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Walton leads Wolves to a Spirited win over Saginaw on Friday

Kieron Walton may not have entered the 2023-2024 OHL season as a rising star - but it sure appears that he is going to exit it that way.

After posting relatively modest stats as a rookie with the Sudbury Wolves last year (8G - 5A - 46 GP), the 2022 second round pick and native of Toronto has absolutely exploded in what is quickly becoming a very memorable campaign for the local juniors.

Facing the Saginaw Spirit (Memorial Cup hosts and 2nd place in the Western Conference) Friday night in the Nickel City, the 6'6" power forward netted his second hat-trick of the season, scoring three consecutive goals that featured a highlight-reel end to end rush in leading the home side to a 6-3 win.

The effort proved to be the difference in a matchup of two squads loaded with offensively-gifted talent.

That came to light early as Dalibor Dvorsky (10th overall NHL pick - 1st round - St Louis Blues - 2023) snapped home a great shot off the wing to open the scoring in the first.

Saginaw stormed back with goals from Aidan Castle (9:04) and Owen Beck (13:56) before Sudbury drew even courtesy of a highly unlikely source.

Pushed into the lineup due to the illness of defenceman Donovan McCoy, blueliner Ryan Pryce exited the penalty box and picked up a perfect feed from Dvorsky, channelling the snipe acumen of his teammate in rifling a shot past Spirit netminder Andrew Oke.

The visitors regained the lead at 6:32 of the middle stanza when Josh Bloom drilled home his sixth goal in 19 games after splitting the fall of 2023 between the Abbotford Canucks (AHL) and Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL).

Two minutes later, it was time to cue the Kieron Walton show.

Taking a feed from Sudbury goalie Jakub Vondras at the hash marks in his own end, the 17 year-old picked up a head of steam through the neutral zone and deked through the Spirit defence before sliding the puck far corner for his 16th goal of the year.

He wasn't done yet.

Just as he has done so often this year, Walton was consistently driving the net hard again last night, rewarded with a pretty goal mouth feed from Nathan Villeneuve (13:59 of 2nd) and then making it three straight when the rebound of a Chase Coughlan shot came right out to his stick (8:01 of 3rd).

With Jakub Vondras making several key saves in the third (finished the night 24/27), the Wolves were able to seal the deal late as Dvorsky swept the puck across to David Goyette who found Evan Konyen all alone for the empty-net tally.

The Wolves will head out of town for a pair of afternoon encounters to close off Family Day weekend, facing the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday and the Guelph Storm on Holiday Monday before welcoming the Peterborough Petes to the Old Barn on Elgin Strett next Friday night.

Northern Hockey Academy