By his own admission, Jake Punkari does not expect to lead the Sudbury Nickel Barons offensively.
“The biggest word that is constantly thrown at me is that I am an energy player,” said the Lively native with pride, shortly after potting his first goal of the year in a 6-2 Sudbury win over the Elliot Lake Bobcats on Feb. 6 at the McLelland Arena.
“I'm not necessarily a tough guy, I'm definitely not a goal scorer. I just buzz around the rink, I chase pucks, I play the system and just do my job. The guys seem to like watching me go out there and rip around.”
Just moments into the first post-game interview of his junior hockey career, Punkari was treated to a faceful of cupcakes, courtesy of the very same teammates who exploded with enthusiasm when he broke the ice in the personal goal-scoring column midway through period three.
In the end, it was emblematic of the team effort that was required to deliver a little payback.
“It was a big revenge game,” said Punkari. “They really did a number on us last Friday and we wanted to get back at them, especially in front of the home crowd.”
Punkari and company will be the first to admit that their is little to no rocket science when it comes to the game plan that proves most successful for the Barons.
“We just had to make sure that we were prepared to play,” Punkari said. “They're a really, really hard-working team and we just had to make sure that we came out with everything we had.”
Through 20 minutes of play, there was little to choose between the combatants in Copper Cliff as an early power-play tally by Martin Jolicoeur of Sudbury was offset by a backhand rebound courtesy of the Bobcats' Brad Holman.
The Barons, however, turned up the heat in the second, receiving goals from Giovanni Foschia (nice pass from Cory Vaillancourt), Sebastien Leroux (sprung on a partial breakaway with a pass from Khadyn Butterfly), Darcy Haines (set up from Jolicoeur behind the net) and Brett Dusick (blast from the point that caught top glove-side corner), heading to the third with a comfortable 5-1 lead.
Punkari increased the advantage to five goals before Dustin Cordeiro closed off the scoring with a quick snap shot late in the game as Sudbury pulled to within four points of the second-place North Bay Trappers for the umpteenth time this year.
The Nickel Barons are back in action Feb. 8, making the trip to Kirkland Lake to face the Gold Miners.
The team experiences a rare Wednesday night away from home on Feb. 13, travelling to Elliot Lake instead for a rematch with the Bobcats.