Playing a solid 60 minutes of hockey can go a long way in the Great North Midget Hockey League, a fact that was made evident to the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves Wednesday night at the Countryside Arena.
Displaying one of their more complete efforts of the season, the local AAA midgets racked up a 6-3 win over the visiting North Bay Trappers, moving into a fourth place tie with their GNML rivals in the process.
After a scoreless opening frame, veteran Peter Poulin-Roy got Sudbury on the board early in the second, burying his 11th goal of the season. Zack Innes, Dalton Ghent and Steven Johnston joined Poulin-Roy on the scoresheet before Randy Amyot finally solved Wolves' netminder Brendan Chilton in the dying seconds of period number two.
The Trappers looked ready to make a game of it when Michael Mason drew the Gateway City crew to within two at 3:21 of the third period, but Ghent countered that quickly, netting his second of the game two minutes later.
Kieran Peltier rounded out the North Bay scoring with three minutes remaining before Brandon Jones fired into an empty net, giving Sudbury the series lead with the Trappers.
"North Bay comes out hitting, so we have to get the puck in deep and hit them back," said defenceman Dylan Ransom, a second year midget enjoying his first season with the Nickel Capital Wolves. "When they come into our barn, we can't lose."
While Ransom has been a familiar face on the back-end of Sudbury AAA teams in the past, the move to midget brings with it a step up to the larger ice surface at Countryside, a clear challenge for the smooth-skating blueliner.
"With a bigger ice surface, there's a lot more room for them to try and get around me," he said. "I don't like it very much. I prefer smaller rinks — it's easier to hit people."
"We've been stressing headmanning the puck, moving the puck very quickly, shooting the puck in deep and trying to limit our turnovers," Sudbury coach Peter Michelutti Jr. said after the game. "When we do that, and use our speed, we get to put a lot of pressure on their defencemen, we cause turnovers and get opportunities. That's exactly what we did in the second period, getting a couple of goals.
"They're buying into our system," Michelutti added. "They realize that we're a young team and that we don't have the offensive firepower of some teams in the league. We have to play a system, and that's eliminate turnovers, making sure we don't give up a lot of odd man rushes."
With only two 17-year-olds pencilled into a roster that includes nine first-year midgets, the man who guided the Sudbury midgets to a Telus Cup Championship a few years back knows all too well that his players with GNML experience will need to be relied upon heavily if this club is to enjoy a little post-season success.
"James Dent and Peter Poulin-Roy had very good games today — and I have to give credit to Dalton Ghent," Michelutti said. "It was one of his best games of the year. With his speed, when he goes and he makes smart decisions, he's one of the better players in this league."
The Nickel Capital Wolves also continued their recent trend of bringing along a few affiliated players, as bantam defenceman Bradley Bell and highly-regarded OHL prospect Ryan Kujawinski both suited up, with both youngsters picking up an assist in their first taste of GNML action.
Sudbury closes out their pre-Christmas campaign, travelling to North Bay Saturday and welcoming the Kapuskasing Flyers to Countryside on Sunday, while the Nickel City Sons host the Kirkland Lake Legion 87's on Saturday before heading off for an important showdown with the Soo North Stars the next afternoon in the Lock City.