Four games into the Minor Bantam AAA championship final of the Northern Ontario AAA Hockey League, and four straight wins for the home team.
Coach Guy Blanchard will be more than happy if the trend continues.
Barry McCrory, not so much.
The Sudbury Minor Bantam AAA Wolves evened the best-of-five affair, over the weekend, sweeping the North Bay Minor Bantam AAA Trappers in a pair of games hosted at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex.
On Saturday, the Wolves benefited from a first-period power-play marker from Tyler Maki and a pretty individual effort by Hunter Chiblow in the opening minute of the second to squeeze past the Trappers 2-1.
Nick Davis put North Bay on the board at 2:58 of the final frame, but it was the only one of 21 shots to sneak past Sudbury netminder Alex Vendette.
On Sunday, the Wolves were kick-started by a somewhat unexpected source.
Having missed the bulk of the season dealing with concussion issues, captain Billy Moskal suited up in Game 4, manning the point on the power play for the Wolves, an assignment that would limit the talented forward to just two shifts.
That proved to be plenty of time for Moskal to open the scoring, getting a snap-shot through traffic at 7:02 of the first period. Defenceman Chris Clark doubled the lead when his slapshot handcuffed North Bay netminder Drew Joyal, taking a funny bounce and crossing the line for what would eventually stand as the game-winning goal.
Joel Mongeon increased the lead to 3-0 early in the third, roofing a shot from in tight, but Davis got that one back just 62 seconds later for the visitors. With his team doing a nice job of limiting quality chances for the Trappers, Vendette picked up his second win in as many days between the pipes.
"At other parts of the season, I was kind of struggling," noted the young puckstopper candidly. "I had a few good games here and there, but otherwise, I was kind of mediocre. Right now, thankfully, I'm coming on at the end of the season.
"I'm starting to play well. I'm very confident with my game right now."
As is so often the case, the fortunes of the goaltender mirror those of the team.
"Since Christmas, we've been playing really good hockey," Vendette continued.
"We swept the Soo and beat Nickel City a few times, and that got our momentum going for the playoffs."
Still, the locals are going to need to find a way to reverse the home ice trend in order to walk away with the NOHA banner come Saturday in North Bay.
The contrasting styles have made for an entertaining affair through the first four games.
"They're more of a bump-and-grind team, and we're more of a speedy team," said Vendette.
In fact, the Trappers provide for an altogether different challenge than the Nickel City Sons, the first-place team that the Wolves took down in the opening round of post-season play.
"Nickel City can really make you look stupid sometimes, as a goalie, with their puck movement," Vendette said. "North Bay is less selective with their shots, so I have to be ready all the time. They are more about just getting pucks on net."
North Bay took a 2-0 series lead on the weekend of March 15-16, defeating Sudbury 3-2 in overtime in Game 1 and following up with a 2-1 win on Sunday. The deciding contest is apparently set to be played at the Pete Palangio Arena on Saturday, March 29, though a starting time has not yet been confirmed.
The Minor Bantam series is just one of two that is requiring the maximum number of games this week, with the Sault Ste. Marie Major Bantam AAA Greyhounds and the Nickel City Major Bantam AAA Sons meeting Wednesday night at 8 p.m. in Azilda to conclude their matchup.
For the second straight weekend, the teams split their two games set, with the Sons doubling the Hounds 4-2 in the Soo on Saturday, before the home team forced the issue on Sunday, netting a 4-3 win in overtime.
The Minor Peewee AAA final between North Bay and Sudbury Blue is also tied up at a game apiece as the battle shifts to North Bay, while the Major Peewee Trappers are just a win away from earning a berth to the All-Ontario Championships, taking two from the Sault on home ice last weekend.