The crowd ate it up and roared a deafening approval.
Baptiste had just scored the sixth goal to put the Wolves ahead of the visiting Guelph Storm 6-5. It would stand up as the game winner. The goal, tallied at 17:43 of the third period, capped a remarkable comeback for Sudbury and gave the Wolves a victory over the second-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League and top team in the Ontario Hockey League team.
Sudbury was down 5-0 with less than eight minutes to play in the second period. It looked bad. It looked like the Wolves were on their way to their ninth loss in 12 games.
Two late second-period goals by Jacob Harris and Radek Faksa gave the Wolves life going into the third period. Still, it didn’t look good for Sudbury heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Trevor Carrick, Nathan Pancel, Ray Huether and Baptiste scored in a span of four minutes and 35 seconds with less than seven minutes to play in the final frame to give the Wolves the improbable win.
The players will remember the fans from this game for a long time.
“Seeing the crowd go crazy for the fourth, fifth and sixth goals is something you live for when you play this game,” Baptiste said. “We hope it is a message to our fans, let them know we are a contender and we are still here. We just beat the second best team in the Canada. That’s a big deal for us. It’s going to turn us around. It shows how resilient we are. When we put it all together, we are a tough team to beat.”
The hometown crowd was the topic of conversation for the players immediately after the game. There was no denying the crowd’s volume intensified with each third-period goal. Baptiste’s winning goal sent them nearly over the top. The fans were heard loud and clear.
“The first thing we talked about when we got in the dressing room was the crowd,” Sudbury’s Connor Crisp said. “We give huge props to our fans. We couldn’t hear our coach on the bench. It was unbelievable. We get support like that and we can keep doing this.”
Guelph charged into the game and took no prisoners. The Storm scored two power-play goals and a short-handed goal to help construct their 5-0 lead. Robby Fabbri, Zack Mitchell, Pius Suter, Brock McGinn and Marc Stevens scored for Guelph. The Storm held a 3-0 lead after the first period and a 5-2 lead after two periods of play.
The Wolves used three power-play goals to help them get back in the game before Huether’s goal tied the game at 5-5 at 17:04 of the third during a scramble in the slot.
Baptiste’s goal 39 seconds later sealed the deal.
“It’s a win we needed because of the way we had been feeling … for our mindset,” Sudbury head coach Paul Fixter said. “I haven’t been around here very long, it’s certainly the biggest win since Dave (associate coach David Matsos) and I have been in this building. Were we down? Yeah, we were down. We were down lower than snakes’ bellies at 5-0. I said to the guys after the game that is why I am so hard on them, because I believe. I always believed and will continue to believe.
"I am hard on these guys because Dave and I believe we can do some damage. The only way you can do that is to keep pushing them. The biggest thing is the guys didn‘t quit.”
The Wolves were caught running around in their own zone and made some miscues which led to several Storm goals in the first two periods. It was all washed away with the play of the team in the third period. The Wolves tightened up defensively and, offensively, the team got contributions from across the board.
Once Carrick scored on the power play from a point blast at 13:08 of the third period, it was on for the Wolves and they rolled with it.
Sudbury goalie Franky Palazzese allowed three goals on 13 shots in the first period. Palazzese made up for it in the second and third periods with numerous big saves on point-blank shots and breakaways, giving his team the chance to climb back in it and win the game. Palazzese finished with 36 saves.
“We seemed to have some good energy right from the start,” Fixter said about the third period comeback. “Our power play came to life tonight and that gave us something. Momentum is a wonderful thing and we got momentum and that snowball just kept getting bigger and bigger. Frank was solid when he had to be. He made some circus catches in the second period.”
Even the best sports teams get beat. The Storm accepted defeat, feeling the burn of having allowed a five-goal lead evaporate and lose. Despite the loss, the Storm still own the best record in the OHL at 47-11-2-1.
Guelph head coach Scott Walker and his staff have assembled a team that stands up for one another and is primed for a long run in the post season.
“The bar is set high on this team and it is the players who set it themselves,” Walker said. “The expectations are always high for us. We have our ups and downs. The players push themselves hard every day. They respect each other and can pick each other up when someone is down and get the team back on track.”
The Wolves host the Niagara IceDogs tonight at Sudbury Community Arena. Game time is 7 p.m.
Game notes-Sudbury defenceman Jeff Corbett left the game in the second period and did not return. He is listed as day-to-day with an upper body injury.
-Sudbury regained control of first place in the Central Division and second place in the Eastern Conference with the win and have a 31-20-3-7 record.
-Nathan Pancel returned to the Sudbury lineup after missing six games and made an impact with one goal and two points.
-Sudbury’s power play went 3-for-6, but did allow a short-handed marker.
-The three stars were: Nicholas Baptiste (first), Radek Faksa (second) and Connor Crisp (third).
-Sudbury scratched Craig Duininck, Connor Burgess, Conor Cummins and David Zeppieri.
-Guelph scratched Adam Craievich, Tyler Bertuzzi and Garrett McFadden.