Wolves could tie record Friday night

By: Scott Haddow – Straight Up Sports

 | Jan 08, 2014 - 2:15 PM |
Winning starts with good goaltending, Wolves coach Paul Fixter said this week, and Franky Palazzese has been delivering. Terry Wilson/OHL Images.

Winning starts with good goaltending, Wolves coach Paul Fixter said this week, and Franky Palazzese has been delivering. Terry Wilson/OHL Images.

The Sudbury Wolves have not lost a home game in nearly two months, winning 11 straight games at Sudbury Arena. That streak is on the line Friday night when they host the Mississauga Steelheads for a 7:30 p.m. match up.

The team record for wins in a row at home is 12. This was set during the 1994-95 season, when the Wolves were undefeated from Jan. 17 to March 17, Wolves statistician Dave Harrison said.

The team owns the best home record in the Eastern Conference, going 16-3-0-1 in their first 20 games. A big reason behind the winning percentage is the Wolves have taken advantage of their home games, especially the eight-game home stand in December, in which Sudbury won all the games.

Sudbury hasn’t lost on home ice since Nov. 15, a 3-1 defeat by North Bay.

“It starts with good goaltending and we have been getting good goaltending,” Head Coach Paul Fixter said this week. “Everybody is just playing a lot better also.

“Winning is contagious and the guys are feeling good about themselves and it has us on a roll at home. We need to keep having a good specialty teams and taking pride in playing defence.”

The Wolves then hit the road to play Belleville (Saturday at 7:05 p.m.) and Oshawa (Sunday 6:05 p.m.). As good as the Wolves are at home, they have been just average on the road, going 6-7-3-2.

A defiant stance when it comes to playing defence is the big key to turning the average road record into something more appealing.

“The road is always difficult place to win,” Fixter said. “None of these rinks are that hostile of an environment that we can’t overcome crowd noise and those sorts of things. I take no teams lightly and that is always the message we stress to the players.”

Enemy lines

The Sudbury Wolves host the Mississauga Steelheads Friday night at Sudbury Arena for a 7:30 p.m. game before embarking on a two-game East Division road trip against Belleville and Oshasa to wrap up the weekend. With the trade deadline this week, any one of or all three of these teams could look dramatically different. Here’s a quick look at the opponents. (Stats are as of Tuesday morning press deadline.)

The last time the Steelheads were in Sudbury they received a rough ride. There is little doubt the Steelheads are looking to save face and not get totally dismantled this time around, the fifth meeting between the two Central Division rivals. The first three meetings were as close as a shaved hair, with all three games decided by one goal.

The Bulls busted the bank last season taking a run at a league championship and finished as the top team in the Eastern Conference. This season, it’s a good bet the Bulls will finish last. It is rebuilding time and Belleville has been involved in no less than eight trades since the 2013-14 season commenced. GM and head coach George Burnett has been busy acquiring players from the 1995 birth year. Some of the key pieces brought in are forwards Remi Elie and Stephen Harper and defenceman Alex Yuill. Elie has been outstanding going from Memorial Cup host London to Belleville and recording 17 goals and 39 points in his first 32 games in a new uniform. Harper has 11 points in 13 games since being part of a package from Erie for Brendan Gaunce. Yuill has been rock-solid on the blueline in eight games after being exchanged to Barrie for Garrett Hooey. The Bulls are setting up to make noise in 2014-15. Belleville can’t be taken lightly despite their record. The Bulls beat Sudbury 4-3 in shootout on Oct. 26 in the only previous meeting between the two clubs.

The Generals and Wolves have locked horns twice in the Nickel City and the Wolves have won both contests. It’s safe to assume the Generals will be looking to use home-ice advantage and earn a win off Sudbury. Oshawa has the second best home record in the Eastern Conference. The Generals went 14-4-0-2 in their first 20 home games. The Generals feature deadly specialty teams on home ice, with the sixth best home power play (24.8 percent) and third best home penalty kill (86.6 percent).

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