Tommies lose season opener to UNB

Make it 32 and counting.

The St.Thomas Tommies lost for the 32nd straight time against the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds Friday night as they were beaten 5-2 by the defending Atlantic University Sport champions.

STU showed a lackluster effort against the UNB Varsity Reds Friday night (Matt Tidcombe/AQ)
“I thought it was terrible,” Tommies head coach Troy Ryan said of his team’s performance. “We played with no structure at all and really with no life. There was nothing good.”

The start couldn’t have been much worse. Within 88 seconds UNB had taken the lead as Randy Cameron turned the puck over in the Tommies own end to Colby Pridham, who passed the puck inside to Thomas Nesbitt and he beat new Tommies goalie Jonathan Groenheyde with a backhander.

The Tommies were soon 2-0 down as Tyler Carroll scored on the powerplay after Mike Reich was called for boarding. “Right off the faceoff, we win the draw, and he [Carroll] swoops in, little backhand shot, goal” Ryan frustratingly explains.

The Tommies composed themselves somewhat after the rough start and Steve Sanza came close to getting the Tommies on the board as he sent a wrister ringing off the post.

The Tommies managed to get on the board at the16:48 mark as Mike Reich scored with a wrister from the slot. Alex Labonte and Chris Morehouse got the assists.

UNB however would restore their two goal lead before the intermission as Carroll bagged his second of the game with another backhander with Cam Braes and Chris Culligan claiming assists.

One positive of the first period was their shot blocking, with numerous guys getting in the shooting lanes. Labonte would leave the game temporarily after blocking a shot, but he would return.

The Tommies don’t have a deep bench this year, but Ryan dismissed any notion of telling his guys to let up.

“I’d rather go shot blocking and not be able to play games because you’re short staffed rather than tell guys to ease up,” he said.

The second period saw the Tommies get shots on net early, but nothing that gave UNB goalie Travis Fullerton any trouble.

At the other end of the ice, one of the highlights of the game saw Groenheyde absolutely robbing Matt Fillier on the doorstep with a stunning sprawling save.

UNB would crack Groenheyde again, although through no fault of his own. Braes undressed Groenheyde with an unbelievable deke that saw him go backhand, forehand, backhand around Groenheyde to make it 4-1.

Ryan was quick to point out that he was pleased with how Groenheyde played in his AUS debut but was disappointed with the situations he was put in by his teammates.

“He was put in a bad situation and good teams don’t put your goalie in that kind of situation. You can’t judge Groenheyde’s game when you put him in situations like that. I feel bad for him. It’s not his fault.”

The Tommies would get back into the game as Steve Sanza tipped home captain Felix-Antoine Poulin’s shot from the blue line at the 14:19 mark to make it 4-2. Jonathan Bonneau got the other assist.

The third period can any be categorized as poor, especially from the Tommies point of view. Trailing by two goals, the Tommies could only muster two shots on goal during the 20 minutes.

The game was put away with just over four minutes left as Carroll completed his hat-trick. He had earlier been given a 10 minute game misconduct, but he returned to bury his third goal on the rebound after Groenheyde saved Daine Todd’s original shot in front of the near sell-out 3,310 crowd.

In all, the Tommies were outshot 34-19 and went 1-6 on the powerplay.

A visibly irritated Ryan said his team has to play with a structure to win in this league, something he stressed over and over again.

“I think we’ve shown it over time that if we don’t play with systems and structure we’re not going to win many hockey games, so until they get it through their thick heads we’re gonna lose a lot of hockey games,” he said.

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