By John Langdon
Sudbury Community Arena was the place to be in the Nickel City on Saturday night where the hometown Wolves clashed with the Guelph Storm in a game that delivered great goals, great fights, great saves, and an unbelievable finish.
After giving up a two goal lead in the third period and being called for a penalty in the final minute of a 6-6 game, it seemed as though the Sudbury Wolves were staring into the barrel of a gun and it was just a matter of time before Guelph’s power play unit pulled the trigger.
However, Wolves forward Michael MacDonald had other plans.
As frantic action transpired within the Sudbury zone in the dying seconds and Guelph players pressed for the go-ahead goal, MacDonald stole the puck at his own blueline, broke into the Storm zone on a breakaway and beat goaltender Brandon Foote to put the Wolves ahead 7-6 with only 2.8 seconds remaining.
“It was definitely my biggest career goal [as a member of the Sudbury Wolves],” MacDonald said.
The Thunder Bay native leaped into the glass and was mobbed my teammates at the Wolves bench after scoring the game-winning goal. It’s fair to say it was a special moment for MacDonald and his teammates to win in such dramatic fashion.
“It was one of those feelings in hockey you can’t describe,” MacDonald added. “It’s like what you grow up dreaming of, even though it’s just a regular season game. Scoring a goal like that is always one of the best feelings in hockey.”
While the Wolves bench exploded out of joy and excitement, the Guelph bench exploded for entirely different reasons. As MacDonald entered the Storm zone, he momentarily lost control of the puck near the blue line and possibly put himself offside. The linesmen allowed play to continue which caused an uproar from the visiting team.
Guelph Storm Head Coach Scott Walker expressed his disagreement with the non-call but didn’t hold the officials accountable for his team’s loss.
“It was definitely offside but that’s besides the point,” Walker said. “Guys shouldn’t get a breakaway on a penalty kill. We got guys trying to do spin-o-ramas out there on the power play with under ten seconds left.”
MacDonald also shared his thoughts on the play.
“It did occur to me that I possibly could have [been offside] because the puck seemed to stop right on the line,” the Wolves forward said. “I wasn’t sure what the call was going to be, but obviously it was called onside and it gave me a good chance to get in there and score.”
After second period goals from forwards Josh Leivo and Eric O’Dell put Sudbury ahead with a commanding 5-2 lead, the physical tone elevated which resulted in fisticuffs being thrown between Wolves defenceman Justin Sefton and Storm forward Michael Latta. Minutes later, Brody Silk and Cody McNaughton dropped the gloves in a heated exchange.
The Wolves were in the driver’s seat heading into the final frame with a 5-3 lead. However, the Storm turned the tide by scoring two quick goals early in the third. First, Guelph leading scorer Taylor Beck buried his second goal of the game by finishing a nice passing play from linemates Latta and Richard Panik to pull within one. Then just 51 seconds later, Scott Kosmachuk fired home a shot past screened Wolves goaltender Alain Valiquette to even the score.
With the momentum shifting in Guelph’s favour, the Storm silenced the home crowd by taking the lead at 16:42 of the third period. Francis Menard found himself alone in front of the Sudbury net and beat Valiquette.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as Greg Jambrosich flew into the Storm zone and hammered a hard slap shot past Foote just 12 seconds later to tie the game 6-6.
It appeared as though overtime was on the horizon until Guelph was awarded a late power play with just one minute remaining. Wolves captain Marcus Foligno was called for a retaliatory slash.
However, reliable goaltending by Valiquette allowed his team to weather the storm while an opportunistic MacDonald capitalized on the shorthanded breakaway to give the Wolves a 7-6 win.
MacDonald and Foligno each found themselves playing with new linemates on Saturday. MacDonald was moved to the top line playing alongside Michael Sgarbossa and Mike Lomas, while Foligno found himself on a line with O’Dell and Andrey Kuchin.
“I wanted to add a little bit of a spark and change things up,” Wolves Head Coach Trent Cull said. “MacDonald’s a good player for us but I want him doing better, and I know Marcus is a good leader. He’s going to play with anybody.”
The move by the Wolves bench boss proved to be wise as both MacDonald and Foligno registered 1 goal apiece and a combined 5 points.
Guelph goaltender Garret Sparks was pulled midway through the second period after the rookie netminder allowed 5 goals on 17 shots and was replaced by the veteran Foote.
Valiquette turned away 37 shots between the pipes for Sudbury to earn his 18th win this season.