2003-04 Season Review
The 2003-04 season was another banner year for the Lakehead University Thunderwolves. Not only did the team score success on the ice, but the third year of team operations has cemented the Thunderwolves firmly into the fabric of the university community and the City of Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.
The team posted a 29-8-3 record and again won the OUA Far West Division Title. They went to the Queen’s Cup Tournament again but unfortunately lost to the York Lions in the West Final. The team was ranked in the CIS Top 10 throughout the season and reached as high as No. 2, its’ highest ever ranking.
Lakehead players enjoyed individual success as well. Joel Scherban was again an OUA First Team All-Star (third selection), and again was winner of the CIS and OUA Most Sportsmanlike Player Award (second straight year). He was also named to the OUA Selects Team that played an exhibition series against the Canadian National Junior Team. Jeff Richards was named OUA West MVP, a CIS All-Canadian, first team OUA West All-Star and an OUA Selects member. Both Richards and Scherban were named OUA Athletes of the Week and Scherban was named CIS Athlete of the Week. Mike Jacobsen also was named an OUA West First Team All-Star and an OUA Selects member. Grant McCune made the OUA West Second Team All-Stars while Kris Callaway and Steve Rawski were named OUA West All-Rookies. Callaway and Bryan Duce were also named to the OUA Selects Team with Rawski being named an alternate selection.
The season opened with a rugged non-conference series vs. the improving UBC Thunderbirds which saw Lakehead post 5-4 and 7-1 victories. The Wolves then defeated Laurier 5-3 and 7-2 in another non-conference series. Lakehead then played its last preseason game in Kenora, Ont., where they were defeated by the Manitoba Bisons 4-3 in a hard-hitting game.
The regular season opened in Thunder Bay with Lakehead welcoming divisional rivals Waterloo and the Wolves scored two wins by 9-3 and 5-2 scores. It was then time for the team’s first-ever three games in three days road trip; beginning in London to square off with arch-rival Western for two games which saw Lakehead split the series; winning the first 3-2 and dropping the second 4-3. The third game of the road trip saw Lakehead beat the Windsor Lancers 7-3 in Windsor.
Lakehead then welcomed the York Lions in a highly anticipated sold-out series between two CIS ranked teams. But, this weekend belong to the Wolves as they took out York by 9-2 and 8-3 scores. The next weekend the Thunderwolves hosted RMC and defeated the Paladins 12-2 and 5-2. Lakehead then went on the road for what proved to be a tough trip to close the first half of the regular season. The first game was in Windsor and the Lancers upset Lakehead 4-1 with Windsor posting its first ever win over the Thunderwolves. Lakehead then went on to Toronto to take on the Varsity Blues and tied the first game 3-3 and won the second 6-3. The team ended the first half of the season with a 9-2-1 record.
Lakehead then hosted the second Bell Varsity Cup during the Christmas Break, where they welcomed York, the Calgary Dinos, and the UNB Varsity Reds. Lakehead defeated Calgary and York and lost to UNB in round robin play, but failed to qualify for the tourney final as Calgary and UNB also posted 2-1 records but had a better goal differential. UNB won the final in a hard fought 1-0 defensive battle over Calgary. Lakehead’s Mike Jacobsen was named to the All-Tourney team. The Thunderwolves then hosted Canada West Regina Cougars in a very tough non-conference series to begin the New Year. Lakehead won the first game 4-3 and then tied the second 3-3.
The second half of the OUA regular season began in Thunder Bay as Lakehead defeated Windsor 7-2 and 1-0. The team then embarked on its third three-game road trip to Kitchener-Waterloo and opened with 4-3 and 6-0 wins over Waterloo and closed with a 6-3 win over Laurier. It was then time to host the UWO Mustangs and Fort William Gardens was again sold out for the weekend action. It was another great series with Western taking the Friday game 3-2 and Lakehead winning Saturday 5-3.
The Wolves then played host to Guelph and handily won the first game 12-3 and took the second by a close 3-2. Then the team was off on its final regular season road trip with two games against Brock and one against Laurier. Lakehead won the first 4-3 and then tied the Badgers 3-3 in the second. The Thunderwolves closed off the trip and the regular season with a 2-1 loss to Laurier. The team ended the second half of regular season play with a 9-2-1 record and an overall regular season record of 18-4-2.
Lakehead’s record again put them in second place in the OUA Far West, although it was also the second best record in the whole OUA. The team ended the regular season second in team offense behind Western with 124 goals for, and second in conference defense behind UQTR allowing 59 goals against.
The Wolves opened the OUA Far West Playoffs against the resurgent Waterloo Warriors. But, the Thunderwolves would prove too much for the Warriors as Lakehead posted a 5-1 win in Waterloo and then closing out the series with a lopsided 12-1 victory.
It was then time to face off against the powerful Western Mustangs for the third year in a row for the divisional finals. Lakehead opened the series at home with an exciting 3-1 win. Then it was off to London for Games Two and possibly Three. Game Two saw the Mustangs even the series with a hard-fought 4-2 win, setting up the deciding final game. And what a game it was! The teams fought each other through three periods of action, and then battled into an incredible fourth period of overtime before Erik Lodge scored at 12:40 to put the Thunderwolves back into the Queen’s Cup Tourney for the second consecutive year.
The Queen’s Cup was hosted by Western and this gave the Mustangs a shot to get back into the playoff fray but they were upset in the qualifying game by the tough Toronto Blues. Lakehead seemed confident against the York Lions in their West Conference Final, as the Wolves had defeated York three times during the season by lopsided scores. However, the Lions also jumped on the upset bus and York goaltender Derek Dolsons stole the show; turning aside 50 Lakehead shots to lead his Lions to a 3-2 victory.
Although the Thunderwolves didn’t make it to the CIS National Championships, it was a great season overall. The team posted its best regular season and overall record and won their second consecutive divisional title. They qualified for the Queen’s Cup for the second consecutive year in only three years of existence. Perhaps, most importantly, the third season of Thunderwolves hockey saw the team cement its place as the biggest family sporting attraction in Thunder Bay. Home attendance jumped to an average of 3200 fans per game, up from 2964 in 2002-2003. Another measure of the team’s success is the great demand by local organizations and charities for personal appearances by Thunderwolves players. Thunderwolves players have become role models for a new generation of hockey players in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario and great ambassadors for the university.
LU Thunderwolves Top Ten 2012-2013 Players, click here for full stats.