The sky is not falling in the world of the Greater Sudbury Cubs - but nor are victories to be taken for granted.
Less than a week after seeing their string of 13 consecutive games securing at least one point snapped with a 5-4 road loss last Sunday to the Timmins Rock, the Cubs suffered their second straight setback, 4-2 at home on Thursday versus the surging Powassan Voodoos.
Yes, this victory marked eight in a row for the Voodoos, a stretch that dates back to their last visit to Sudbury (a 5-1 loss on October 20th) - but this game had the feeling of one in which the Cubs failed to put away the visitors when they had momentum on their side.
It certainly did not start that way.
Just ten seconds in, Rhys Smetham jumped on a sloppy rebound off a dump-in, giving Powassan a lead that will surely rank as among the earliest to be seen in the NOJHL this year.
Undettered, Sudbury countered with a pair of goals from Oliver Smith, causing Voodoos head coach Peter Goulet to yank starter Kannon Flageolle just 5:01 into the contest.
The move would pay dividends, even if it was the home side that would carry more of the play through the next period and a half of action. In fact, even after Jaden Sturge pulled Powassan even early in the middle stanza, there was definitely no sense of this contest getting away from the Cubs.
That would come only on a late Sudbury power-play in period two, one in which a bad turnover near the Powassan blueline and a slight misstep by a Cubs defender playing a one on one opened the door to Voodoos newcomer Thomas Gazich, blitzing to the outside and netting a short-handed goal that would stand as the game-winner.
With Sudbury pulling out all stops late and replacement goalie Daniel Dirracolo pitching a shutout in relief, Powassan held on long enough to get an empty-net insurance marker courtesy of Smethan, preserving a hard fought triumph.
"You have to give credit to their goalie who went in after the two goals," said Smith. "He played well and we couldn't bury. That's what happens when you have a one goal lead and allow the other team to stick around."
Blessed with a great deal of individual skill this year, the Cubs are sure to face opponents, come the playoffs, who love to congest the defensive zone and simply not allow them the room to work their magic in open ice - a reality that is certainly not lost on the team captain.
"At times, we need to just get pucks to the net and play less on the perimeter of the ice," said Smith, a 19 year-old who returned to the NOJHL after suiting up for sixty games with the Barrie Colts of the OHL between 2019-2022.
"We need to get pucks to the net and have guys there. No matter how good the goalie is, it you're shooting the puck on net and getting traffic, eventually pucks are going to go in."
As for his role on the team, one that goes well beyond the offensive contributions (9G-13A in 19 games) that leave him sitting tied for third in team scoring, Smith understands that there is value in the experience he has garnered in recent years.
"I am trying to be as professional as I can," said the well-spoken SMHA product. "I was in a locker room with guys who were drafted into the NHL - and they were really good players and just good people."
"I try and be the best person I can be and as focused as I can be coming into games."
The Cubs will try and get back in the win column on Sunday, travelling west to face the Espanola Paper Kings (10-7-1-2), then looking to increase their West Divsion lead (currently at three points over the Blind River Beavers when they return home on Thursday to do battle with the Elliot Lake Red Wings.