Sudbury Wolves forward Nicholas Baptiste has seen a major transformation within the team over the last three weeks, and he likes what he sees. Team cohesion has pushed the Wolves to win seven straight games. Sudbury used a disciplined style to knock off the visiting Oshawa Generals - the top team in the Eastern Conference - 4-2 at Sudbury Community Arena Friday night.
“We are all focused on one goal and that is winning games,” Baptiste said. “We’ve been coming together as a team the last two to three weeks and it has been unbelievable. It’s not individual accolades. It’s worrying about the team and it’s leading to success. It’s so much fun.”
The disciplined factor can not be overstated in the Sudbury string of victories recently. Over the last three games, the Wolves have taken four penalties. The Wolves took three penalties against Oshawa. Not having players sitting in the sin bin while also winning a lot of hockey games has clearly clued in for the players.
“We realized we are winning games without taking penalties, so it is a lot easier that way,” Sudbury forward Nathan Pancel said.
Once again, Sudbury struck first and was able to ride the momentum created from it to a win. Baptiste got it rolling for Sudbury when he blasted in his 20th goal of the season at 6:43 of the first period to make it 1-0. Pancel scored his 30th of the season in the second period to increase the Wolves lead to 2-0.
It was a power play display in the third period as the teams combined for three extra-man markers. Pancel and Mathew Campagna scored for Sudbury, while Cole Cassels scored the lone goal for Oshawa.
From top to bottom and front to back, Sudbury head coach Paul Fixter was impressed with the team’s play. Fixter thought it was inspired and effective. The biggest difference are the players are more diligent about team defence.
“It was a tremendous team effort and win,” Fixter said. “We got contributions from everybody. We are playing tighter and we are not giving up as many goals as we did earlier in the season. The commitment to defence in our own zone is there now. We have also been an opportunistic team that generates chances and we have been capitalizing on them.”
The Wolves don’t try and hide from the fact their specialty teams took a nose dive in November, but during the seven-game winning streak, they have turned around dramatically. The Wolves killed off two of three penalties while scoring twice on the power play in the win over Oshawa.
“Our penalty kill has been a lot better and it needed to be, no question,” Fixter said. “It starts with goaltending and Franky Palazzese has been outstanding for us. (Associate coach) David Matsos has done a lot of work with the players in that regard and really simplified the system. Being disciplined is important. Specialty teams plays a big part. The guys understand the importance of it.”
The Wolves had some swagger coming into the prime eastern Conference match up. Oshawa and Sudbury are No. 1 and 2 in the conference respectively and the game was the first regular season meeting between the two.
“We were resilient,” Baptiste said about the key to victory. “We knew we had to come in confident and give them respect, but we knew we were capable of beating them.”
Winning seven games in a row makes a loud statement by the Wolves and also shows a lot about the team.
“It shows they care and it means we must be pretty good,” Fixter said. “It shows we have a team going in the right manner because we are doing a lot of things right to win games.”
The Generals were not thrilled with their own performance and lacklustre first period. Oshawa head coach DJ Smith would have liked to seen a more determined effort in the first half of the game and the officiating to be more on the ball.
“I thought we were OK in spurts, but that doesn’t win you hockey games,” Smith said. “Our specialty teams were not good. I thought a couple of calls were missed and then we end up on the penalty kill and the puck goes in our net. It is what it is and sometimes calls don’t get called.”
The Wolves host the North Bay Battalion on Sunday at 2 p.m. It is the last game before the Wolves take a holiday break until Dec. 28. The game features the annual teddy bear toss and fans attending are asked to bring a new plush toy to throw on the ice after the Wolves first goal.
The Wolves are prepared to take on the Battalion.
“It is a rivalry and there are two points on the line. We need to get them,” Baptiste said.
- The game’s three stars were: Nathan Pancel (first), Nicholas Baptiste (second) Franky Palazzese (third).
- The Wolves scratched David Eccles, Evan de Haan, David Zeppieri and Brody Silk.
- The Generals scratched Matt Hore, Scott Laughton and Stephen Desrocher.
- Sudbury forward Dominik Kahun has left for the U-20 world junior hockey championship. He will play for Team Germany.
- Sudbury is 9-1 in its last 10 games. Sudbury has 17-9-3-3 record.
- Attendance was announced as 3,542.