Two streaks ended on Wednesday night, and neither to the benefit of the Sudbury Wolves.
The Wolves were flat-out outplayed, in the opinion of head coach Cory Stillman, in a 6-2 loss to the Soo Greyhounds at Sudbury Community Arena, which saw their own win streak halted at four games and the visitors’ losing skid stopped at seven.
“We knew they had lost some games, they made some changes, got a goaltender, and you could see the lift that they had,” Stillman said. “They got back to their old style of taking some chances, their goalie made some saves, too, and when we had opportunities to shoot, to get pucks in, we became cute. You turn pucks over against them, they’re going to score goals.”
Macauley Carson and Blake Murray scored for the Wolves, who fell to 13-8-0-0 on the season. Mitchell Weeks stopped 27 shots and may have wanted a second look at a couple of others, though he alone could not be blamed for Wednesday’s result.
“We didn’t play our game,” said Carson, Sudbury’s co-captain. “I know a lot of people say that, but for us, it’s playing hard and outworking other teams. We have guys who are really skilled, who can put the puck in the net, but it starts with how hard we work and I think they out-competed, out-battled us tonight. We had spurts of good effort, but it just didn’t cut it.”
Alex Johnston, twice, Zack Trott, Tanner Dickinson, Tye Kartye and Jaromir Pytlik supplied the scoring for the Soo, which improved to 7-12-1-0. Bailey Brkin made 29 saves and looked every bit like a veteran goalie in his first OHL game.
The Wolves fell behind 4-0 by the midway mark of the second frame, before Carson answered on the power play. The locals made it a two-goal affair shortly thereafter, but that was as close as they got.
“I think everyone prepares for the game and everyone is ready to play before every game, but it’s a matter of executing,” Carson said. “We came out and I think we started all right, but we became flat, a little stagnant. It doesn’t matter what place they are in the standings, they’re a good team and our Northern rivals. We play them six times and they’re going to try win all those points.
“I think it was just a bad effort by us. We played well for parts of the game, but not for a full 60.”
Indeed, the Wolves looked slightly out of sync for parts of the opening frame, enjoying a fair amount of time in the offensive zone and even generating the first four shots, but not creating much in the way of quality scoring chances. They also committed more than their share of turnovers against a speedy, skilled Soo squad.
Johnston opened the scoring for the visitors at 13:18, stepping into the high slot and firing a quick shot that beat Weeks on the glove side.
Shots after one period were 13-8 in the Hounds’ favour.
Sudbury was handed a power play early in the second, but got a little loose and turned the disc over again, resulting in a turnover and Johnston’s breakaway goal just 1:46 into the period.
Trott buried a backhand off a faceoff at 5:03, then Dickinson scored on a Kartye rebound with Weeks sprawling at 7:16 to give the Soo a commanding 4-0 lead.
The Wolves fared much better on their next power play, a five-on-three advantage with both Dickinson and Jacob LeGuerrier in the box, and Carson tipped a Quinton Byfield shot for his fourth of the season at 11:06. Murray also had an assist.
Byfield’s helper was his 100th point as an OHLer, in just his 85th game.
Murray added another tally for the Sudbury squad at 13:02, gathering up a loose puck before spinning and firing a shot past Brkin.
The Wolves pressed for another, but instead it was Kartye who answered with shot off the rush that squeaked through Weeks’ pads at 16:45.
The Hounds succeeded at times in getting under the Wolves’ skin. Byfield took a roughing minor in the first period, after taking cross-check in the back by LeGuerrier after a whistle, and Levin dropped the gloves with Jaden Peca late in the second stanza, after taking exception to a late hit by Bill Constantinou. Wolves rookie Landon McCallum also engaged Hounds veteran Joe Carroll in a brief scrap.
Asked if he had any issues with his team’s discipline, however, Stillman shook his head.
“We’re a hard-nosed team,” Sudbury’s coach said. “We come and compete, play hard, play between whistles and we’ll see what happens. They showed up. They probably had some hard practices and they wanted to prove to their coach that they want to play.”
Shots were 25-16 in the Soo’s favour after 40 minutes.
The Wolves were able to pressure the Soo defence early in the third, but again, Grade A opportunities were hard to come by, and instead it was Pytlik who fired another one past Weeks at 7:42.
Watching his players pass up a few good looks for an additional pass, Stillman urged them to keep thing simple.
“Good things happen when you shoot the puck and you go to the net,” he said. “There’s a rebound, there’s a goal. And hit the net on it. But today, it was not a good game, right from the get go. We got off to a 4-0 shot lead and maybe we thought it was going to be easy. Then the ice tilted and we could never catch up.”
The Wolves return to action on Friday, hosting the Oshawa Generals at 7:05 p.m.
“Practice is a big part for our success,” Carson said. “We practise hard and a lot and it’s going to pay off down the stretch. I think when we go into practice tomorrow, we have to make sure we’re crisp, prepare like we’re going into the game Friday, then we’re setting ourselves up pretty well. That’s the mind set we have to have and hopefully, we can salvage the weekend by getting a couple of wins here.”
Sudbury welcomed McCallum and Chase Stillman back to the lineup after they competed at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge last week. The Wolves were without veteran winger Nolan Hutcheson, who was hurt blocking a shot on Saturday, but is expected to return Friday night.