A record of 0-4 might not be the prettiest, but this young Sudbury Wolves team is making strides near the end of the pre-season.
A 40-shot effort and a couple firsts didn’t end in celebration as the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds escaped Sudbury with a 4-3 shootout win in their first exhibition game.
“It’s never fun to not get the two points, but I mean we have to be quite happy with the way we were playing tonight,” said Wolves Associate Coach Darryl Moxam.
“Things are starting to come, we had a great week of practice this week. You can see guys are starting to play as a five-man unit out there … but I mean at the end of the day, we’ve got to start finding ways to get two points before the regular season starts.”
Quinton Byfield, the Wolves’ No. 1 pick, is starting to find his rhythm, creating the space he needs to get that cannon of a shot off. He picked up his first goal of the pre-season last night and is starting to really gel with linemate Macauley Carson.
“Definitely a big relief off the shoulders, scoring, but it was a nice set up by Carson,” Byfield said after the game.
He finished with three shots on net, missing narrowly on a few good looks.
“Coach told me to shoot more,” the 16-year-old Newmarket native said. “He said all the 50-goal scorers, 40-plus goal scorers, last year, they had like 200 shots on net, (and) I want to get up there with them, so I’ve got to shoot the puck more.”
With a few Wolves off to NHL training camps, there was a chance for some younger players to log a lot of ice time. And for one call-up from the NOJHL, it was a chance to show he belongs at this level.
Eric Eschweiler played 58 games in the QMJHL in the 2016-2017 season for the Gatineau Olympiques. He spent last season with two teams in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League and has appeared in two games this season with the Rayside-Balfour Canadians.
He was able to pick up a goal in the first period, put two shots on net, finish with a plus-two rating and get in on several key plays down the stretch.
“I’m really happy to be here,” said Eschweiler. “I did play in the QMJHL, so I feel like I’m really happy to be back at this level and really taking advantage of it, having fun.”
The coaching staff was happy with his effort.
“They thought I played really well so just to keep it up and you know, perform tomorrow at the same way,” said Eschweiler.
Sudbury trailed in the game twice, but battled back in the third period, getting a timely goal from Anthony Tabak on the power play.
Peter Stratis, Macauley Carson, Nolan Hutcheson, Cole Candella and Owen Robinson all picked up assists on the night.
In exhibition matches, there’s no overtime, so tied games go straight to the shootout. It was the Greyhounds’ fourth shooter, Dominic Mufarreh, who ended the game.
Next, Sudbury heads to Timmins tomorrow to play a neutral-site game against Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL.
Wolves staff say the game is all but sold out.
They then will head to Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday to play their final exhibition game before the season opens September 21.
Nick Liard covers the Sudbury Wolves for Sudbury.com, provides game commentary for the Wolves on Eastlink, and serves as news director at 92.7 Rock and Kiss 105.3.