The Sudbury U18 AAA Wolves have built up a little momentum heading into Big Nickel Tournament weekend, leading the Great North U18 AAA League with a record of 7-1-1-0.
In fact, only the North Bay U18 Trappers and a pair of one goal losses stand between the local squad and a perfect record to date.
Beaten 3-2 on a late goal from the Trappers' Noah Kozmick on Saturday in Powassan, the U18 AAA Wolves rebounded at home Sunday afternoon, pounding the New Liskeard Cubs 10-2.
Bryden Shank powered the Sudbury attack with a hat-trick, with solo markers drilled home by Ryan Dazé, Cameron Vehkala, Benoit Hogue, Carter Drigo, Jackson Culin, Adam Urso and Aleksander Duguay.
Thomas Rannou and Maverick Hill answered in a losing cause for New Liskeard.
The previous evening, goals by Carter Drigo and Nate Lazarus had offset tallies from Hudson Prisco-Duquette and Benjamin Brunton as North Bay improved to 6-1-0-0 thanks to the third period heroics of Kozmick.
With no U16 division in the Big Nickel Tournament, the Sudbury U16 AAA Wolves will be making a three-game northern swing to Kapuskasing and Timmins this weekend, looking to get untracked in league play after showing fairly well in tournaments to date across the province.
The U16 Wolves dropped their home opener last Wednesday to the U18 Wolves by a final count of 5-2 as third period goals from Ryan Dazé, Carter Makasoff and Adam Urso allowed the elder of the SMHA AAA teams to pull away in the end.
Hudson Goulet and Jameson Fabbro accounted for the offense for the U16 squad while Aleksander Duguay and Carter Drigo countered that for the U18 reps.
Back at home again on Saturday, the Sudbury U16 AAA Wolves would see the line of Ashton Pitawanakwat, Noah Lafrance and Hudson Goulet combine for three goals and nine points, with teammate Drake Taylor also finding the back of the net but it wasn't nearly enough as New Liskeard defeated the locals 7-4.
A three-goal performance from Thomas Rannou was huge for the visiting Cubs, their scoring capped off by Will Sloggett, David Sayeau, Owen Norris and Maverick Hill as the Tri-Town crew jumped two points ahead of both the Soo Jr Greyhounds (1-4-0-0) and the Sudbury U16 AAA Wolves (1-5-0-0).
A better effort on Sunday afternoon on the road still did not finish with a "W" for coach Randy Koski and company, with North Bay trimming the U16 Wolves 6-4 in Powassan.
Bryson Villeneuve hit paydirt on three occasions for the winners, joined on the scoresheet by Benjamin Brunton (2) and Preston Seguin-Hutchison while Ashton Pitawanakwat held the hot hand for Sudbury, scoring three times as Brett Moxam added the fourth.
In spite of the slow start within the GNML, Wolves' sniper Hudson Goulet has quickly endorsed the work of the new coach and his staff behind the Sudbury bench. "I like how he (head coach Randy Koski) does our systems," said Goulet.
"We have our systems for D zone, power play, penalty kill, even neutral zone systems, which I really like. We just have to stick to our systems. He's a really good coach on the bench and knows what to do."
A recent move that has worked nicely has been the merging of a forward until that features Goulet, Pitawanakwat and Lafrance.
"We just switched last game and we're doing really well," said Goulet. "We were buzzing out there tonight. Me and Ashton work really well at getting the puck out and are always looking across the ice to see if we're open, and Noah is always supporting us."
Like most who have been in his skates in previous years, the young prospect in his OHL draft year acknowledged the benefits that can be drawn both from tournament play against their own age group, as well as their northern league play against largely older opponents.
"These guys are bigger and more physical, so you have to watch out and keep your head up," said Goulet. "The U16 teams are faster with a lot of skilled guys so we have to play a more defensive game and make sure you're always on your guy."
While the U16 crew will face off against the Kapuskasing Flyers both Friday and Saturday, closing off their road swing with an encounter with the Timmins Majors Sunday afternoon, round robin play at the Big Nickel for the U18 AAA Wolves features games against the Fort Erie International Academy (Thursday at 8:00 p.m.), the Southern Tier Admirals (Friday at 11:00 a.m.) , the Mississauga Senators (Friday at 6:30 p.m.) and Ottawa Myers Automotive (Saturday at 12:30 p.m.), all at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.