The Sudbury Wolves are not going to forget their first loss of the 2013-14 season.
A 10-3 beating on the road against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds left a bitter taste all around. Heap on the fact the Wolves regular season home opener was cancelled due to fog and air circulation problems at Sudbury Arena and it makes for some angry fans. Not the start the Wolves wanted.
Head coach Paul Fixter is one of those still seething over the loss. There will be no toleration for a repeat performance.
“I’m extremely disappointed and embarrassed after our first weekend,” Fixter said. “Our performance was pathetic.”
Defensive zone coverage was a problem — the Wolves simply didn’t apply themselves well. Practice this week featured no shortage of work on defensive responsibilities.
“Our defensive zone coverage was disgusting,” Fixter said. “It was our No. 1 concern.”
Fixter isn’t one of those guys that finds a sliver of good in something that was so terribly bad. There wasn’t anything positive about the 10-3 pasting at the hands of the Soo and the coach expects a loud and clear response by the players.
“I expect them to answer for last week,” Fixter said. “If they have any pride, they will. There is no silver lining when you lose 10-3. Anyone who finds a silver lining in that is a loser. It was a total embarrassment for every member of the organization.
“I hope the players didn’t like what they felt and want to get on the right path with a win over Barrie which sets us up for more success on the road.”
The Wolves will get a boost this weekend with the return of two veteran players from suspensions, forwards Danny Desrochers and Nathan Cull, set to return Saturday and Sunday respectively.
Cull, 19, recorded two goals and seven points last season in 43 games, while Desrochers, 18, put up five goals and 13 points in 58 games.
One person who probably suffered the worst effects from last weekend’s big loss was associate coach David Matsos. He came to Sudbury in the off-season from Windsor, a program well known for high levels of success in Major Junior hockey.
The 39-year-old also played for the Soo Greyhounds in the 90s and won a Memorial Cup. Matsos has brought a winning attitude and that is what he wants to impress on the players.
“I don’t like to lose,” Matsos said. “I’ve been fortunate as a coach and player when it comes to winning. It’s hard to settle for anything less. I don’t sleep well if I don’t give my all every day. There’s a lot of satisfaction in winning as a coach. It’s rewarding when the systems and philosophy works. Coaching is more exhausting than playing. The game is constantly on my mind — how to be better and how to fix problems.”
Wolves defenceman Kevin Raine was honoured to be named team captain for the 2013-14 season prior to the first game. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound defender is in his fourth season, having spent the first three-and-a-half with the London Knights. Raine is confident he can lead the Wolves the right way. He had good teachers in London — an experience that prepared him to be a captain.
“I lead by example,” Raine said. “It is something I have done since I first stepped on the ice as a member of the Wolves. It is what I have to do every day.
“When I was in London, I learned from great leaders like Jarred Tinordi, Michael D’Orazio and Scott Harrington. They carried themselves professionally. I learned how to be a pro in London and I have carried it over to Sudbury.”
The Sudbury Wolves host one game this week, on Friday versus Barrie, before embarking on a two-game road trip. They take on the Owen Sound Attack on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., followed by an afternoon tilt against the Mississauga Steelheads at 2 p.m.
Here’s a quick look at those three opposing teams and how their 2013-14 seasons started. (All stats and notes are as of Sept. 24)
The Colts opened the season with a 7-4 win over Saginaw. It was more than just another victory, though. The win represented head coach Dale Hawerchuk’s 100th career OHL coaching triumph in his four-year career. Hawerchuk took over a rebuilding Colts team in 2010 and has guided them to great heights. Last season, the Colts made it to the league finals before bowing out to London in seven games. Hawerchuk is known for his tireless dedication to the team, players and game.
“Dale deserves a lot of credit for doing his homework and I won’t be surprised if he gets another 100 wins here soon,” assistant coach Todd Miller said in a news release. “He is in rinks, he knows every player in the drafts, every player in the league and not many coaches know as much as he does.
“Even just the way that he talks to the kids. He is a player’s coach and his door is always open and I think that has gone a long way for these players. We are lucky to have a coach like Dale here in Barrie with all the knowledge he has and even for myself, learning from him has been unbelievable.”
The Colts are going to be a heavily watched team this season by scouts. Barrie had four players on the NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for the 2014 NHL draft. Defencemen Aaron Ekblad and Josh Carrick and forwards Brendan Lemieux and Kevin Labanc all received high grades from the NHL scouts. Ekblad could challenge to go first over in 2014 due to his impressive package of skills, dedication and character.
Owen Sound Attack
The Attack went 1-0-0-1 in their first two games, bolstered by a red-hot start from forward Gemel Smith, who tallied four goals in his first two games. The fourth-year forward recorded a hat trick in the first game of the season — a 5-3 win over Mississauga — and one more goal in a 4-3 shootout loss to Peterborough.
The Wolves' division rival went 1-1 on opening weekend. An early trade has paid instant dividends to Mississauga. In the pre-season, the Steelheads acquired forward Bryson Cianfrone from North Bay for a 2014 third-round pick. Cianfrone was committed to the University of Michigan, but passed on the opportunity. In his first two games, Cianfrone scored three goals to make an impact right away.
“Bryson brings speed, skill and smarts to our team,” head coach James Boyd said in a team news release.
Scott Haddow has been writing about sports in Greater Sudbury for the past 10 years.