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La Belle Province welcomes a pretty special Sudbury team
2024-02-09
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Within the lore of minor hockey circles in Sudbury, the Tournoi International de Hockey Peewee Québec continues to hold a special place.

It was a little over forty years ago now that a local prodigee on ice by the name of Pierre Dupuis garnered national attention, even drawing comparisons to NHL Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux following a dominating performance at the prestigious event, the young teen leading a very talented Sudbury team into battle in La Belle Province.

Since that time, northern Ontario content at the tournament that fields 2024 entries ranging from Slovakia to Los Angeles, from Hungary to St Louis have been few and far between. Currently ranked seventh in Ontario (based on My Hockey Rankings*), the Sudbury U13 AAA Wolves will be part of the festivities later this week, taking on the Eastern European crew from Budapest in their opening game on Friday.

(*My Hockey Rankings is a website that utilizes a computer based algorithm to calculates rankings based on both head to head matchups as well as games against common opponents)

Thanks to a nine game winning streak that included a three game sweep over Sault Ste Marie in late January (by scores of 5-3, 6-2 and 5-4), the Wolves have opened up a 13 point lead over the Greyhounds in the NOHL standings, their record of 19-3 featuring setbacks only against the Lock City crew to date this winter.

Leading a potent attack that also spotlights the many talents of forwards Sam Frappier, Padraig Courtney and Coen Chretien within a balanced squad from goaltenders on out, Preston Hebert netted six goals in the weekend sweep of the Sault. Still, there are several facets of the game to which the grandson of Sudbury Wolves’ head coach Ken MacKenzie is focused as he begins to hit that age when hockey becomes that much more serious.

“My defensive zone coverage and my shot are two things that I was really hoping to work on this year,” said the grade seven student at St Charles College. “I trust my teammates to be in the right spot. When they do that, I just worry about watching my man.”

Special team play was central to the victories over the Hounds, a key component of the Sudbury attack and one which will be critical if they are to play well in Québec. “Our puck movement is really good,” said Hebert. “And when we move, we’re better.”

“I think we can all score and pass, but Frappier has a great shot – and so does (Myles) Talbot – and Courtney is a great passer, as well as Coen.”

For as much as the best teams in Ontario still congregate in the GTA – Toronto Jr Canadiens (#1); Vaughan Kings (#2); Toronto Marlboros (#5) – the Wolves do benefit from playing a more than solid Greyhounds squad (#20 – of 54) a multitude of times, putting them in the same discussion as the likes of the Quinte Red Devils (#3) and Elgin Middlesex Chiefs (#4) in their home province.

“They (Sault Ste Marie) are a good team,” said Hebert. “They’re fast and they play a very good positional game. It’s always a good game when we play them.”

Rounding out the scoring versus the Greyhounds were Sam Frappier (3G), Padraig Courtney (2), Maximus Falcioni, André Beaudry, Coen Chretien and Jonny Croome.

While the accolades have come from many who have watched this team perform, the praise is also shared via the coaching staff of Vagelli Sakellaris and Joey Talbot.

“Joey and I are both pleased with the consistency of our goaltending (Max Barros, Brayden Bouillon), the ability of our defense to move pucks up the ice quickly and with our forwards for taking away time and space from the Soo,” said Sakellaris.

“We are pleased with the direction our team is heading and we are hoping to keep the positive momentum going into next week (Québec tournament) and the final stretch of the season as we head into playoffs.”

Beyond just the scorers, forwards Maximus Falcioni and Cameron Swartz also caught the eye of the coaching staff during the three game set with the Hounds. “They both worked extremely hard all weekend, forechecked really well and were hard to play against.”

Rounding out the 2023-2024 edition of the team are Ryder Penny, Sheany Gray, Carson Barr, Van Sakellaris and Vincent Tarini.

Northern Hockey Academy