Quinton Byfield couldn’t quite complete his first OHL hat trick Friday night, though that fact took very little away from another superb effort by the Sudbury Wolves forward.
And besides, he was more than content to come up short on a couple of attempts at the Oshawa Generals’ empty net, if his team still skated away with a 4-1 win on home ice.
“Obviously, I’d rather take the victory,” said Byfield, moments after the buzzer sounded on the 10th two-goal game of his major-junior career. “I’d rather have the team success.
“If we go far as a team, we’re all going to go far as individuals.”
He certainly appreciated the efforts of his teammates to feed him for a late trifecta.
“They tried to set me up a few times,” Byfield said with a smile. “But hey, it’s not meant to be, all in all, and that’s OK.”
Kosta Manikis and Macauley Carson also scored and Christian Purboo was simply brilliant in making 45 saves, raising his save percentage to .905 for the season, as the Wolves improved to 14-8-0-0.
“I think we played pretty good hockey,” Byfield said. “That’s the No. 2-ranked team in the CHL and we held our own.
“I think our goalie played outstanding. Purboo has really found his game and he’s playing exceptional right now. It definitely gives us confidence back there. We had Ukko (-Pekka Luukkonen) doing that last year and now Purbs is definitely standing on his head for us, and we know we can make plays and not be afraid to turn it over sometimes.”
Allan McShane scored and Zachary Paputsakis made 25 saves for the Generals, who fell to 14-4-0-1.
Purboo was in fine form to start the contest, sprinkling several big stops among his 15 in the first period. After turning aside a flurry on a late power play for the Gens, however, Sudbury’s netminder appeared to be beaten during a wild goal-mouth scramble.
Cory Stillman attempted to get the call overturned due to goalie interference, using the OHL’s new coach’s challenge, and while that was unsuccessful, the goal was still disallowed due to a hand pass.
Wolves defenceman Jack Thompson took a hard hit from Gens winger Daniel Walker, a Val Caron native, and left for the dressing room leaving a trail of blood. He didn’t return during the frame, but was back for the second.
The Generals held a 15-8 edge in shots after 20 minutes.
Byfield drew first blood in the figurative sense, at 7:31 of the middle stanza, on what seemed a fairly innocent play by the star sophomore.
Coming to the end of a lengthy shift and looking spent, Byfield skated in front of his bench and fired a shot toward Paputsakis that caught the Oshawa keeper unawares and ended up in the back of his cage.
Peter Stratis and Emmett Serensits collected assists on Byfield’s team-leading 15th of the season.
Byfield’s second of the game, and 16th of the year, came on a pretty play at 16:15.
With Sudbury enjoying a man advantage, David Levin fed his teammate near the goal line and in a brilliant display of skill, Byfield went quickly from forehand to backhand to beat Paputsakis on the far side.
Thompson also assisted.
Shots were 30-21 in Oshawa’s favour by the end of the second.
The Generals kept coming to start the third, and McShane spoiled Purboo’s shutout bid with a hard finish from the slot at 10:28.
Manikis answered only 23 seconds later, however, capitalizing on a turnover for his third of the season and putting a damper on the visitors’ comeback hopes.
Owen Robinson had the lone helper.
Energized by their third tally, the Wolves started to pressure later in the frame, resulting in Carson’s fifth of the year, on a shot from the high slot, at 15:53. Nolan Hutcheson and Liam Ross had the assists.
The game was a nice change, Byfield said, after a ho-hum effort in a loss to the Soo Greyhounds on Wednesday.
“Our effort wasn’t great that game. We were losing a lot of puck races and battles in the corners, we weren’t very strong on them and we got outshot, and we just wanted to turn that around. I think we were a lot harder on pucks tonight and we still got outshot, but there were a lot of perimeter shots. I think we held them to the outside really well.”
He’ll hope for a similar effort on Sunday, when the Wolves host the Hamilton Bulldogs. Game time is 2:05 p.m.
Friday was the Wolves’ fifth annual Superhero Game. Players wore Thor-inspired jerseys which were auctioned off to support the Children’s Wish Foundation.
“Giving back is definitely something I want to do,” Byfield said. “I’m lucky to be in the spot I am right now, so giving back is definitely important to me.”