A 1-0 loss to the high-flying Soo North Stars on Dec. 30 will likely qualify, quite easily, as the most rewarding loss the Nickel City Sons endure all year.
With a record of 11-11-0-2, the Sons manage to stick right with the undefeated league leaders (24-0-0-1), allowing just a second-period goal to Devin Shell and slowing down considerably what is far and away the most potent offence in the Great North Midget League.
“With the game plan we had and the way the kids executed and played, I'm not that surprised,” said Nickel City head coach Joel Whissell earlier this week.
“We wanted to make sure to limit the odd-man rushes and keep them to the outside,” he said.
Throw in another spectacular performance from draft-eligible goaltender Kevin Labelle and you have the makings of a contest that came right down to the wire.
“Whenever we had breakdowns, Kevin was fantastic,” said Whissell. “It was probably our best game of the year.”
With veteran Ryan Fraser still sidelined with a shoulder injury and Tyler Beauparlant out with the flu, the Sons called upon the Nickel City Minor Midgets, with a twist.
The Midget AAA Sons summoned the services of forward Scott Villeneuve, but threw him back on the blueline, out of necessity.
Villeneuve has played defence at various points throughout his career in Valley East, last seeing action regularly, as a rearguard, during the Bantam AAA playoffs in March of 2012.
“It took him a couple of shifts to settle in,” said Whissell. “But he did some really nice work eating up minutes and giving us a big body back there.”
The Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves are also taking several positives away from their first appearance at the Cogeco Golden Horseshoe Midget AAA Tournament, held Dec. 27-30, in spite of finishing the event with a record of 0-2-2.
Backing out a 6-2 loss at the hands of the Brampton 45s, the Sudbury midgets surrendered only four goals against in their remaining three games, giving the team at least the chance to win in each of those encounters.
“If you look at our record, it didn't seem like we were successful,” said Nickel Capital Wolves head coach Peter Michelutti Jr.
“But I thought it was a pretty good weekend in terms of the direction we need to go in. Being patient and paying attention to detail — it's that mental part that is most challenging.
“We need the players to trust the system that we're doing. The players are understanding it, slowly but surely.”
Heading into the tournament without the services of both Andrew Dodge and D.J. Hancock initially due to suspensions incurred against North Bay, the Wolves were further hampered during the event itself.
Jackson Gunner and captain Michael Laidley were tagged with majors during their time in Burlington, with the latter still having to serve another four games as GNML play resumes this weekend.
Compounding matters, the team might be without the offensive wizardry at the back-end of Kyle Fransen. The Sudbury Wolves' prospect continues to battle through a nagging injury, seeing some action at the tournament over the holidays but still questionable, according to Michelutti, as the Kapuskasing Flyers prepare to visit town on Jan. 5.