2001-2002 Season Review
A famous Chinese proverb states that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. When the Lakehead Thunderwolves defeated defending national champions UQTR in their non-conference game on Oct. 13, 2001, they took a giant first step on their hockey voyage! They also served notice to the OUA and the CIS that they would not be your average first year team. An incredible year of hockey excitement had begun for the team, the university, and the people of Thunder Bay.
In 2001-2002, the Thunderwolves marked a number of successes. Lakehead led CIS hockey in Canada with an average of 2750 fans attending each game. The team scored victories over three CIS Top 10 ranked teams; UQTR, York, and Western. The T-Wolves also served notice that a partnership between a university, the local business sector, and the community could be a successful operating model for Canadian university hockey.
The Thunderwolves opened up the regular season with a pair of tough home losses to powerhouse Western. They rebounded with two wins away at Waterloo to even up their record. They split their next two series with Wilfred Laurier and York. The following series saw the T-Wolves gain a tie in two games against Toronto. The first half ended with Lakehead taking two from Royal Military College away in Kingston.
First Half Record: 6-5-1
The Christmas break saw a series of six exciting exhibition games against Canada West opponents Manitoba, Brandon, and Calgary. These games served as excellent practice for the gruelling second half of the season in the new year.
The second half is where the Thunderwolves started to really find their form. They opened with two solid victories over Windsor at home, followed by a win and a tie away against Waterloo. Next, came nemesis Western at home, which resulted in two hard fought losses, but a much stronger showing compared to their first half series in London. Next, came a home split against a very tough Guelph team. Lakehead then gained an away win and a tie against Brock, and finished the season with two important victories against divisional rival Windsor.
Second Half Record: 7-3-2
Final Season Record: 13-8-3 Position: Second place in OUA Far-West Division.
Regular Season Milestones:
- The Thunderwolves powerplay was deadly. Lakehead led the OUA in power play goals with 40 and had a power play percentage of 24.24%, second behind Western.
- Erik Lodge, Joel Scherban, and Christian Cote were 1, 2, and 3 in OUA power play goals with 10, 9, and 7 respectively.
- Lakehead were No. 3 in OUA in goals scored with 94, behind Western and York.
- Lakehead had a balanced scoring attack with 7 players tallying over 20 points.
The Thunderwolves received CIS Top 10 votes in 8 different weeks.
The T-Wolves faced the Windsor Lancers in Windsor in the first game of their best-of-three divisional semi-finals. The T-Wolves dominated the Lancers and skated away with a 6-1 victory. The series returned to Thunder Bay for Game 2. This match was a tough gritty affair with Windsor fighting hard to avoid elimination. But, the Thunderwolves prevailed by a score of 3-1 to the delight of 3600 fans.
The Far West Division Finals were next against arch-rival Western. Many pundits predicted an easy ride for the Mustangs, but the T-Wolves had some surprises in store. Game 1 was at the Fort William Gardens and was a tense battle from the instant the puck was dropped. The rough match saw the Thunderwolves score a stunning 4-3 upset. The T-Wolves executed a tight-checking style that mostly contained the explosive Mustang offence. The game also saw the lethal Thunderwolves' powerplay come through again, notching three of the four Lakehead goals.
Game 2 took place at Thompson Arena in London, Ontario. The 1650 fans there saw what was probably the best game of the year in CIS hockey. The game was an incredible see-saw battle, with both teams having many chances and both goalies making incredible saves. Finally, in the second overtime, Western notched the winner to score a 4-3 victory.
Game 3 was a close affair early, but the second half of the game saw Western's explosive offence finally break through to eliminate the Thunderwolves 5-1.
This great series was marked by the incredible goaltending of Grant McCune, the inspirational effort of T-Wolves' Captain Joel Scherban, and by Lakehead's tenacious team defence. The Thunderwolves had acquitted themselves with determination, pride, and honour, and served notice that they would be a force to be reckoned with in the future.
The Thunderwolves' excellent showing did not go unnoticed by the OUA. Two Lakehead Thunderwolves were selected to the OUA Men's Hockey First and Second All-Star Teams. T-Wolves Captain Joel Scherban was named to the West Conference First All-Star Team as a Forward. Defenseman Erik Lodge was named to the Second Team. Both players were also named to the West Conference All-Rookie Team.
MVP: Grant McCune
Best Defensemen: Erik Lodge
Best Work Ethic: Joel Scherban
Most Improved: Brad Bartlett
LU Thunderwolves Top Ten 2016-2017 Players, click here for full stats.