As part of my role as team statistician for the Sudbury Wolves, my job description includes the preparation of weekly media notes, featuring various tidbits of information regarding upcoming games.
While these notes have generally been confined to circulating among media types and club officials, it seemed likely that fans of the local OHL team might also have an interest in the odds and ends that I might come across on a weekly basis.SOME MUCH APPRECIATED BREATHING ROOM WITH NINE GAMES TO PLAY
Though the Soo Greyhounds are not even in the same conference as the Sudbury Wolves, nary a year goes by where the northern rivals to the west do not find a way to significantly impact the playoff picture for the local juniors. A 6-4-0-0 stretch for the Wolves in their last ten games combined with a ten-game losing skid for the Kingston Frontenacs has all but assured playoff hockey for OHL fans in the Nickel City.
But with a third of their final nine games scheduled against the afore-mentioned Hounds and just five points separating the Eastern Conference quartet jammed into slots four to seven currently (Sudbury is 7th with 60 points, two back of Mississauga, four behind Hamilton and with Peterborough leading the foursome at 65), it’s clear that the Soo will have a say in exactly where coach Derek MacKenzie and company land when the dust settles on Sunday, March 26th.ROAD SWEET ROAD
It has been road ice advantage in the three games to date between the Wolves and the Hounds, with the visitors taking each and every one of what more or less amounted to a trio of one goal games: 2-1 for Soo in Sudbury on Nov 2nd; 7-5 (with EN goal) for Sudbury in SSM on Dec 31st; 3-2 in S/O for Soo in Sudbury on January 15th.
The key for Sudbury might lie in neutralizing the Hounds second leading scorer, Kalvyn Watson (58 pts in 60 games). The overage native of Peterborough, who trails only Bryce McConnell-Barker (68 pts in 60 games) in team scoring, handled all of the offense in their November win over the Wolves and then netted the shootout winner in their second trip to Sudbury in January.
The Wolves, of course, are without speedy winger Nick DeGrazia (injured) who registered a hat-trick in the Lock City but will rely on leading scorer David Goyette (73 points in 54 games – scored twice in Sudbury win) and stalwart defenceman Nolan Collins, who has scored in two of the three meetings to date this year, to pick up the slack.WILL THIS BE THE YEAR?
One has to go all the way back to February 18th (2011) to find the last time the Sudbury Wolves beat the London Knights. Nineteen games have come and gone since a hat trick from Eric O’Dell and solo markers from Andrey Kuchin and Josh McFadden propelled the Wolves to a 5-4 win over a London squad that included Vladislav Namestikov, Andreas Athanasiou and Jarred Tinordi.
The Knights currently sport the second best record in the entire OHL (41-16-20-0), but have dropped three of their last four games going into a matchup on Thursday night with the Barrie Colts. Led by goaltender Brett Brochu (3rd in save % - .907 and win - 25; 4th in GAA – 2.66), the Knights have the third fewest goals in the league (177 – vs 228 for the Wolves).
The contest marks a homecoming for 20 year old forward Max McCue, with the San Jose Sharks’ prospect (5th rd – 2021) and long-time SMHA product sitting 9th in team scoring with 11 goals and 20 assists.A PLAYOFF PREVIEW - PERHAPS
In what could easily turn out to be the first round match-up that awaits them, the Wolves close out their three in four stretch with a run south on Saturday to face the Barrie Colts. The 5-0-1-0 record that the Colts boast against the Wolves could not be more deceiving with every single game but one decided by a single goal – and even that one was tied at 5-5 with 3:40 to play.
Three games have gone to overtime, including the one Sudbury victory (5-4 in Barrie on December 10th), but the bottom line remains that the Colts have found way to win these battles far more often than not. One simply cannot overestimate just how important it might be for the Wolves to flip the script in these final two encounters (they play again in Barrie on March 23rd) should the teams find themselves meeting up in post-season play for the eighth time since the Colts entered the OHL for the 1995-1996 campaign.