It took 13 games, but the Tommies finally got rid of the goose egg in the win column after a 4-1 road victory against the Université de Moncton Aigles Bleu.
“You wouldn’t expect an 0-12 team to walk into the second placed team in the league and beat them 4-1 with such a small lineup. It’s unbelievable. I can’t say enough about the character in that room,” said Tommies forward Colin Martin.
Despite the win Friday night, the Tommies were edged 4-3 Saturday evening by the UPEI Panthers, dropping their record to 1-13 with two games left before the Christmas break.
“Today could have gone either way, us or them. Unfortunately they got it,” said forward Steve Sanza who had a goal and two assists in the game.
Nothing however could be done to dampen the mood after the Tommies got their first win of the season.
“Winning last night was the monkey off our back,” Sanza said, with Martin adding “it might have taken us 12 games but we look like a team out there now.”
The Tommies got their first lead of the season at the 16:55 mark of the first period as Jonathan Bonneau scored on a breakaway after a gorgeous stretch pass by Marc-Andre Levesque. UdeM would tie it in the second, but the Tommies got a Felix Poulin powerplay goal with four seconds left in the period to regain the lead.
Sanza would make it 3-1 just over six minutes into the third, before Robert Zandbeek added an empty netter with a minute and a half left. Jonathan Groenheyde got the win in goal making 46 saves.
Head coach Troy Ryan dissected the performance acutely.
“What happened last night is we got good goaltending, we scored a powerplay goal, Bonneau, Sanza and Poulin scored, them being the three guys who are suppose to score, we scored the first goal and we scored late in the period. You’re going to win games if you do those things,” he said.
The Tommies would give themselves the lead Saturday night too, as Martin scored his first goal as a Tommie as he tucked home the rebound after Sanza’s shot was saved with only eight seconds left in the first period.
A powerplay goal from Martin’s former London Knights teammate Chris Desousa tied the game up early in the second, but the Tommies resilience showed again as Colin Martin scored an absolute dandy of a goal. On a partial breakaway he deked around Panthers goalie Wayne Savage before sliding the puck home sending the Grant Harvey Centre into a frenzy.
The crowd however would be on their feet once again soon after. With the score tied at 2-2, Panthers forward Mike MacIsaac was left with a wide open cage to score from the top of the creases. Groenheyde however was having none of that. He dived full stretch across the crease to make a sublime stick save, bringing the crowd to their feet.
“That save tonight should be TSN highlight reel. My hats off to Groenheyde the last two games; he’s been unbelievable,” said Martin.
Heading into the third period, the score was tied at two, but UPEI would take their first lead of the night 2:54 into the period as another of Martin’s former London Knights teammate Tyler Brown scored off a centering pass from Jordan Mayer.
But the Tommies would respond. A centering pass from Martin was tipped home by Sanza to tie the game at 3. Jordan Know though would score the game-winner at the 11:32 mark. Despite some late Tommies pressure they weren’t able to crack Savage again.
“Tonight, I thought we played pretty good considering what we had on our bench,” Ryan said. With five regulars out of the lineup due to injury, many players had to double shift, making the win even more bitter-sweet.
“It was a good weekend,” Sanza said. “All the boys gave it their all. I know they’re all gassed in there. I was very happy with how everyone played.”
The Tommies conclude the first half of their season this weekend as they play Saint Mary’s Friday night, before taking on St. FX Saturday evening. Puck drop is 7p.m. for both games.