Volume 96, Issue 66
Tuesday, January 28, 2003

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Thunderwolves "Held" in check

By Benjamin Mills
Gazette Staff

Dave Picard/Gazette
SO IT'S PUGILISM YOU WANT? Lakehead defensemen Aaron Piccinin tries to crimson Western's Tim Zafiris' face

"They'll learn. This wasn't for the National Championship."

That sentiment echoed quietly through the cold, moist air outside the Lakehead University dressing room as the team's equipment manager went about his usual post-game round-up of sticks, water bottles and towels.

His team just suffered its worse loss in team history – albeit a brief two-year history.

The number 3 nationally ranked Western men's hockey team quelled their critics Friday night after handing the number 4 nationally ranked Lakehead Thunderwolves a wicked 9-2 beating.

The Mustangs held the Thunderwolves at bay for most of the game. Held, as in Ryan Held, who tallied four goals and an assist on the night, and bay, as in Thunder Bay, where Lakehead had travelled from to get their ass kicked.

"[Western] definitely deserve full marks," said Thunderwolves head coach Pete Belliveau, adding, "They out-played, out-scored, out-skated, out-passed, out-everythinged us tonight."

Lakehead was supposed to give Western a run for their money. The only two regular season losses suffered by the Mustangs this season came at the hands of the Thunderwolves, but Lakehead had to forfeit the points they gained after it was ruled they iced an ineligible player.

Instead of skating with the confidence that they could beat the Mustangs, Lakehead came out flat and undisciplined on Friday. The Wolves racked up 96 minutes in penalties, a very dangerous thing to do when you consider the potency of Western's powerplay.

"They took liberties with some of our key players," Held said.

Lakehead's "liberties" included Kris Bragnelo, taking a run at Western goaltender Mike D'Alessandro off a mishandled breakaway, and Matt Kenny, hitting Mustangs forward Joey Talbot – a player he outweighs by 50 pounds – from behind, after Talbot tucked away the ninth and final goal of the game.

Both Lakehead players were ejected, with Kenny being the more difficult of the two when he threw a temper-tantrum and chucked his baby – err – water bottle on the ice like an infant telling his mother his milk was too warm.

"We were surprised," said Western head coach Clarke Singer. "Everyone expected a close 3-2 or 4-3 hockey game, but we'll take it."

Singer was quick to point out that Lakehead's easy defeat was not indicative of their usual play.

"Tonight was important, but it's the playoffs that mean the most," he said.

But pucks and pugilism aside, this was only the first game of a tremendous double-header. Game 1 set the stage; would game 2 be the curtain call?


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