Everybody needs a rest, but the holiday break may have come at the wrong time for the Sudbury Wolves.
Yes, the Wolves have been going non-stop since their trip to Russia in mid-August to take part in the Junior World Cup. But heading into the 10-day holiday, the team was on its best roll of the season that saw them get points in five straight games and nine of their last 11.
Last weekend was a nice way to go into the break with wins over Plymouth and Mississauga, and a come-from-behind point in an overtime loss against the Niagara Ice Dogs.
Head coach Trent Cull isn’t one to make excuses, but October and November looked a lot like last season when the Wolves had to weather a slew of injuries, making it tough to ice a regular lineup from game to game.
Michael Kantor and Chad Thibodeau were still on the injured list when the break hit, but it’s hoped they will make their return sometime in January.
One player who was back from injury was Josh Leivo. He missed seven games with concussion-like symptoms, but returned with a vengeance heading into the break, putting up seven points and becoming a plus-six in the three-game weekend.
There is no question — for this team to have success, Josh Leivo has to have plenty of weekends like this.
Another player who has helped spark the Wolves is Matt Campagna. He went into the break on an 11-game point streak, centring the most consistent line along with Nathan Pancel and Nick Baptiste.
During the streak, Campagna put up four goals and sixteen assists for 20 points, putting him into a tie with Josh Leivo for the team’s scoring lead. Campagna came into the OHL with the reputation as a goal scorer, but that hasn’t been the case up to now.
This streak does prove he has the offensive instincts we have seen flashes of the last two-plus seasons and shows he has developed a more consistent game overall.
Joel Vienneau is starting to look more and more like the goalie the Wolves decided to keep as one of their three overage players. His play the last two or three weeks gives hope he can help lead this team out of 8th place and up the Eastern Conference standings.
But, the biggest decision when the team returns to Sudbury for the second half of the season may revolve around the OHL trade deadline.
Will the Wolves be buyers or sellers?
You look at the standings and see the team in 8th place and think it makes sense to unload some veteran talent, and load up for next year. Then, you look at the roll the team has been on and you start thinking a couple of additions could help it have a solid second half and hopefully a long playoff run.
Stay tuned ... the holiday trade freeze is on, so we’ll take a closer look at this issue when the calendar flips to 2013.
While we won’t get to watch Wolves captain Frank Corrado take part in the World Junior Hockey Championship in Russia over the holidays, we do get to root for Dominik Kahun who will play for Team Germany.
Also, rookie defenceman Conor Cummins will be representing Team Ontario at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge in Quebec starting Dec. 28.
Stew Kernan is the radio and television voice of the Sudbury Wolves, and the news director at EZ Rock and Q92. His column appears regularly in Northern Life.
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