Queen’s spoils Lakers’ hockey party in North Bay

Men’s hockey beats Nipissing in a shootout to play spoiler for the Lakers’ first OUA hockey game on Friday night

The men’s hockey team played the role of villain on Friday.

The Gaels broke the spirits of almost 4,000 fans at the first-ever Nipissing Lakers home game with a 5-4 shootout victory.

After seven years without an OHL or OUA team, North Bay has been starved for hockey. With the emergence of a Nipissing Lakers, the fans have flocked back.

Supporters couldn’t have been that disappointed with the Lakers’ first hockey game. Nipissing forced overtime with four unanswered goals in the third period.

Gaels’ head coach Brett Gibson said the raucous atmosphere was unfamiliar.

“You don’t get that in the OUA,” he said. “Our guys aren’t used to that. If [Nipissing] keeps getting those crowds they’ll be tough to beat at home.”

Gibson said the Gaels tried to silence the crowd by preventing any excitement.

“I didn’t want them to get going early on,” he said. “If they scored the first goal it would have been difficult to come back. We wanted to get the puck deep and give them a boring game.”

The Gaels stuck to that plan for two periods, amassing a four-goal lead in the first 40 minutes on goals from forwards Clinton McCullough, Jon Lawrance, Jordan Mirwaldt and T.J. Sutter.

Gibson said the six-hour drive caught up with his team in the third.

“Our bus legs came into effect,” he said. “We weren’t making excuses, but I knew it would affect us. It didn’t for the first two periods but by the third I could tell the guys were getting tired”

A 3,700-strong crowd

supporting the other team didn’t help. Gibson said it was like the Lakers were on a never-ending powerplay.

“They were pretty much dead to us going into the third,” he said. “The fans got them in the game. It was like a sixth person on the ice for them.”

The overtime failed to decide the game that appeared to be over 25 minutes earlier, so the game went to a shootout.

“I hate shootouts,” Gibson said. “We missed the playoffs by a point last year. Those shootout points get the best of you if you don’t get them.”

Gibson said his team prevailed in the shootout because their strategy was better suited for the conditions.

“The ice wasn’t good,” he said. “I told the guys to shoot the puck. Nipissing tried to deke and ended up losing control.”

The first of three Gaels shooters was Lawrance. He said he just wanted to hit the net.

“When you go into overtime the ice gets chopped up,” he said. “There’s a good chance the puck’s going to roll. We at least wanted to get a shot off.”

Lawrance didn’t score, but forwards Payton Liske and Joey Derochie connected, stripping the Lakers of a win at home.

Lawrance said the shootout win was the most satisfying way to quiet the home crowd.

“It made winning sweeter,” he said. “They were trying to get in our goalie’s head. People were banging on the glass. When he let in a goal there were people with signs that said ‘It’s all your fault’.”

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