By Krysten Cripps, Sports Editor
The Thunderwolves men’s hockey team had a tough start to the season going 0-10-1 in the OUA to start the season, but now have a few wins under their belt, posting an impressive 5-3 record from the beginning of December to mid-January. They’re proving they have what it takes to turn their season around and find a spot in the playoffs. The Argus had the opportunity to interview the Thunderwolves fifth year senior defencemen and team captain, Luke Maw, to get an inside look at the team’s season so far.
This year’s team features about 20 first and second year players which is one of the youngest hockey teams LU has seen in a while. “We knew we had a young team and I think we’ve done a good job so far building that team mentality and community and it has shown in the past half of our season for sure.” Having such a young team, with new players from different backgrounds who have never played together before, does not come without it’s challenges and it is by no surprise that Luke pointed this out by focusing on the team’s ability to come together as one cohesive group. “I think our biggest challenge is everyone getting on the same page, everybody has worked really hard. The hardest thing we’ve had to overcome this year is everybody coming together as one group and everybody working the same system. [Also] consistency for us—we want to be consistent every night and that is more of a mental toughness we’ve had to develop over the past couple months.” The team’s hard work and dedication to working united is starting to show not only on the ice, but also on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Despite the standings, Luke was proud to say that the team has not been too concerned about where they sit in the standings, the focus has just been more on working hard and then wins will start coming. “Everybody has been really committed, committed to getting better and committed to excellence. Everyone’s continued to come to the rink regardless of our record and regardless of what the standings show, everyone’s been committed to getting better and that’s what has really helped us.” Hard work and building a strong, cohesive unit within the team seems to be a big focus for the team this year from what Luke has said.
The team was able to pull out two big wins in the Save on Energy Christmas Challenge over the break against Guelph. At the time, Guelph was one of the hottest teams in the OUA only losing two of their last ten games, but Lakehead found a way to shut them down. “Our team played really well and we had great preparation for that game and we were mentally tough. Discipline was another big factor and it showed on the board,” according to Luke. The next game after their big wins against Guelph was an OUA matchup against the Carleton Ravens who were currently ranked #8 in the country. The Thunderwolves were able to come out with a huge win taking game one of the double header with some thanks needing to be given to the team’s mood coming off a couple wins. “When you get on a roll like that and start winning, start getting some success, there’s a certain energy that continues and we were able to find that and use it to our advantage in that game against Carleton,” said Luke.
When talking about points and playoff contention Luke was quick to note it’s not all about the standings, “We take it one step at a time so, we’re only looking at Friday night right now. We’re not concerned with how many points we’re out of the playoffs necessarily. Focusing on Friday night and what it’s going to take to win and moving on from there after we get the win.” Even though the team is taking it one step at a time, the thought of making the playoffs is still there and Luke has no doubt that they can do what they need to do to get there, “I’m confident. It’s in my vision. I’m very confident and I know we have the right guys in our room and as we continue to get better, good things are going to happen for us.
To be successful during the rest of the regular season Luke mentioned a couple key factors that the team will need to keep up if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, “We’ve got great goaltending and we’ve been able to develop depth both on our offence and our defence and those things are going to take us to the playoffs for sure.” Hopefully the team can keep up the energy and hard work we’ve been seeing to finish off the regular season strong and continue the same efforts into the playoffs.
The team will be back in action this Friday, January 29 facing off against the Guelph Gryphons at Fort William Gardens. Game time is 7:00 p.m.