Owen Munro, Contributor Ω
There is an old adage that says, “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” Well the WolfPack worked hard Feb.8 at Memorial Arena but it still wasn’t enough. TRU lost an entertaining game, including a thrilling nine-round shootout, to the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Clan by a score of 7-6.
The WolfPack found themselves down 3-0 in the opening 10 minutes thanks to a couple of wacky bounces in their own end. As the period wore on the men seemed to find their legs and the intensity continued to increase until Duncan Schulz caused a turnover in the neutral zone and deked out SFU goaltender Graeme Gordon. The goal came on the penalty kill. It gave the WolfPack some much needed confidence and was the first of three shorthanded goals for TRU, a dominant display of energy, hustle and pressure playing with a man down.
“Credit to the guys, we had three shorthanded goals tonight, our penalty kill was outstanding,” WolfPack head coach Don Schulz said post-game. “We’ve worked hard at the penalty kill because we struggled with it at the start of the year and we’ve really turned it around”.
It was evident throughout the final 40 minutes that TRU was outworking SFU and it finally paid off when they scored three of the four goals in the final frame to force overtime. Three of the goals came in a strange 51-second sequence that saw the two teams trade goals before TRU’s Tyler Jackson scored on an SFU defensive breakdown to tie the game.
“The guys really came together as a team in the third period, worked together, worked hard and cheered each other on,” said assistant coach John Bokla. “Going into overtime, we battled hard but just couldn’t find a bounce to go our way.”
Overtime was a stagnant period where both teams seemed content with heading to a shootout, but both struggled with no goals in the first eight rounds. It wasn’t until SFU’s ninth shooter, Kale Wild, walked in with speed and roofed a glove-side rocket to give SFU the win. It was a disappointing way to end the game for the WolfPack, but Bokla believes the shootout loss isn’t indicative of the way the WolfPack played.
“You know, last weekend we took Selkirk to overtime and they’ve only lost one game all season,” Bokla said. “Taking SFU to overtime tonight, it’s a big mental push. It’s great to see them come back and build adversity and some character.”
Coach Schulz was also focused on the positives rather than the negatives.
“Credit to our guys, they didn’t stop. That kind of perseverance will pay off.”
As the playoff stretch begins, every game will be of the utmost importance for the WolfPack, something Schulz has been preaching for a few weeks.
“We’ve been looking at the schedule after the Selkirk game and we’ve been preaching proper rest, food and hydration,” Schulz said. “Based on what I saw in practice I think the guys have properly prepared for the tough stretch of hockey still to come.”
The WolfPack has six games left on the schedule, including a home game against the league-leading Selkirk Saints on Feb. 22. TRU sits firmly in third place with a 7-8-0-3 record.