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Home and away contrast continues to plague the Wolves
2021-11-22
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It’s not the least bit unusual for OHL teams to fare better at home than on the road.

That said, the 2021-2022 edition of the Sudbury Wolves is taking this axiom to something of an extreme.

In capturing six of their seven encounters within the comfort of the Sudbury Arena, the locals have surrendered a measly 15 goals against – 2.14 per game, for those at home keeping score.

Following their 7-2 loss at the hands of the Mississauga Steelheads Sunday afternoon in the GTA, the Wolves sport a record of 1-10-1 on the road. Of greater concern, their goals against average away from home sits at exactly 5.5 per game.

Head coach Craig Duncanson is at something of a loss.

“It’s a mystery to us,” he said. “We just don’t seem to be the same team. It’s so blatantly polarized, but it’s hard to put a finger on why.”

That said, Duncanson was willing to offer at least a few observations on some of the specifics which might make for sleepless nights when the team takes its show on the road.

“We’re not going to the tougher spots or making it hard on other teams when we’re on the road – and it costs us dearly,” he stated. “Last night, I thought we only competed for about half a game (a 4-1 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs). A lot of times today, we did not compete to win pucks.”

“We weren’t as tenacious as we are at home or as responsible throughout the whole 200 feet. It’s frustrating for everybody.”

Certainly, it would be naive to completely discount an element of youth to the Wolves’ roster that, by and large, appears to be more pronounced than some of the teams showing the way in the Eastern Conference.

Mind you, that doesn’t explain some very strong efforts against the likes of both the Ottawa 67’s and North Bay Battalion at home in recent weeks, squads that rank up well against the very best in this grouping this year.

“I don’t even like going there anymore (team youth) because I think they are fairly good players; I don’t see other teams having better players,” said Duncanson.

In fact, through 31:05 of play on Sunday, the Wolves were deadlocked in a 2-2 tie with the Steelheads. The homeside had jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Luca DelBelBelluz and Aidan Prueter, but Nick DeGrazia got one back before the end of the frame and Jack Thompson pulled Sudbury even midway through the second.

Unfortunately, any momentum that had been garnered by the fifth marker of the season from the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect disappeared in under a minute. DelBelBelluz scored his second of three at 11:38 and just eleven seconds later, Zander Veccia doubled the Mississauga advantage.

Outshot 51-29 on the game, the Wolves were not about to mount much of a third period comeback as the Steelheads added goals from James Hardie, Owen Beck and DebBelBelluz, capping off his hat-trick.

After putting forth perhaps their best effort of the season in a 4-2 win Friday versus Ottawa, the Sudbury crew could only manage to match that performance in either Hamilton or Mississauga for relatively short spurts.

“We need to consistently play like we did Friday night against Ottawa,” said Duncanson. “Until we get there, it’s going to be an emotional roller-coaster. I like that we’re defending our home, that we’re playing really well at home, and I certainly want that to continue – but we need to be able to take that on the road.”

The Wolves are going to see a lot of Mississauga this week as the 10-4-1-1 Steelheads prepare to head north for the first set of the pandemically motivated back to back encounters – not even a home and home, as both games are in Sudbury.

The Wolves and Steelheads face off Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Sudbury Arena and do it all over again, in exactly the same venue, 24 hours later before Duncanson and company close off the weekend by welcoming the Barrie Colts to town Sunday afternoon.

Following action this weekend, Sudbury boasts a record of 7-11-1-0, their 15 point total enough to cling to the final playoff spot at the moment, just two points ahead of the Peterborough Petes with a game in hand.

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