Tuesday, October 4, 2016 - Submitted by Courtesy Randy Pascal/Sudbury Sports
The Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves had not yet hit the ice for the start of their 2016-2017 GNML schedule when they joined the Kapuskasing Dufour Flyers and Soo Midget Greyhounds at the Toronto Titans Major Midget Tournament late last month.
The lack of game action did not seem to hurt the locals a great deal, as they racked up three straight wins, eventually tasting defeat in back to back games while advancing to the quarter-finals.
The Nickel Caps opened with a 3-1 win over the Peterborough Petes, as Ethan Lavallee and Tommy Vlahos staked the team to a 2-1 lead, and Brady Maltais provided some insurance into an empty net.
Sudbury kept things tight again in game two, edging the Toronto Marlboros 2-1 on goals from Noah Lagrandeur and Lavallee, and followed that up by doubling the Richmond Hill Coyotes 4-2.
Lavallee, a 4th round pick of the Sarnia Sting this past April, netted his third and fourth goals of the weekend, joined on the scoresheet by Ryan Fournier and Hunter Chiblow, with all four goals coming on the power play.
Unfortunately, scoring grew increasingly more difficult for the Major Midget Wolves after that, blanked 6-0 by the Toronto Nationals in their final round robin affair, and falling 3-0 to the Ajax Pickering Raiders in the playoffs, in a game that remained scoreless until late in the second period.
The tournament provided an interesting barometer for head coach Peter Michelutti Jr and company, as the former NCAA sniper chatted about his team before heading off to Toronto.
"We're just a little bit behind the eight ball," said Michelutti Jr. "We started a little bit later, we didn't quite have the numbers turn out at tryouts, and we waited for a few guys to come back. We're still a little lighter than usual," he added, referencing his current roster of six defencemen, nine forwards and two goalies.
"The one thing that we like, and this has been the first year in a while, is our depth on defence," Michelutti continued. "We have eight natural defencemen, so we're moving two to forward. Combined with our goaltending (Alex Vendette/Matty Mayhew), we should be able to shut down teams, make it hard for teams to get opportunities."
"We also have a lot of team speed, picking players that can skate and move their feet well. We lost a lot of scoring from last year, so we're not sure where we're going to be on the offensive side."
One player they will be looking to, offensively speaking, is third year midget Jacob Burton, who finished third on the team last year in goals scored, missing the 20-goal plateau by only one.
"Last year, I was really fortunate to step into a first and second line role," said Burton. "This year, a lot of our new guys bring a lot of skills. They're young and hungry and want to win. They really want to be here, and they really want to prove they belong."
Burton, on the other hand, has used to experience of the 2015-2016 campaign to establish a comfort level with the Great North Midget League. "This league helped me with speed and skating, which is where I have kind of struggled before," he said.
"I had a chance to do a couple of OHL camps. It really opened my eyes to the skill of the guys that are out there." The Nickel Capital Wolves improved to 3-1 over the weekend, bookending a pair of wins over the New Liskeard Cubs with a 4-2 loss at the hands of the North Bay Trappers.
Burton welcomed Hunter Lammi, Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis, Joel Mongeon and Glenn Therrien to the scoring parade on Friday night in New Liskeard, as the visitors upended the Cubs 5-2. A pair of goals by Jacob Gravelle and a solo effort by Ryan Mills vaulted North Bay to a 3-0 lead over Sudbury after 40 minutes on Saturday, with a short-handed marker by Eric Lachance in the third more than enough to offset tallies by Maltais and Burton.
Tommy Vlahos powered the attack on Sunday, drilling a hat trick in a 6-3 win over the Cubs. Dokis-Dupuis, Chiblow and defenceman Chris Clark added one goal apiece, while Alex Maillé, with two, and Cole Vaudry-Callin replied in a losing cause.
The Saturday night win in Sudbury marked the sixth straight victory for head coach Guy Blanchard and the North Bay lads, tied atop league standings with the 6-1 Greyhounds. The Trappers opened with a three game sweep of the Timmins Majors, before sweeping a pair from New Liskeard and knocking off Sudbury on the road.
Back in Sault Ste Marie, the Hounds were taken their turn at picking on the winless Majors, hitting double digits in three straight games: 10-0, 10-3 and 12-1. The quintet of Caleb Wood (7 goals), Camaryn Baber (5), Lucas Theriault (5), Parker Morgan (4) and Noah Boman (3) accounted for 24 of the 32 SSM goals on the weekend.
The Greyhounds had almost matched the performance of the Nickel Capital Wolves at the Titans Tournament, posting a record of 2-1-1 in pool play before being eliminated in quarter-final action.
The Hounds squeezed wins of 4-2 vs the North York Rangers and 3-1 vs the North Central Predators around an 8-0 loss at the hands of the Toronto Jr Canadiens. The Saultites closed off with a 2-2 draw with the Markham Waxers, but were sent packing by the Mississauga Rebels by a final count of 3-1.
The Sudbury Minor Midget Wolves have bounced from to both ends of the pendulum, sweeping a three game set to open their season in Timmins, and outscoring the Majors 20-14, before dropping three straight at the hands of the Kapuskasing Flyers on the road this past weekend.
Kap drubbed the Minor Midgets 7-2, 10-1 and 10-3, as no less than eleven different players tallied for the Flyers, led by Samuel Bourdages and Jacob Comeau with five goals apiece.
Though Kapuskasing won just one in four tries at the Titans event, it would be difficult to fault their defensive play. The Dufour Flyers surrendered just six goals in four games, but scored only five in losing to the Niagara North Stars (3-2), Mississauga Rebels (1-0) and London Jr Knights (1-0), but beating the Vaughan Kings 3-1.
Action this week sees Sudbury visiting North Bay on Wednesday, and again on Thanksgiving Sunday, while New Liskeard welcomes Kapuskasing to town on Friday, but hits the road early the next morning for a pair of games in Sault Ste Marie.
The Minor Midget Wolves are off to London for tournament play, pitted against Richmond Hill, Grey Bruce and Waterloo in preliminary play.