By Darren Lum
2016 was an up and down inaugural year for the Haliburton Wolves.
Although the team lost more than it won its last game on Thursday Feb. 11 against the visiting Almaguin Spartans was an example of heart under overwhelming odds.
First the Spartans are far and away better in the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League’s north division standings at third with 33 wins and have 47 more points as of Friday morning than Haliburton who finished 9-32-1.
Second this team edged out the second place north division’s Temiscaming Titans 3-2 in its last game.
Third the Wolves only had 12 players dress compared to the 20 that suited up for the Spartans who struggled to find room on the bench for all the players.
Faced with this challenge the home team didn’t buckle (get tired yes but did not capitulate).
They took a quick lead seconds into the game from a Nick Hunter goal taking advantage of a powerplay awarded at the start of the game when an Almaguin player skated over centre ice during the pre-game warmup.
Haliburton even held the larger Spartans down 1-0 for most of the first period keeping the pace high with strong skating and an emphasis on finishing their checks knocking much larger players off their feet to the delight of diehard fans.
Close to the six minute mark of the first the Wolves were tiring. Almaguin capitalized with a powerplay goal and then seconds later added an even-strength goal to go ahead 2-1 to end the first. The Spartans added another powerplay marker at the start of the second to lead 3-1.
Only minutes later the Spartans added another for the insurance marker to lead 4-1 which put the visitors ahead for good.
The three-goal deficit didn’t slow down or quell the tenacity of the Wolves. It was a testament to the team that has seen its fair share of challenges from injuries suspensions and absent players.
The Wolves will play the Temiscaming Titans in the GMHL playoffs this week courtesy of a Coldwater Falcons 9-6 loss and a better goals-for and goals-against differential than the Falcons who ended the season with the same record.
The best-of-five playoff series starts this week. Haliburton will host the Titans this Thursday.