It's do or die for the Wolves

By: Scott Haddow – Straight Up Sports

 | Mar 26, 2014 - 7:39 AM |
Wolves star forward Nick Baptiste scored early in the first in Game 3 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Barrie Colts on March 25 at Sudbury Arena, but it wasn't enough. The Pack lost its third straight in the series 6-4. Photo by Scott Haddow

Wolves star forward Nick Baptiste scored early in the first in Game 3 of the team's first-round playoff series against the Barrie Colts on March 25 at Sudbury Arena, but it wasn't enough. The Pack lost its third straight in the series 6-4. Photo by Scott Haddow

Down three games, Pack looks to redeem itself

Harsh reality has set in on the Sudbury Wolves.

The Barrie Colts came into town and defeated the Pack 6-4 in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series and took a commanding and imposing 3-0 series lead. The loss has pushed the Wolves to the brink of elimination.

Game 4 goes Thursday in Sudbury at 7 p.m.

The Wolves are now faced with the uphill battle of winning four straight games.

“We have to win and we know that and that is our mindset now,” Sudbury forward Brody Silk said. “It’s one game. We win or we are out. We’re in tough. We are not a team that’s going to quit. We are going to come out Thursday and give everything we got and make sure we win.”

After two one-goal losses in the first two games in Barrie, Sudbury needed a spark early and seemed to get it when Nick Baptiste scored just 3:40 into the first period to give Sudbury a 1-0 lead.

It was short-lived and the way the lead was lost hurt hard. On a power play and with the chance to put Barrie in a bind, the Wolves allowed a short-handed goal to Jake Dotchin to tie the game at 1-1 at 8:58.

Barrie took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission thanks to a power play goal by Andrew Mangiapane at 19:31. The Colts stampede ahead for good early in the second period when Aaron Ekblad scored yet another power play goal at 2:43 to make it 3-1.

Sudbury was left chasing the Colts the rest of the game, managing to get within one goal three different times before Barrie restored the two-goal cushion. Sudbury also got goals from Silk, Radek Faksa and Connor Crisp. Barrie got its other goals from Mangiapane and two from Brendan Lemieux, including an empty-net goal.

Sudbury head coach Paul Fixter thought the game could have gone the other way if the Wolves had executed a more efficient performance from start to finish.

“Certainly, it was winnable,” Fixter said. “You get four goals in the playoffs, it’s a winnable game. We didn’t play well enough. We didn’t start well enough, took too many penalties again … and early penalties that are hard to kill. Five-on-five, we were good, but we didn’t play enough five-on-five.”

It was a game where specialty teams dominated. Barrie went 2-for-7 on the power play and Sudbury went 2-for-6. Each team potted two extra-man advantage goals. The amount of penalties irked Fixter.

“Ultimately, they have to be more disciplined,” Fixter said. “I expected a better effort tonight and it’s disappointing. Especially in the first 10 minutes of the game, you got to play with the passion and the urgency. We played like we were up 2-0, not down 2-0.”

The Wolves felt with some sharper play, the game could have been theirs. Bad penalties and some sloppy play undid them in the end.

But the team isn't ready to throw in the towel, confident they can still right the ship and save the season — a season in which the Pack were favoured by many to be a contender for the Eastern Conference championship and not first-round fodder.

“It’s a tough one to swallow,” Sudbury defender Jeff Corbett said. “We wanted to win that one. It is tough being down three. We are frustrated. We got to pick it up for Thursday … and get a win.

“We’ve come up short in three of the games. It can’t happen Thursday or the season will be done. We will come ready to play because no one is ready to go home. The series isn’t over.”

The Colts withstood the late charge by the Wolves as they threw 22 shots on rookie goalie Mackenzie Blackwood in the third period in an attempt to earn a victory and stared down a 6-on-4 man advantage situation towards the end of the game as Sudbury had a late power play and pulled goalie Franky Palazzese for an extra player.

Barrie head coach Dale Hawerchuk was impressed with his team’s ability and composure in the heat of battle and in gaining a 3-0 series lead.

“We didn’t get off to the start we wanted, but the short-handed goal by Jake Dotchin seem to put a little life into us and get us settled down again,” Hawerchuk said. “Once we got settled down, we seemed to get some good jump and guys started moving pucks around. We wanted to try and be aggressive on the forecheck when we could.”

The Wolves know staying out of the penalty box will go a long way towards helping extend the series and their season. Having each player play their role to a tee will also be welcomed.

“We are faced with do or die now,” Sudbury captain Kevin Raine said. “We have a great group of guys in the room. They just have to embrace their assets and talents and confidence and they have to bring it all Thursday.

"We have been saying that for a long time now. This is officially the last opportunity we have to wake up. We also can’t give up any more short-handed goals. It just can’t happen.“

Game notes

The three stars were: Andrew Mangiapane (first), Aaron Ekblad (second) and Nick Baptiste (third).
Sudbury scratched Austin Clapham, Jacob Harris, Conor Cummins and David Zeppieri.
Barrie scratched Mac Clutsam, Joseph Blandisi and Tyson Fawcett.

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