The Tommies finally gave the Grant Harvey Centre faithful something to cheer about over the weekend as they collected three out of a possible four points.
They were beaten 3-2 in a shootout Friday night by the Saint Mary Huskies, but came roaring back Saturday night to beat the St. FX X-Men 5-4 in a shootout.
“It felt really good to get that first win at home, especially before the break,” said Tommies defenseman Yuri Cheremetiev, who scored the shootout winner for the Tommies.
And it was an absolute dandy. A backhand toe drag had X-Men goalie Joseph Perricone lost and Cheremetiev deposited the puck into the net.
“Who can do a backhand toe drag?” asked Tommies head coach Troy Ryan. “It’s better than pro.”
The Tommies got two goals from Jonathan Bonneau as well as a goal from captain Felix Poulin. Kyell Henegan also scored for the Tommies, his first career Atlantic University Sport goal.
“It feels good. It feels really good,” he said of the goal. “Plus we got the win so it feels even better.”
Jonathan Groenheyde stood tall for the Tommies once again, making 39 saves in the win.
The X-Men tied the game at 4-4 with 20 seconds left in regulation as Josh Day’s slapper found its way to the back of the net.
“The goal was scored because we tried so hard to block it…Groenheyde’s got three bodies sliding in front and he’s like ‘If I can see it I’m going to save that any day.”
Fortunately the Tommies were able to pick up the extra point in the shootout as Groenheyde stopped all four X-Men shooters, before Cheremetiev did his thing.
“As soon as Troy told me I was going in I knew exactly what I was doing because it’s a move I’ve been practicing since I was about 14 years old and it’s a move I’ve gotten down pat.”
Friday night saw the Tommies lose to the Huskies in a shootout, but it was certainly a game they could have won.
The Tommies had the lead twice, but were pegged back both times. The Tommies opened the scoring through a rare goal from John MacDonald, who made his return after suffering a concussion in a car crash.
“It was pretty exciting. I came back to the bench and everyone was laughing at me as they’re not use to seeing that,” he said, while adding that he feels fine physically after the car crash.
“Everything’s good. I’m feeling healthy. My head is good.”
Mike Reich got the other Tommies goal. Stephen Johnston scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Huskies the extra point.
The Tommies go into the Christmas break with a record of 2-13-1 for a total of three points. After losing their opening 12 games, the Tommies have gone 2-1-1 in their next four to finish the first half of the season on a high.
“We started off a little slow, couple of guys caught the injury bug, but the last month or so has been pretty positive for us,” said MacDonald.
The Tommies are last in the league in many categories, including goals, shots, powerplay goals, and penalty kill. They do however lead the league in saves made.
Despite this, Ryan is confident going forward.
“I’m very comfortable in a lot the progress that is being made… We’ve got to just keep going, but it’s not going to be easy.” He adds that he’s committed to winning, but admits “we’re a long way away from it.”
Cheremetiev says that there’s no denying the poor start the team had, but he’s been really encouraged with the team’s performance over recent weeks.
“The last six games we’ve been in every game with top teams in our league. I think it’s only looking up from here, so we can take out the positives and look forward to the second half,” he said.
The Tommies are back in action on January 4th as they travel to take on the Huskies, before taking on the X-Men in Antigonish the next night. Their first home game of the New Year is on January 11th at home against the Dalhousie Tigers.
Henegan, for one, can’t wait to get going again.
“After the start of the season we had… going into the Christmas break after this weekend, I can’t wait to get started [in January].