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Local playoff hockey around every corner

These are the dog days of winter sports in Greater Sudbury.

With every passing weekend comes a litany of sporting events, as a whole variety of athletic associations work towards claiming their year-end champions.

Following are updates from just a few of the countless teams that are nearing the end of the 2017-2018 season.

With their spot in the 2018 Telus Cup already assured, the host Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves took the first step towards walking through the front door to the national championship. Coach Peter Michelutti Jr and company completed a three game sweep of the Kapuskasing Flyers this past weekend, edging the northernmost GNML franchise 5-4 in overtime.

Brett Shawana scored on the power play to vault the Nickel Caps into a league championship series with the North Bay Trappers for the second straight time. Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis scored twice for the winners, with solo tallies from Tommy Vlahos and Joel Mongeon.

Sudbury had taken games one and two at home, blanking Kapuskasing 5-0 in the opener and then holding off a late Flyers rally in a 3-2 win. Still with the Great North Midget League, this upcoming weekend finds the minor midget contingent gathering in Sault Ste Marie. The NOHA Minor Midget Tournament of Champions brings together the Soo Thunderbirds, Sudbury Wolves, North Bay Trappers and Thunder Bay Kings for a full round robin, followed by semi-finals and the championship affair.

After cruising through an undefeated season in Northern Ontario “AAA” Hockey League action, the Nickel City Major Bantam “AAA” Sons showed no signs of slowing down, opening their semi-final series with the Timmins North Stars with a two game sweep. A combined 20-0 scoreline only served to underscore the gap in the talent level of the league, at least partially due to a very strong group of 2003-born talent that was combined locally through the SMHA and NCHA.

Devon Savignac paced the Sons attack with five goals, with Max McCue and Bradey Smith adding three each, and Alex Antoine chipping in with a pair. Patrick Boivin and Jake Marois posted shutouts in back to back games for the locals.

This upcoming weekend finds the Nickel City Major Peewee “AAA” Sons heading off to Orillia to compete in the 2018 Ontario Winter Games. Part of the eight team field, the Sons are in Pool “B” along with the Sun County Panthers, Thunder Bay Kings and Ottawa 67’s. The team will need to finish either in first or second place in order to secure a spot in the final four come Saturday evening.

'Tis the season of provincial playdowns in the land of the Lady Wolves. After dropping a 2-1 decision to the North Bay Ice Boltz in their series opener – Vivian Rondina netted the only Sudbury goal – the Atom “A” Lady Wolves roared back to capture the berth at the All-Ontario tournament with a pair of close victories.

Goals from Gabby Gallagher and Kynlee Cresswell lifted the locals to a 2-1 win of their own on Saturday, evening the showdown at two points apiece. The goal scorers were in fine form for head coach Darryl Williamson some 24 hours later as Cresswell, Rondina and Chloe Martin all found the back of the net, with the Lady Wolves eliminating their northern rivals 3-2.

Local talent was front and center this past week as U Sports women’s hockey playoffs kicked off across the country. Looking for a third straight OUA title, the Guelph Gryphons did just enough to squeeze past the Brock Badgers in two games, recording triumphs of 2-1 and 3-2. Lively native Karli Shell assisted on the first Guelph goal in the series clinching game, and then buried the game winner, showing the patience in tight to the net that local fans have enjoyed for years in her career as a member of the Sudbury Lady Wolves.

A pair of Shell’s former teammates were not as fortunate in surviving the opening round, through no fault of their own. After the Concordia Stingers kicked things off with a surprising 5-0 win over the Ottawa Gee Gees, Sudbury twins Meagan and Taylor McGaughey did all they could to extend their team’s season.

Meagan scored the game-winning goal as Ottawa deadlocked the series at a game apiece on Saturday, posting a 2-0 shutout of their own. In the deciding affair, the Stingers took a 2-0 lead into the final period, before the McGaugheys combined to get their team on the board, the comeback falling just short in a 2-1 loss.

Finally, in a series of shutouts, local goaltender Stephanie Pascal managed to get the better of Stephanie Sluys of Waterloo, a puckstopping tandem whose head to head matchups date back to their days of peewee hockey.

Pascal and the Queen’s Gaels eliminated Sluys and the Waterloo Warriors with victories of 2-0 and 4-0, with Waterloo slipping in a 2-0 win of their own in game two. Queen’s will now face the Nipissing Lakers in one semi-final series, while Guelph and the Western Mustangs, host team for nationals, tangle in the other.

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