With smooth-skating defenceman Kyle Fransen sidelined due to injury and fellow blueliner Niibin Nashkawa limited to somewhat spot duty, the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves need a complete team effort to enjoy any type of success.
The team responded with exactly that Dec.12 at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex, registering a 4-1 win over the Nickel City Sons.
Jackson Gunner opened the scoring in the first period, Michael Laidley and Dylan Callaghan scored just over a minute apart in the second, and rookie Eric Paquette hit the top corner on the power play in the third as the Nickel Capital Wolves reclaimed top spot in the Great North Midget League.
With the Soo North Stars only two points back with six games in hand, it's safe to say the Sooites still hold the upper hand.
On this night, however, Sudbury was full value for the win, holding the Sons to a first-period goal from Ryan Punkari as the coaching staff continues to drill home their message.
“It was a good effort for the most part,” said Sudbury coach Peter Michelutti Jr. “What we're trying to do is be more consistent as a team, playing three full periods, and again today, it still wasn't a full effort.”
“That's what we need to buy into as a team if we really want to be a top team contender in this league,” Michelutti said.
The absence of Franzen and more limited icetime that Nashkawa has seen of late have taken their toll, he said.
“We've been playing with three defencemen for the last month or so,” said Michelutti. “We do have to adjust. No excuses, but it has taken away from our game.”
With head coach Joel Whissell out of town with work commitments, it was left to assistants Dave Berthelot and Dennis Whissell to handle the bench for the Sons, providing generally fairly positive feedback on the outing.
“I thought it was a pretty good game,” said Berthelot. “It was closer than the score indicated. We gave Sudbury a couple of chances and you do that with a good team, they're going to burn you.”
“They've got some power over there. When you give them an opportunity, they're going to bury it. Congrats to Sudbury, but not so good for us.”
Fully aware of the lineup their opponents were icing, the Sons designed a game plan aimed to capitalize on key absences.
“I thought our forecheck was pretty good,” said Berthelot.
“We took advantage of the fact that they have a defenceman who is pretty good with the puck who is out. We tried to get it deep and wear them down.”
Both teams added reinforcements for the game, with Sudbury calling up Copper Cliff Redmen rearguard Marcus Rouleau while Nickel City added minor midgets Cameron Lizotte and Ashton Roy to their lineup.
Both the Wolves and the Sons play one game only this weekend, with both local teams making the trek to North Bay. Sudbury will face the Trappers Saturday evening in the Gateway City, with Nickel City battling the North Bay crew the next afternoon.