The Sudbury Wolves host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at 7 p.m. for the final match in the regular season Bell Fibre Op Challenge Cup. The Greyhounds hold the edge with three wins in the series compared to two losses.
The Soo leads 7-4 in points, with the Greyhounds getting an extra point from a shootout loss. The Wolves are playing for respect now in the series. Here is a quick look at the Wolves and Greyhounds.
Coming off the heels of a 3-2 home loss to the visiting Erie Otters on Monday night, the Wolves are hoping to turn around their February funk against the Greyhounds.
Not an easy foe to face for a slumping team. There is no way to sugar coat it — the Wolves are in a rut, having lost seven of 10 games in February.
After the loss to the Otters, Sudbury defenceman Jeff Corbett said the team needs a win over the Greyhounds to get their spark back.
“It comes down to a big win,” Corbett said during post game interviews. “We need a big game Wednesday. We need momentum going into the playoffs. We’ve had a rough couple of weeks and we need a big game to turn that around.”
The Wolves woes go back even further, to mid-January. Sudbury started 2014 in dominating fashion, going 4-0. But tn the last 19 games, the Wolves have six wins and 13 losses. Sudbury has lost three straight coming into Wednesday’s game.
Forward Nicholas Baptiste leads the team with 39 goals and 77 points in 57 games. The third-year winger has nine goals and 14 points in his last eight games.
Sudbury’s injury list is piling up with no relief in site.
Forward Brody Silk, who missed the first 56 games of the season with shoulder surgery, left Monday’s game versus Erie in the first period with an injury to his collar bone/shoulder area. It was not on the side he had repaired at the start of this season. Silk is listed as day-today.
Defenceman Conor Cummins had surgery Tuesday to fix a broken collar bone. Best-case scenario would have Cummins back at the end of April.
Defenceman Craig Duininck is week-to-week with a lower body injury.
Sniper Nathan Pancel is day-to-day with an upper body injury. The team has called up defenceman Austin Clapham to fill in on the blueline.
Sault Ste. Marie
The Greyhounds are built for now and the future. They have a young core of players that's the envy of many teams in the league.
GM Kyle Dubas has stressed restraint and patience with the young team and the players have responded by being the second-best team in the Western Conference.
Dubas wants to win with a roster built from scratch and not off-set by a lot of big deals that cost draft picks and top prospects.
It certainly is working for the Soo this season. The Greyhounds have forged a 38-16-1-4 record in their first 59 games. They feature a good balance of offence, defence and discipline and one heck of a good goalie in Matt Murray.
The 19-year-old has been out of this world and is, arguably, the best goalie in the OHL. Murray has a 30-10-1-4 record with a 2.54 goals-against-average and .921 save percentage.
To put it another way, Murray is second in the league in wins and third for GAA and save percentage.
He had a mini slump in February, allowing 13 goals over a three-game stretch and went 1-2. He has bounced back magnificently his last two starts, going 2-0 and allowing four goals with a .944 save percentage.
Murray has started all five games in the Sudbury-Soo series, allowing 10 goals and owning a .940 save percentage in the games.
Murray represents the biggest obstacle for the Wolves. And that is after they go through a team dedicated to playing tight defence from first man to last man. With 650 minutes accumulated, the Greyhounds are also the least penalized team in the league.
Discipline and smart play has also contributed greatly to the team’s success. Sault Ste. Marie is 5-5 in their last 10 games coming into Wednesday’s match up.
Forward Tyler Gaudet is enjoying an eye-opening season as a 19-year-old sophomore. He has 25 goals and 59 points in 59 games after recording three goals and eight points last season in 34 games.
Gaudet has eight goals and 16 points in his last 11 games. Greater Sudbury’s Trent Mallette is in his second season with the Soo. The 17-year-old has three goals and 10 points in 45 games.