By Darren Lum
Heading into the final stretch of games of the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League’s regular season the Wolves gave their home fans something to cheer for beating the Coldwater Falcons 6-2 in a penalty marred game.
The win on Thursday at the A.J. LaRue proved to be very sweet for the north division’s eighth place Wolves as it ended a six game losing streak and added distance to the ninth place team.
Wolves coach Josh Shaw said it was important win for the morale of the team.
“We needed it for the morale of the dressing room because you know they were starting to get a little testy. Practices started to get a little heated which is not necessarily a bad thing because the boys were showing they cared and showed some passion so that I didn’t mind. We needed this to kind of exhale a little bit” he said.
This was Shaw’s second time coaching against Coldwater after the 9-6 loss at home on Jan. 10.
Shaw called the win “a little bit of payback.”
He loved his team’s first period when the team took the body completing checks and out hustled their opponents. They even stayed out of the penalty box (except for offsetting minors) and capitalized with a pair of powerplay goals for the 3-0 lead.
Although the team cruised to victory it wasn’t without some challenge in the second and third period.
Shaw said the team spent most of the second and half the third in the penalty box. The Falcons did their best to help out though filling up their score sheet with penalties warranting an additional sheet.
“The boys did a good job killing the penalties off and you saw what we finished with. We had three or four guys on the bench so the boys dug deep and came away with it” he said.
Wolves’ team assistant Connor Sikma scored the eventual game-winner and led the team in points but also played physical and strongly at the backend even diving in front of a puck in front of the net in the last seconds of the game with the win already secured.
“It’s his first game back. He’s been itching to get back for a couple of weeks so he’s one of them” he said referring to the concussion that forced his defenceman to miss a few games. “Nick Hunter another one. Another guy that [usually doesn’t get] noticed is Dave Nashalook. I swear to God he leads the league in blocked shots because he gets them up here” he said pointing to his chest. “At the end of the game he’s filled with bruises. The guys do throw their bodies in front of the pucks and they lay their bodies on the line for the team which shows a lot of heart.”
Sikma finished with three points (two goals and an assist). He was named the second start of the game.
Zack Thorsen got the Wolves going with the first goal of the game and finished with two points adding an assist on James Kilgore’s goal in the second period.
Ryan Hunter added one with a minute to go in the first after connecting with Thorsen for an assist.
Hunter had two points before his altercation led him to be ejected from the game.
Malik Henry rounded out the scoring in the third period to finish the game 6-2.
Other assists came from Nick Hunter (two) and Lachlan McKenzie.
Starting Wolves goalie Motoki Watanabe got the nod for the first star turning aside 41 saves for a .953 save percentage. It’s his fifth win of the season.
With the playoffs looming the win was important to stay ahead of ninth place Coldwater.
The playoff format dictates that ninth and 10th place teams must play in a sudden death single game.
The winner plays the eighth place team in a one game playoff and then the winner of this game moves on to the playoffs with the rest of the league as the last seed to play the best of the north division in a new series.
Watanabe’s brother Maskaki re-injured his wrist and is done for the season.
Defenceman Jacob Bishop forward Jayden Southwind and Braydin Hollows missed the Coldwater game due to suspension. All of them are expected to play for the team.
Andres Roy served a two game suspension for fighitng after the whistle and will return this week. McKenzie who was facing suspension for intent to injure is likely gone for the season.
Consistent play is something Shaw wants more of but with suspensions and injuries he recognizes the challenge of a depleted roster and accepts what he can expect from his team.
“The thing is to get them to play well consistently. It’s hard to ask them to skate full tilt every shift. All I do is I just ask them to give me 100 per cent every shift. Whatever they got” he said.
Since writing this article the Wolves lost on the road 17-3 on Friday to the South Muskoka Shield (32-5-1) and then bounced back at home on Sunday with a 18-8 win against the north division basement dwelling Bobcaygeon Storm (3-32-1). Records as of Sunday Jan. 31.
The Wolves’ Zack Thorsen scored the eventual game-winner and earned the first star in the win. He ended up with five goals and seven assists while teammates Nick Hunter who had 11 points (four goals and seven assists)and James Kilgore who had nine points (four goals and five assists) rounded out the star selections in that order.