By John Langdon
By winning six of their past eight games, the Sudbury Wolves have climbed into the playoff race by pushing themselves into seventh place of the Eastern Conference and leap frogging the Belleville Bulls in the standings.
So, with Belleville sitting in Sudbury’s rear-view mirror, the Wolves looked to carry the momentum into Friday night when they hosted the Bulls at Sudbury Community Arena.
What began on a positive note for the Wolves, failed to result in the same manner as the visiting team capitalized on four scoring chances in the first period to earn a 5-3 win and climb two points closer to Sudbury in the standings.
“I was really happy with our first 5 minutes,” said Wolves Head Coach Trent Cull. “I thought we came out with the start that I wanted.”
After jumping out of the gates at the beginning of the game, the Wolves carried the momentum early by moving both their legs and the puck quickly.
They were rewarded with an early goal on their first shot of the game when a point shot from defenceman Frank Corrado was redirected off a Bulls player and past Belleville goaltender Malcom Subban at 1:24 of the opening frame.
Sitting with an early lead, the Wolves began to make mental mistakes which eventually turned the game around in favour of the Bulls.
The Sudbury bench was called for too many men on the ice at 5:17, giving Belleville an opportunity to even the score. The Bulls did exactly that when Luke Judson redirected a point shot past Wolves goaltender Alain Valiquette for his first of the night.
“That’s almost inexcusable at that point,” Cull said in regards to the too many men penalty.
“Even on the (penalty kill) we had an opportunity to get those pucks out. After that I thought we got a little bit out of character. We started to play a little bit more selfish,” Cull added.
Just 31 seconds after the tying goal, the Belleville captain netted his second goal of the game after the Wolves lost focus in the defensive zone which allowed Bulls forward Carter Sandlak to make a nice play behind the Sudbury net and find an open Judson who buried a laser shot for his team-leading 21st goal of the season.
The Bulls added to their lead not even four minutes later on a well executed play which started in their own zone and ended in the back of the Wolves net when forward Scott Simmonds broke into the Sudbury zone on his off-wing and fired a backhand shot past Valiquette. Forwards Braeden Corbeth and Dylan Corson provided the assists.
Poor defensive zone work on the Wolves’ part proved to be vulnerable once again when Belleville’s Andy Bathgate managed to slide a pass through three Wolves players and find Austen Brassard in the slot for a one-timer to give the Bulls a comfortable 4-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Stephen Silas also contributed an assist on the play for his second helper of the game.
The Wolves capitalized on a power play opportunity in the second period when Michael Sgarbossa won a draw back to Corrado who set up defensive partner Josh McFadden for a blast from the point which beat Subban to make it a 4-2 game.
However, as the game progressed, things wouldn’t get any easier for Sudbury as Sgarbossa dropped the gloves with Bjorn Krupp, resulting in the Wolves’ top goal scorer being handed a combined 27 minutes in penalties to end his night.
Wolves captain Marcus Foligno was ejected from the game with a 10 minute misconduct at 7:16 of the third period after expressing his disagreement with a minor hooking call.
The Wolves head coach admits it was a tough night to keep emotions in check, but said his players should know better.
“You can’t have that lack of discipline at that juncture, especially from Marcus,” Cull said.
“It’s a frustrating night though, I admit, being part of that. That’s the worst game I’ve seen here so far with my experience in the league with officials.”
After Belleville reestablished a two goal lead in the final frame, Sudbury’s Eric O’Dell buried a loose puck to make it 5-3 but that’s as close as the Wolves would get as Subban held off a late surge to help lock up a road win for Belleville.
Subban registered 22 saves in the win, while Belleville outshot Sudbury 34-25 in the game.
The Wolves will look to bounce back from the loss when they return to action on Saturday night as they host the Guelph Storm at Sudbury Community Arena. Game time is scheduled for 7pm.