Still plenty of questions for GNML post-season picture
by Randy Pascal
First place is not yet decided, nor are the playoff matchups, as Peter Michelutti's End of the Roll GNML Weekly Report reviews the latest
results heading into the final weekend of regular season play.
While there are still several questions to be answered for the Great North Midget League post-season picture, the Sudbury Nickel Capital
Wolves are set, locked into third place and preparing for a best of five series with whoever ultimately finishes in sixth place.
That much was decided following a busy three-game week for coach Peter Michelutti Jr and the team, a stretch that included a big win over one of
the top club's in the league, but also an ugly loss in a wild encounter in their very next game.
The Nickel Capital Wolves opened with a 5-2 win over the Soo Thunderbirds, their third triumph of the season over the squad that currently trails
the front-running New Liskeard Cubs by just a single point, with both teams still having three games remaining.
The final score is a bit deceiving, as Jake Stos snapped a 2-2 tie, scoring at 6:50 of the third period, before Alex Guido and Austin
Burke added some insurance, both finding the back of an empty-net in the final 75 seconds of play.
Eric Paquette got Sudbury up and running, scoring his team's first two goals on the power play, while Alex Morin and Brendan Gillis
replied for the Soo.
The Wolves one game winning streak was quickly halted as the Timmins Majors outgunned Sudbury 8-7 on Saturday night, with Dillan Bruce,
Jordan Picard and Alexandre Brisson all enjoying two-goal games for the winners.
Jared Hester and Jace Soroko capped off the Timmins attack, while Anthony Pelletier (2), Thomas Farrell, Kyle Liinamaa, Calvin
Naveau, Duncan Stewart and Guido countering for the Nickel Caps.
The local midgets improved to 20-12-1-1 on the season the next afternoon, stopping the Kapuskasing Flyers 4-1, as Pelletier, Guido, Liinamaa and
Owen Fransen pulled the trigger for Sudbury, more than enough to offset a first period goal from Tyler Minoletti.
With only a road game versus the North Bay Trappers on Thursday, and a home ice showdown Sunday versus the Cubs remaining, the Nickel Capital
Wolves are clearly shifting their mindset towards the post-season, with the boys feeling good about their current state of affairs.
"It's close all around, but once you get down to teams getting into playoff mode, we have a good team heading in," stated defenseman Kirk
Trayner. "But there are other good teams, and they are obviously doing the same thing that we're trying to do."
The midget "AAA" Wolves played anything but playoff hockey against Timmins, reminded of those facets of the game that are likely to be key as they took
to the ice at Countryside less than 24 hours later.
"We were told that it's important not to play in our end so much, to keep pucks out of our zone," said Trayner. "We needed to get more shots on net."
At this point, Sudbury could still face any one of the Nickel City Sons, North Bay Trappers or Timmins Majors. In spite of a 4-2 loss last Wednesday
in North Bay, the Sons still control their own fate, sitting fourth with a record of 16-16-1-1, three points better than both the Trappers and Majors.
Nickel City were saddled with a fourth consecutive loss, as Devyn Martel scored twice, before suiting up with the Elliot Lake Wildcats of
the NOJHL for their Sunday evening encounter with the Sudbury Nickel Barons.
Jack Drinkwalter and Jacob Delisle rounded out the scoring for North Bay, with league leading scorer Jeff Jordan adding a pair of
assists, all but clinching the GNML scoring crown, eight points ahead of Marshal Nikitin of New Liskeard.
Joel Grandbois and Connor Tessier tallied for the Sons, who will look for at least a split when they host a two-game homestand this weekend
against New Liskeard and North Bay.
The Thunderbirds rebounded from their loss in Sudbury, thumping Kapuskasing 6-1 at home on Saturday, as Matt Mackay registered his first hat trick
of the year. Jason Bednarski chipped in with a pair of goals, while Cameron Elsby had a solo effort, as did Chad Robert of the
With a record of 23-9-1-0, Sault Ste Marie enters a key road matchup Friday night in New Liskeard (23-8-1-1), completing their northern swing with stops
in Kapuskasing and Timmins.
The Cubs, meanwhile, will leave New Liskeard following their battle with the T-Birds, heading to Sudbury to face the Sons and Nickel Capital Wolves on
Saturday and Sunday.
New Liskeard racked up their eighth win in their past nine outings at the Don Shepherdson Memorial Arena last Friday, defeating North Bay 7-1 as
Jacob Leveillé and Marshal Nikitin scored two goals apiece.
Christian Ethier, Justin Brazeau and Gabriel Rheault added singles, while Jacob Delisle countered with a short-handed effort for the
North Bay and Timmins are deadlocked at 31 points, though the Trappers hold the tie-breaker, currently, by virtue of one extra win. Coach Mike Reise
and company welcome Sudbury to the Gateway City on Thursday, before tackling Nickel City in Levack on Sunday, while the Majors close off with a trip to
Kap later this evening, and a home matchup Sunday with Sault Ste Marie.