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Lakers on brink after loss to UQTR

Grant Toulmin and Sam Hopewell go after the puck in front of the UQTR goal in the third period of play.

Grant Toulmin and Sam Hopewell go after the puck in front of the UQTR goal in the third period of play. Photo by Mark Pare

The Nipissing Lakers surrendered two goals early in each of the first two periods and couldn’t catch up to the UQTR Patriotes in a 3-1 loss on Wednesday night in Game 1 of their OUA East semi-final series.

Grant Toulmin scored the only goal for the Lakers, one that came in the late stages of the contest. Dan Spence made 35 saves in the loss.

“I thought that we didn’t have our A-game,” said Lakers head coach Mike McParland, “They looked like they were the fresher team, a little quicker. We were about a step too slow everywhere, or half a step too slow. Our attitude was still good, our ethic to work hard was still good, we just couldn’t get there quick enough and I think that’s a little bit because of the tough weekend we had (against McGill), and I think that we’ll be fine, we’ll regroup for Saturday and I think we can play a little bit quicker. We didn’t have our top game and we were still right in it, we weren’t out of it by any means.”

The Lakers were perfect on the penalty kill in the McGill series, but after Toulmin was sent to the box with just over a minute played, the Patriotes capitalized. A one-timed snap shot from the slot by Emmanuel Boudreau got through Spence to make it 1-0.

Both teams exchanged chances in the first, but the Patriotes looked to have control, holding the Lakers off coming in and only getting their first registered shot on goal near the halfway point of the period. The Lakers did press in the second half, bringing the shot margin to 13-11 UQTR going to the dressing room.

In the second, it took 23 seconds as the Patriotes entered the zone, a quick chance led to success for Olivier Donovan, as he got the puck by Spence with a one timer that was quick off the stick for a 2-0 lead.

The Lakers couldn’t get the puck at the net, as the defense spent time deflecting shots from the outside. Guillaume Nadeau made four saves in the second; stopping 22 of 23 overall in the win.

“Nadeau was good, the defense was good but not only the defense, I saw in the second period on the power play, I saw two guys going down to block a shot, one D and one forward,” said McParland, “Those are the little things that give you the edge and the advantage. We didn’t have that edge on Saturday against McGill but Sunday we did and tonight, we tried to do it, we were just half a second too slow.”

Going into the third, McParland and his squad were looking to bring the game to within a goal, and with the Lakers having their chances throughout, the goal came at 18:21 from Toulmin, a tipped Jason Gray point shot, giving life to the 1,200 in attendance.

“It was a big goal and I think everybody in the arena saw the energy push it did give us,” said McParland, “Unfortunately, it came a little bit late. We needed that goal a little bit earlier to pick everybody up because as the coach, and I know our guys, you could see they were struggling a little bit with heavy legs and I give them full credit though, they tried hard, they had heavy legs but they tried hard and that’s not an excuse cause that happens sometimes in hockey and you have to battle through it and I thought our guys gave it a good effort trying to battle through it.”

The Lakers tried a late period surge to tie things up but a turnover and with Spence pulled, an open cage with 20 seconds left and Felix Petit put it in to ice the game.

“Give Trois Rivieres credit, they were full credit for their victory tonight,” said McParland, “They skate well, they handle the puck well, they pass well. In those areas, they’re probably the best team in the league in those technical skills.”

The Lakers are in a must-win scenario when they travel to Trois Rivieres, Quebec for Game 2 of this best-of-three series on Saturday afternoon. If the Lakers win on Saturday, then Game 3 will also be played in Quebec on Sunday night.