By Kaden Nanji
Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s hockey team found their way back in the win column, beating the Lakehead Thunderwolves 4-3 on Friday with a hat-trick by third-year forward Kevin Gursoy at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
The Bold entered the match having dropped their last two games to the nationally-ranked Brock Badgers and their cross-town rivals, the University of Toronto Varsity Blues. Last season, the Bold beat the Thunderwolves twice away, but lost the lone game at home.
“[The Thunderwolves are] elite on the rush, they can make plays, they’re dynamic…that’s a really good hockey team over there,” said TMU head coach Johnny Duco.
The first period opened with each team exchanging big shots on both ends of the ice. However, it wasn’t long before the Bold took control of the period, taking sixteen shots in the first, compared to the Thunderwolves’ five.
The strong defence and adept playmaking finally paid off 11 minutes into the period when third-year star forward Kyle Bollers left the puck for an open Gursoy. The LaSalle, Ont. product then went top shelf for the first goal of the night—his eighth of the season—to give the Bold the lead.
“[Our passing execution] is something we worked a lot on in practice and holding the guys to a really high standard surrounding their passing. If it’s sharp in practice, it’s sharp in the game,” said Duco on the Bold’s positive passing display.
The Thunderwolves attempted to equalize with two strong wrist shots that were denied by a sprawling save from second-year netminder Kai Edmonds.
With under 20 seconds left in the first, the Bold struck again when a great pass by third-year forward Chris Playfair found second-year forward Connor Bowie on the left of Lakehead third-year goalie Max Wright. Bowie didn’t hesitate to cut in and flick the puck into the right side of the net, doubling TMU’s lead before the end of the first period.
“The first 20 minutes were amazing [and] we were all over them,” said Bollers.
The Thunderwolves opened the second frame with a newfound invigoration, laying out several hard hits and heavy shots. The Bold didn’t back down, carrying out a set of aggressive hits themselves. Nonetheless, the puck remained primarily in the Bold’s zone for the first half of the second period.
Midway through the period, a backhand shot by Thunderwolves second-year forward Olivier Pouliot cut the Bold lead to one.
However, less than a minute later, Gursoy put home a rebound goal, his second of the night, off a power shot by Bollers to put the Bold up 3-1.
“Today we’re on the ice and [Gursoy] was like ‘Hey man, I’m scoring four goals tonight’,” said Bollers on Gursoy’s mindset coming into the game.
Bollers also noted that prior to attending the Toronto Maple Leafs game on Nov. 30, Gursoy mentioned that “[they] were both going to score four goals each tomorrow.” After witnessing Maple Leafs player Mitch Marner score a hat-trick, Gursoy doubled down claiming that it was “a sign.”
The aggressive play in the second period eventually caught up to both teams, when they both received minor penalties for cross-checking. The Thunderwolves capitalized off the four-on-four play with a goal by second-year forward Josh Van Unen.
With 30 seconds left in the second period, Gursoy found the back of an empty net, after a give-and-go play with Bollers, to secure the hat-trick and restore the Bold’s two-goal lead. Gursoy was assisted by Bollers on each of his markers.
“It definitely feels good. Hopefully, it continues on in the second half [of the season],” said Gursoy on scoring a career-high 10 goals.
The third period signified a change of pace in the game, with both teams slightly lethargic after the whirlwind of the second period. However, a late surge by the Thunderwolves resulted in a goal by first-year forward Nicolas DeGrazia with just 52 seconds left to play.
“I feel like we made way too many mistakes in the third period and gave them an opportunity to crawl back in the game,” said Duco.
Coming out of a timeout, the Bold attempted to thwart a last-second comeback. The Thunderwolves pulled their goalie, sporting six players on the ice to get a shot. But in the end, time wasn’t on their side as the Bold held on to win the game 4-3.
“For us, it’ll be finding ways to bottle the first 20 minutes and play a full 60, because if not we’ll be in trouble tomorrow,” said Duco on the adjustments he will make for the next game.
UP NEXT: The Bold will look to make it two straight wins as they face the Thunderwolves at the MAC on Saturday in the second leg of the back-to-back. Puck-drop is set for 7:15 p.m.