
The second period was mostly uneventful until around the nine-minute mark. The Bold had a golden opportunity to extend their lead, but Shank made a last-second stick save to keep the Redbirds within one goal.
With less than seven minutes left in the period, both teams got into another scuffle. This led to multiple penalties being called on both McGill and TMU. But neither team was able to take advantage of the other team’s miscue.
“You could see the energy. Before the game, we talked about controlling our emotions, which maybe we didn’t do the best job of in those scrums,” Duco smirked.
At the three-minute mark, the Bold were finally able to capitalize, with second-year forward Ian Martin tipping in a pass from Wells past Shank to give the home squad a 2-0 lead. The crowd at the MAC went wild as TMU gave themselves some breathing room.
Shortly after, Bowie scored from behind the net off a nice feed from third-year forward Kevin Gursoy to put the Bold up 3-0. TMU dominated the period as they outshot McGill 18 to five.
“You want to start fast and play simple,” said Bowie. “Getting that goal was huge.”
The third period began with third-year Bold forward Chris Playfair going into the box with a cross-checking penalty. The Redbirds cashed in this time around on the power play, with third-year forward Eric Uba sniping the puck past Edmonds to put McGill on the board.
“After they scored that first goal, nothing changed. Our mindsets stayed the same. We just wanted to try to force them into mistakes and capitalize on them,” added Brand.
There was no shortage of bad blood in this one as just four minutes into the period, both teams got into yet another fight. That led to penalties being called on TMU and Redbirds. The Bold were the ones who capitalized on the four-on-four as Gursoy buried a pass from Wells into the net to give TMU a 4-1 lead.
Nearly halfway through the third period, the Redbirds were able to briefly get back into the game. Third-year McGill forward Drew Bennett managed to flip the puck into the net from distance, cutting the Bold’s lead into half to momentarily silence the crowd at the MAC.
Around the seven-minute mark, McGill threatened to score again. But Edmonds responded with a nifty glove save to steady the waters and keep the Bold up two goals.
With little time remaining in regulation, TMU got another power play opportunity after an interference penalty by fifth-year Redbirds defenceman Taylor Ford. Although they didn’t score, the home squad was ultimately able to control the rest of the game behind a frenzied crowd at the MAC.
“The crowd made a huge impact,” said Brand. “They helped so much. Throughout the game, they were cheering for us so that was huge.”
UP NEXT: The TMU Bold men’s hockey team will play McGill in a back-to-back matchup at the MAC on Saturday, Sept. 23. Puck drop is set for 3:00 p.m.