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Little to choose between opponents in Great North Midget League play

The Sudbury Nickel Capitals cannot seem to avoid games that come right down to the wire, even when they are simply playing among themselves.

In their eight mini-game set with the Soo Jr Thunderbirds to date, the local U18 AAA crew have participated in two ties and five contests decided by just one goal.

So when coach Brian Dickinson decided to host an intra-squad game, pitting the home and away Caps in a head to head tilt, small wonder that matches are decided in the final few minutes of play.

Wednesday night at the Gerry McCrory Sports Complex, a goal from Ben Harris with 2:25 showing on the clock pulled Team Blue even at 4-4, with a subsequent five minute overtime session solving nothing.

Hayden Radey, Cameron Shanks and Pierson Sobush joined Harris on the scoresheet for the homeside, with Atley Gringorten netting a pair of markers for Team White, while Ryan Rubic and Austin Rioux chipped in with one apiece.

Goaltenders Noah Beaulne and Karsen Chartier combined to make 54 saves in the fast paced encounter staged on the near Olympic-sized ice.

And while the final score come Saturday night may have read 5-2 in favour of Team Blue, the fact remains that the winning team was clinging to a 3-2 advantage with under two and a half minutes to play before pulling away with a pair of late tallies.

Dominik Godin paced the attack for Team Blue with a pair of goals and an equal number of helpers, while Parker Tardif, Pierson Sobush and Cameron Shanks rounded things off. Ryan Rubic and Brayden Lafrance replied in a losing cause.

All in all, the players are garnering a progressively increasing level of comfort with the nature of a game that is altered by pandemic protocol, a transition rendered that much more challenging for 17 year-old blueliner Rowan Mullin Santone, who also has a positional change thrown into the mix for good measure.

"I played mostly forward last year - defense a couple of times, just to cover," said the grade 12 Lo-Ellen Park student with eyes set on pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering next year, ideally at either Queen's or McMaster.

"Defense is basically a completely new position for me this year. I had played center in minor hockey, so I kind of understood the defensive end, but never through the eyes of a defenceman."

"That's very different."

"Last year, in front of the net, we could kind of push someone out of the way, body them out of the way so that our goalie could see," added Mullin Santone. "Now, it's all about the sticks. You can lift the sticks, but you can't really force them out of the way."

"Adapting to that has been the biggest change that I've seen."

And where some might become frustrated with having to deviate from their traditional hockey normalcy, Mullin Santone is safely in the camp that adheres to the belief of making the best of a bad situation.

"We've played with body contact our whole life, so we've gotten adjusted to that," he said. "But having one season without it definitely has improved a lot of players' puck-handling skills, I think."

"This is still interesting hockey. It makes for a lot of different plays occurring, a lot of different styles coming from players."

From a personal standpoint, that includes the move that Mullin Santone is enjoying as a puck moving rearguard.

"I found myself, at forward, that I preferred to pass the puck and make plays," he said. "What's nice on "D" is that I get more time to do that. A lot of times, a play can start with the D, just with a breakout pass or something like that."

"It gave me a new look on how to play."

Orendorff and Associates