The race behind the Nickel City Atom "AA" Rebels is shaping up to be a good one.
Only a month into the NDMHL (Nickel District Minor Hockey League) Atom - Division I season, the battle for second place is being staged. On Monday night at the Countryside Arena, the Sudbury Bulldogs scored a pair of third period goals 38 seconds apart, edging the Nickel City Atom "A" Devils 3-2.
The teams traded goals early in the opening frame as Jakob Fahey broke the ice for the Devils, connecting just under three minutes in before Alexander Fowke drew the Bulldogs even, making no mistake on a breakaway.
There was no scoring in the middle stanza as goaltenders Logan Jewell (Bulldogs) and Kienan Camsell (Devils) were at their best, combining to make a dozen saves.
The visiting Nickel City crew grabbed the upper-hand midway through the third as Josh Boucher broke free to give his team a 2-1 lead. But Sudbury came back with a vengeance when Matthew Belanger, on a power play and Owen Coles, from the slot, scored moments apart.
The contest marked the fourth meeting of the season between the two squads, including both regular season and tournament play, with both clubs now able to lay claim to a pair of victories.
"To beat them, we need to pass a lot and play our positions really well," said defenseman Kolton Harry, now in his third year with the Bulldogs. Like many of the youngsters on his team, Harry has been paying close attention to the words of advice from the coaching staff, looking to more fully understand his role on the ice.
"For defensemen, they tell us that if we're trapped in the corner, do a tight turn or bounce it off the glass," he explained. While working in tandem with the other blueliners on his team to help keep the Devils' chances at bay, Harry also asserted himself offensively from time to time, jumping into the play.
"I know when to rush when there is like an open lane for me, and I usually always take it wide," he said. "That way, you can bounce it off the boards if you're in trouble. If you're in the middle with body contact, you'll get smoked."
Parents of rep hockey players in District 2 (outlying regions surrounding the old city of Sudbury proper) are fully aware of the amalgamation of rep hockey under the umbrella of the Nickel City Hockey Association, causing some shuffling within the ranks of the previous teams.
"Most of the people here have played together," said Devils' forward Josh Boucher. "But there's a couple of kids from the Valley, like Cameron (Mundy) and Owen (Hall), people like them. And there's some Rayside people, like Carson (MacMillan)."
"I don't mind playing with different kids, as long as I just get to play hockey" noted Boucher, quickly cutting to the chase. The Devils opened the season with a 3-2 win over the Bulldogs on October 12th, but fell just short in trying to sweep the home and home series.
"We beat them to the puck last game, but tonight, they just outskated us," said Boucher. Having already travelled to tournament play in southern Ontario, Boucher acknowledges that he just can't get enough of a sport that he loves.
"I like to play three on three at RHP," noted Boucher. "It's fast hockey, it's fun - you can score a lot." The Devils are back in action this evening, battling the Nickel City Minor Atom "AA" Flames at the Ray Plourde Arena in Val Caron at 6:00 p.m.