It wasn't a thing of beauty from start to finish but the Greater Sudbury Cubs did enough things well often enough to register a 4-0 win in their NOJHL season opener Thursday night at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.
When you're a team making a move to a new venue and with a very healthy crowd of 400 or more on hand, that's all that really matters.
The Cubs rode a 27 save performance from league veteran Joel Rainville and a three goal third period outburst to capture a contest that was sitting at 1-0 for the entire second period of play.
"The first period, we dominated, we came at them strong," said SMHA product Pierson Sobush, who picked up a key tally to double the Sudbury advantage early in period three. "The second period, we kind of let them get into our heads so our game plan heading into the third period was to take it to them and fill the net."
The Cubs tried that approach in the opening stanza, outshooting the visiting Express 15-1 but were rewarded only once as Owen Perala, sent back from the Sudbury Wolves earlier in the week, finished off a play on which Jaxon Bedard and Quinn Collins both registered assists.
The ice continued to tilt that same direction in period two as Espanola peppered Rainville with 14 shots, while the homeside countered with but five.
And if anyone thought that the notion of "boy, are we glad to just be back" would tone down the intensity a whole lot, players on both sides quickly dispelled that thought, as the teams combined for almost a dozen minor penalties, including offsetting spearing infractions in the second period alone.
After breaking the ice with a goal in the Cubs' exhibition game last Sunday, Sobush was right back on target with stats counting for real versus Espanola.
"Honestly, I'm feeling pretty good out there, especially scoring my first goal in the NOJHL," noted the combative undersized forward. "I think the key thing is going out there, having confidence and staying focused."
"The other thing is not being a defensive liability. When you do those things right, goals will come."
The Cubs added a pair of insurance markers in the final 1:26, with Kyler Campbell and Cameron Shanks both hitting the scoresheet as coach Vagelli Sakellaris begins the process of trying to ensure that his team takes full advantage of the extra room that Countryside provides.
"This big ice enables you to pick up a lot of speed and that's what I like, to play my game as a high pace game," said Sobush. "There's more space and you can see the ice a lot better - and we have the advantage of practicing here."
"In the smaller rinks, guys are on top of you as soon as you touch the puck."
Listed at 5'9", one of seven forwards on the team who do not top the six foot plateau, Sobush nonetheless is not one to shy away from contact. "I'm not really looking for the big hit, more just to get my body in there to separate them from the puck - but when it happens, it's obviously nice."
The Cubs remain without the services of Samuel Assinewai (still in training camp with the Flint Firebirds) and veteran Gavin Brown (still sidelined) as they finish the weekend home and home with a matinee on Sunday in Espanola.