Says players will have to clean up the game to secure a playoff spot

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They are just four games past the OHL trade deadline, but the Sudbury Wolves’ performance over the past week has left their general manager optimistic about the team’s potential, while also feeling confident. that they still have a long way to go before this potential is fully realized.


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Wolves vice-president of hockey operations Rob Papineau acquired defenseman Jacob Holmes and forward Marc Boudreau from the Soo Greyhounds on Jan. 10, along with a draft pick, while shipping veteran defenseman and captain Jack Thompson to Sault Ste. Married. He also brought in rookie forward Alex Pharand from Sudbury, and other Peterborough Petes picks, in exchange for star forward Chase Stillman, and picked up a final draft pick from the Hamilton Bulldogs, with home winger Gio Biondi heading for the hammer.

Since then, Wolves have posted a 2-1-0-1 record, first beating the aforementioned Petes to snap an eight-game losing streak, then winning lopsidedly against the Kingston Frontenacs, in a case aired at nationwide, before losing. in a shooting in Ottawa.

Rookie forward David Goyette, who has five goals and two assists in three games, was named OHL Player of the Week — the first Wolf to earn the honor since Thompson in the first week of the regular season — and overage goaltender Mitchell Weeks, who posted a .924 save percentage while making a league-high 109 saves, was named goaltender of the week.

Goyette and Weeks had their moments again last Tuesday, but the Wolves suffered their first regulation loss since the deadline, 4-1 in Barrie. They have a chance to get back into the win column with a visit to North Bay Thursday at 7 p.m.

“We were very satisfied with the results of this first weekend,” said Papineau. “It was a big weekend for us. But we’re a young team at the moment, we’ve got a lot of talent, and for this team to be successful, we’re really going to have to focus on the parts of the game that don’t. really isn’t as natural for some of these guys, growing up and being the best minor midget players – the defensive side of the game, making smart plays, making sure we handle pucks at the blue lines really well, making sure we manage the pucks very well through the neutral zone.


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“It’s a game where often the team that makes fewer mistakes can win, and we have a lot of ability to capitalize on other teams’ mistakes and score.”

Wolves need to be disciplined, Papineau said, and not just to avoid unnecessary penalties. Despite all their skill, Sudbury’s general manager suggested, his skaters will be more successful if they avoid forcing low percentage plays and instead choose clean, easy courses.

“We have to manage it through the neutral zone, so we go through with some speed, with some possession, and if there is no play, reach that red line, drive it deep and use the speed of our forwards to put pressure and keep the puck in their end of the ice, and we will have success,” added Papineau.

“We have guys with a lot of natural talent and I think by playing with cleaner lines through the blue lines and the neutral zone, I think we’ll have a much better chance of earning that playoff spot.”

Tuesday’s game against Barrie, a team that has surged in recent weeks, may have offered some hard lessons. While Wolves took the lead early, with first-year teammates Evan Konyen, Kocha Delic and Goyette continuing the consistent production, they also gave up several odd rushes and even a few breakaways while allowing four unanswered goals. When they had chances, veteran puckkeeper Mack Guzda was there to deny them.

“They weren’t really creating a lot of odd rushes by defending up their sleeve and then running away,” Papineau said. “It was mostly in transition, where we were going into the zone and making a play on the blue line which is a bit more risky, instead of a simpler play.


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“Mitchell has been great this year, but we also have to support him and try to minimize those Grade A chances. When we defend in our end, we can watch the pucks a bit. We have to trust our teammates, believe that they are doing their job on the ice and doing a very good job protecting the middle of the ice, in front of our net.

Reducing penalty minutes, especially for batting infractions such as hooks, trips, high sticks and jabs, will allow the Pack to make the most of their speed and skill on a push in the playoffs playoffs, he said.

“We have to be the most disciplined team in the East down the stretch. When we play five-on-five, without killing penalties, we give ourselves a much better chance.

Although he likes the look of his young squad, Papineau said his older players have the opportunity to fill key roles over the next few weeks. This goes for skaters born in 2003 such as Holmes, Boudreau, Ethan Larmand, Landon McCallum and Andre Anania, among others, as well as 2002s like Dylan Robinson, Nick DeGrazia or Ryan Smith, for whom a solid second half could go a long way towards earning a consideration for a passing spot next season. Wolves will continue to rely on their 2001s, including Weeks, new captain Liam Ross and forward Dominik Jendek, to set a good example on and off the ice.

“It’s about playing hard, being good point guards and playing the game the right way, and some of them have that experience,” Papineau said. “It’s being really good in the locker room, being really good on the ice and dealing with some of the ups and downs of a young team. When you balance that out and keep it a little more focused, you tend to get a little more consistency.


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Wolves could not have done these deals with confidence, he pointed out, if not for the improved play of Goyette, Delic and Konyen, or the promise shown by their latest crop of draft picks, headlined by from the likes of Quentin Musty, Alex Assadourian and Matty Mania. Some seem to have taken their games to a new level already, Papineau said, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement as Sudbury tries to build itself a Memorial Cup contender.

“We are really happy after the trade deadline,” he said. “We really like the players we’ve brought in and the draft picks we’ve been able to add, which will give us a lot of options as we move forward, to support this group. I was really happy with the response from the team and I think we can do very well if we just focus on the areas we talked about.

Twitter: @ben_leeson


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