Nathan Pancel and the Sudbury Wolves left little doubt this time against Central Division rival, the Mississauga Steelheads, Saturday night as they beat them 8-1 at Sudbury Community Arena.
In the previous three meetings between the two clubs this season, two games went into overtime and one into a shootout before a winner was declared. The Steelheads had won two of the three previous one-goal games.
Not this time.
The Wolves ran over the Steelheads, scoring five goals on their first 15 shots as they won their fifth straight game and kept their claim on top spot in the division and second place overall in the Eastern Conference.
“In all aspects we dominated,” Pancel said. “We got on them quickly and that was the key. They worked hard, but we played well. It’s huge in the standings, and it’s good for our confidence.”
The Wolves couldn’t have dreamed of a better start as they unleashed a flood of goals in the first period and built up a 5-0 lead before it was intermission time. It was an all-out blitz that left the Steelheads reeling.
The Wolves scored three goals on their first seven shots to send Mississauga starting goalie, Spencer Martin, to the bench. Conor Cummins, Jacob Harris and Nathan Pancel scored in a span of one minute and 30 seconds to blow the game wide open.
Earlier in the season, the Wolves were trying to find a killer instinct and not let up on an opponent if they had them down. There was no doubt the Wolves’ killer instinct was present Saturday night. Nathan Cull and Connor Crisp rounded out the first period scoring to give the Wolves a comfy lead.
“It’s been a while since we had a start like that. We are usually a third-period team,” Pancel said.
In the second, Dominik Kubalik cashed in on a power play to bump the lead to 6-0. Mississauga stopped the Sudbury goal parade when Andrew Goldberg ripped a goal from the slot. Kubalik was later hurt on a play in front of the Steelheads net and left the ice. He returned to the game.
With a 6-1 lead going into the third period, the Wolves were all business in the third. Pancel took a nifty cross-ice pass from Cull to score and make the game 7-1 only 17 seconds into the third frame.
Dominik Kahun rounded out the scoring to make the final 8-1.
“There’s a lot to be happy about,” Sudbury head coach Paul Fixter said. “The biggest thing for me was we were a team. Everybody played. We stuck together. No player did anything to harm the team … like taking a dumb shot or being selfish and worrying about their points. They played hard. They played disciplined and they played together. I’m proud of them.”
Once the game was out-of-hand for Mississauga, several players tried to engage the Wolves into nasty business and start fights. The Wolves turned the other cheek. It worked in their favour.
“We were smart,” Pancel said. “There were guys looking for fights. One of them we got a power play and we scored off it. It just shows how being smart pays off.”
Cummins isn’t known for his offensive play, but he was thrilled he could get the first goal of the game and give the Wolves the spark they needed to go on and defeat the Steelheads.
“It feels unbelievable,” Cummins said. “Having a great start is such a big part of the game. What I want to do night in and night out is to be able to contribute. I try to pick my spots and when I have the chance, I go for it.”
Cummins earned high praise from Fixter, who said it was the defenceman’s best game of the season. The praise didn’t swell Cummins’ head.
“Fixter is an unbelievable coach. He knows exactly what he is talking about. To hear a compliment like that coming from someone with so much hockey experience definitely means a lot.”
On Friday, the Wolves managed to beat Sarnia, one of the worst teams in the league, 7-6 in overtime. No one was delighted with how they played in that game. Sudbury captain Kevin Raine, in particular, was not eager to celebrate the victory over Sarnia. Raine was in a different mood after Saturday’s win over Mississauga.
“We went full speed the whole game,” Raine said. “We overwhelmed them in the offensive zone. We had the right attitude the whole game. We had to redeem ourselves after Friday’s game. We definitely made up for it. We are all satisfied with this win.”
When Mississauga did break through and get its cracks at the Sudbury net, Wolves goalie Franky Palazzese was there to give the Steelhead players fits. Palazzese stopped 26 of 27 shots.
“Franky was outstanding. We didn’t give them much, but when we did, Franky was there to back us up,” Raine said.
The Wolves host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on Dec. 10. Game time is 7:30 p.m. It is the makeup game for the first game of the regular season which was cancelled due to fog problems at Sudbury Community Arena.
The game’s three stars were: Kevin Raine (third), Dominik Kahun (second) and Conor Cummins (first).
The Wolves scratched David Eccles, Evan de Haan, David Zeppieri and Brody Silk.
The Steelheads scratched Damian Bourne and Sean Day.
Attendance was announced as 3,422.
The Wolves scored three goals on their first seven shots.
Nathan Pancel pushed his pints streak to eight games, with eight goals and 14 points in the span.
Craig Duininck has three goals and 13 points in 10 games since coming over in a trade with Sarnia.
The Wolves are 15-9-3-3.