Pancel was in the right spot at the right time to bang in the overtime goal to secure the team’s eighth straight win as the Wolves beat the visiting North Bay Battalion 1-0 at Sudbury Community Arena on Sunday.
Pancel gathered himself up off the ice from behind the North Bay net after scoring, raised his stick in the air with a big smile on his face and accepted a flood of teammates jumping all over him in the corner.
“Yeah, it was really cool,” Pancel said after the game still wearing the big smile.
It was a classic North Bay game. Not a lot of quality chances and few goals and a methodical pace. The Wolves were also expecting this from the Battalion. They have met twice already this season, with both teams taking a win apiece, and not much separating the two clubs.
It was more of the same on Sunday. Sudbury set a physical tone in the first period, highlighted by team captain Kevin Raine’s robust play which included a couple of big hits in the opening period. The teams solved nothing after three periods of play.
Sudbury was on the attack more, out-shooting North Bay 37-25 overall and 28-16 after two periods of play.
Sudbury head coach Paul Fixter would have liked to seen more inspired play out of the Wolves as he thought they were already thinking about the holiday break.
“I thought we had visions of sugar plums in our heads already and our minds were elsewhere,” Fixter said. “We weren’t the same team that we had been the previous seven games. I didn’t think we played real well at points. I didn’t like out focus and effort at times. We didn’t give up a lot of scoring chances. They (North Bay) play hard and are well-prepared and they limit your chances and make the most of theirs. It’s a typical game you’re going to play against them … low scoring games. So be it.”
The Wolves leaned heavily on their No. 1 goalie, Franky Palazzese, especially in the second and third periods when North Bay had some life and came at the Wolves. Palazzese was cool as a cucumber in the net and wasn’t letting anything past him even when time was winding down and it looked like only one goal was going to be scored. What was going through Palazzese’s mind with the game on the line?
“Nothing,” Palazzese said. “I’ve played in enough games in this league that I’ve been in a lot of these games and mentally I wasn’t fazed at all today. My job was to stop the puck and I did that and the guys rewarded me in overtime.”
Palazzese couldn’t sing the praises of his teammates enough to satisfy himself after the game. He sees a team playing with purpose in front of him now.
“I can’t even put into words how good and hard they are playing in front of me,” he said. “Eight game win streak. It is just a testament to how hard and how we have progressed since the beginning of the year. We’re taking the systems the coaches have implemented and we’re sticking to them now finally and we’re showing everybody we are not the same team we were at the beginning of the year.”
The Wolves are going to enjoy the eight-game winning streak over the holiday break before they get set to take on North Bay again, on home ice, on Dec. 28.
“It’s a lot of fun, first off, going into the break on a winning note,” Pancel said. “It just shows us we’re a contender and we have to keep pushing after the break.”
North Bay head coach and director of hockey operations Stan Butler would have obviously liked to see his team on the winning side of the game. Butler’s team earned a point on the road, and sometimes, it just has to be good enough. The Battalion are enjoying their first season in North Bay after moving from Brampton, and need to put more quality games together.
“Our guys have dealt with adversity well this season and have done a good job in most games,” Butler said. “Obviously, we can be better. I want to see us play more consistently and score more goals. Those are the big things for us. North Bay has been a positive change for us. The city really cares about hockey.”
- The game’s three stars were: Franky Palazzese (first), Jake Smith (second) and Nathan Pancel (third).
- The Wolves scratched Brody Silk, Dominik Kahun, Evan de Haan and Connor Burgess.
- The Battalion scratched Kyle Wood, Vincent Praplan, Connor Jarvis and Calvin Gomes.
- Attendance was announced as 4,148.
- Both teams combined to go 0-for-7 on the power play.
- The Wolves are 18-9-3-3.
- The game was the annual teddy bear toss game. Fans were able to throw stuffed toys onto the ice after the first whistle past the 10 minute mark of the third period as per OHL rules if no goal has been scored by then. Fans launched more than 1,500 stuffed toys which will go to kids at Christmas time. A few more toys were flying after Pancel’s OT goal.