Wolves had 50 shots on net in regulation and overtime
Sudbury forward Connor Crisp was the third shooter for the Wolves. He had to score to keep the game going. He was denied by Belleville goalie Charlie Graham and the game was over. Crisp smashed his stick as he skated off the ice. It marked Sudbury’s eighth shoot-out loss on the season - a league high.
Sudbury head coach Paul Fixter and his team knew the Bulls were going to throw everything they could at them to win after coming off a bad beating courtesy of North Bay the previous night. Fixter expected more out his team.
“It’s frustrating,” Fixter said. “Absolutely. We’ve given away a lot of points in the shoot-out and it hurts. They’re coming off an 8-1 drubbing last night. What did we expect? We expect that. They delivered what we expected. I wanted a win. Whatever it takes to get a win. This is what I wanted tonight. We didn’t win the hockey game.”
It was anything but an electrifying game. It was 0-0 after two periods of play. Sudbury pelted Graham with 50 shots in regulation and overtime, but couldn’t get the puck to go in. The highlight for Sudbury through the first two periods had to be Nathan Pancel’s hard-hitting play. Pancel was trying his best to get the Wolves going with two big hits in the first period.
There were several close chances, most notably Craig Duininck’s big shot in the third period that clanged off the lower goal post. Belleville drew first blood when Aaron Berisha made the Wolves pay for a miscue in their own zone and score at 6:54 of the third period. This seemed to put a sense of urgency in the Wolves as they turned up the heat and fired 20 shots in the third period. To solve Graham, the Wolves had to pull out all the stops and made it dramatic.
With goalie Franky Palazzese pulled for an extra attacker, Sudbury’s Trevor Carrick scored with a blast from the blueline with just 2.5 seconds remaining in the game to tie it at 1-1. It was the 46th shot by Sudbury.
In the shoot-out, Belleville’s Stephen Harper scored on the first attempt. Sudbury shooters Mathew Campagna, Nicholas Baptiste and Crisp failed to score, which ended the game. Palazzese stopped Belleville’s two other shooters - Berisha and Jordan Subban.
Fixter had one word to describe his team’s overall performance.
“OK,” he said. “I thought we certainly had enough scoring chances to win the game, but we didn’t play well enough to win the hockey game. That is the key for me. We had chances, we had a lot of opportunities to score, but we did not play well enough with enough determination at this point of the season to win.”
The Wolves felt they put forth a decent effort, but learned it isn’t enough to win games all the time, even against teams with 28 fewer points.
“It’s a tough loss,” Duininck said. “We played hard and got 50 shots on net and had a lot of chances, but we couldn’t get the job done. We ran into a hot goalie and, to their credit, Belleville played a good game. They did what they had to do to win. We didn’t.”
Belleville is fighting for its playoff life and the win over Sudbury was needed to keep the Bulls within striking distance of Ottawa, Mississauga and Niagara for one of the two final playoff positions. The Bulls are rebuilding after going for it last season with a veteran roster. Belleville head coach and GM George Burnett sees the team on the right track in progress and the fact they are in the thick of the playoff race.
“There have been a lot of positives,” Burnett said. “We knew there would be struggles and we have lacked consistency at times. We’ve won some big games. We have 21 players eligible to return next season and they are benefiting from the experience this season. I have been impressed with the players’ compete level. We are headed in the right direction again.”
The Wolves travel to North Bay to take on the Battalion at 2 p.m. for their next game.
- The three stars were: Charlie Graham (first), Franky Palazzese (second) and Stephen Harper (third).
- Sudbury scratched Austin Clapham, Matt Schmalz, Conor Cummins and David Zeppieri.
- Belleville scratched Brody Morris, Justin Lemcke, Jake Worrad, Niki Petti and Jake Bricknell.