The Wolves lost 3-0 to the visiting Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Saturday night at Sudbury Community Arena. It marked the second straight loss for the Wolves and gave the team an unflattering 3-5-0-2 record in the last 10 games.
Duininck has won a Memorial Cup with Windsor and knows the Wolves are not struggling right now. He sees it as things are not going the team’s way. For Duininck, who has seen and gone through almost every scenario a Major Junior hockey player can face, there is no reason to get bent out of shape and create panic by pushing the imaginary button for it.
“Every team goes through adversity,” Duininck said. “It’s how you come through it. A team can panic and start getting away from what got them to that position. We are in second place (in the Eastern Conference) and you can’t complain about that, so we have to stick to what got us here and eventually it will turn around. We are battling hard lately. We are getting a lot of shots on net. We are doing a lot of things right. It is just a couple of mistakes and they just took advantage of them tonight.”
The Wolves came out in the first period and controlled most of the play in all three zones. Sudbury killed off two early penalties and had plenty of momentum in the opening frame and outshot the Soo 16-8.
The Wolves' only problem of consequence in the period was the fact they could not put a puck past Soo goalie Matt Murray, who would make 38 saves in the game to claim the goose egg.
A haunting problem was the Wolves' power play. Sudbury had a 5-on-3 man advantage for one minute and 14 seconds at the end of the first period which carried over into the second period for 59 seconds.
Despite having time in the first intermission to draw up a plan of attack, the Wolves' power play was silent and non-effective. Overall, the Wolves went 0-for-4 on the man advantage.
“The 5-on-3 was a complete abomination,” Sudbury Head Coach Paul Fixter said. “It wasn’t executed. I think we could have done a better job getting in front of Murray. We had good chances, but he saw a lot of them. He’s a great goalie. We didn’t make it difficult enough for him.”
When a team runs into a hot goalie or becomes hard up for goals, there is really only one way to get over it.
"Keep shooting. Keep going to the net,” Fixter said.
Sudbury’s lines were juggled up from top to bottom as the team was missing a huge catalyst in Nicholas Baptiste, who was out his first full game since taking a hard hit against London Friday night.
It mattered not to the Greyhounds who weathered the first-period storm created by the Wolves and took over the game in the second period with a pair of goals caused initially by poor play.
Sergey Tolchinsky and Darnell Nurse both made the most of miscues by the Wolves to score goals and give the Greyhounds all they needed to win. The Soo’s Tyler Gaudet iced the victory with a third period empty-net goal to make the final 3-0.
“We played a textbook game exactly the way we wanted and two mistakes, two bad mistakes, ended up in the back of our net,” Fixter said. “These mistakes and our inability to score on Murray were the keys to the game.”
The Wolves feel as if they beat themselves. They let a strong first period go to waste and then couldn’t find a weak link in Murray's armour.
“Things just are not going our way right now,” Duininck said. “As soon as we get a few bounces, we’re going to get on another win streak. It is bounces. We are getting 40 shots a game. We’re just not getting goals. We are playing good defensively, but we just have to find the offence now. There’s always frustration if you’re not scoring goals. It’s part of the game. You have to find a way to get over it.”
The loss gave the Wolves a lot to think about. One thing they don’t have to worry about is the play of their own goalie, Franky Palazzese, who made 32 saves in the loss, including some big saves in the first and second periods to keep the Wolves in the game.
“We have to go to the net more and harder,” Sudbury forward David Zeppieri said. “Frank played well again for us. He did what he needed to do. We just didn’t get the job done in front of him.”
The Greyhounds are in second place in the Western Conference and boast a .735 winning percentage, one of the best in the league overall. Despite being one of the top teams in the league and a contender to win it all, the Greyhounds didn’t mortgage the future this season in an effort to win it all. The Greyhounds are trying to buck old trends in the league.
“There is an emphasis in this league if you’re going to contend, you have to be older and we’re trying to disprove that a little bit at a time,” Soo GM Kyle Dubas said. “We have one of the youngest cores in the league. We have a lot of guys who can still maximize their potential. The coaches have allowed our players to grow and it has been an encompassing effort.”
The Wolves will have to solve their troubles on the road as they head out on a three-game road trip next week. Sudbury plays North Bay on Thursday, followed by matches against Niagara on Friday and Kitchener on Sunday.
The game’s three stars were: Matt Murray (first), Franky Palazzese (second) and Darnell Nurse (third).
Sudbury scratched Nick Baptiste (upper body injury), Evan de Haan and Brody Silk (surgery).
Sault Ste. Marie scratched David Eccles, Brandon Hughes, Michael Bunting and Jean Dupuy.
The game marked the first time this season Sudbury was shutout on home ice.
The Wolves killed off all four penalties they took.