Wolves can’t maintain early momentum, spark power play in loss to North Bay

Goaltender Dom DiVincentiis and Tnias Mathurin of the North Bay Battalion are on the alert as Marc Boudreau of the visiting Sudbury Wolves looks for a scoring chance in their Ontario Hockey League game Thursday night. The Battalion visits the Barrie Colts on Saturday. Sean Ryan/Supplied jpg, SU

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Another quick start, another 4-1 defeat for the Sudbury Wolves.

Two days after dropping a similar decision in Barrie, this time the Wolves saw the North Bay Battalion overcome an early deficit to skate away with a victory on home ice Thursday night.

“We did some things really well, but we didn’t capitalize and we didn’t generate enough traffic around their net,” said Craig Duncanson, the Wolves’ head coach. “I think they got a couple of bounces that went their way and that’s the nature of the beast. I liked some things about our game and there are other things I think we have to execute a little bit better and pay a little more attention to in order to get the result we’re looking for.”

Jacob Holmes had the lone Sudbury marker, while Jonathan Lemaire made 28 saves for the Wolves, who fell to 10-20-3-1 with their second straight defeat.

Brandon Coe scored twice, while Alexander Lukin and Ty Nelson had singles and Dom DiVincentiis made 20 saves as the hosts improved to 19-12-2-2.

“Sometimes, there’s turnovers that are unnecessary and sometimes, it’s things that are very fixable,” Duncanson said. “We’re not attacking the puck through bodies, we’re jumping by guys and not cutting in front of them and making strong plays on the puck. When we do that against a bigger, older team, they win the puck and they start coming back at us and we’re in a world of hurt.”

After a showing glimmer in back-to-back games last week, Sudbury’s league-worst power play continued to struggle at North Bay Memorial Gardens, going scoreless on all three chances with the man advantage — most notably a four-on-three opportunity in the second period, when the Wolves trailed by only one goal.

“When we do the things we talk about in practice and we go over, and we talk about making a play as soon as we see it, we keep the puck live and we generate chances,” Duncanson suggested. “A couple of points where we had time to get some real good shots, we waited a little too long, waited until the play was closed off, and then it gets real challenging. They have good players, too.”

In a sequence that recalled their start in Barrie, the Wolves scored early in Thursday’s contest, only to have their opponents draw even a short time later.

This time it was Holmes, with a slapshot from the point, who put Sudbury on the board with his second goal of the season at 5:51 of the first. Kocha Delic earning an assist off some nice work on the forecheck, extending a point streak to seven games, while Payton Robinson had the other helper.

North Bay’s Lukin replied just 35 seconds later, circling around Lemaire’s goal and throwing a puck to the front of the net that banked off the Wolves netminder and in.

Nelson put the home side in front with a point shot of his own that eluded Lemaire with just 21 seconds left in the period, adding an exclamation mark to a frame in which the Battalion outshot the Wolves 16-6.

The Wolves certainly had their opportunities to tie during a much more even second stanza, enjoying a four-on-three power play and a brief five on five late in the frame, but couldn’t capitalize.

Instead it was Coe, only moments after North Bay returned to full strength, who snuck behind the Sudbury defence for a long breakaway and beat Lemaire with a low shot at 17:28.

The Battalion held an 11-9 edge in shots during the period.

While much has been said about the strong performance of his all-rookie line of Delic, David Goyette and Evan Konyen, who have combined for 21 points in five games since the OHL trade deadline, Duncanson admitted he’d like to see more offence from some of his older players.

“It’s not like they’re not pressing, they’re not trying, but sooner or later, they need to take charge. We shouldn’t be a team with just one line scoring. We should have everybody chipping in. We had a pretty balanced four lines tonight, our D played quite well, but we didn’t capitalize or generate and when we got good forechecks, we didn’t get enough traffic to the net and concentrate on the little things that get us the bounces.”

Coe picked up where he left off at 3:29 of the third, finishing a nice passing sequence with a power-play goal to give the Battalion a 4-1 lead.

Sudbury mounted a respectable comeback push in the final frame, showing well on the forecheck and pressuring aggressively even while short-handed en route to outshooting North Bay 6-5 over 20 minutes, but couldn’t slip another puck past a determined DiVincentiis.

The Wolves will hope for a better outcome when they finally return to home ice Friday night to take on the Oshawa Generals in a 7:05 p.m. start. Another visit to North Bay goes Sunday at 2 p.m., followed by a home game against the Barrie Colts next Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.

“We’re looking to take care of our house, this weekend, and bounce back,” Duncanson said. “We’re going to keep doing the things we do well and try to execute a little better on some of the things we’re short on and see if we can get the result we’re looking for.”


Twitter: @ben_leeson