Though relatively pleased with their defensive game on Saturday, the Sudbury Wolves were found wanting on the offensive side of the biscuit in a 4-0 loss to the Owen Sound Attack at Sudbury Community Arena on Saturday night.
Kaleb Pearson had two goals, while Kaleb Lawrence and Adam McMaster potted singles and Nick Chenard had a tidy, if not overly strenuous 20-save shutout for Owen Sound, which scored twice in each of the first and second periods to hand the Wolves their third straight defeat.
Sudbury goaltender Christian Purboo turned aside 25 shots.
“We simplified things for our guys tonight and just focused on defence first and cutting down on shots against, grade As and odd-man rushes, and I’m sure if we go back and look at the game tape from tonight, we did all three of those things, quite honestly, if we want to take some positives, which we have to do,” said Darryl Moxam, Sudbury’s associate coach. “We have one more game before the break and we can’t hang our heads and we want to go into the break feeling good about ourselves. We matched their intensity in the second and third, if not outmatched it, and those are things we have to build on for Friday.”
That’s when the Wolves, still first in the OHL’s Central Division at 18-14-1-0, host the London Knights in their final game before the holiday break.
“It’s a long season, we’re trying to tell our guys that, and we’re going to have our ups and downs,” Moxam said. “Right now, we’re in a bit of a lull, but we have to find a way on Friday to go into the break feeling good.”
While giving due credit to Owen Sound’s 17-year-old tender, Wolves overager Shane Bulitka agreed the Wolves could have made things tougher for him.
“I thought we were better defensively, but we just didn’t find a way to get anything on net or any chances on the cycle in behind their D, so it was frustrating,” Bulitka said.
“We only ended up with 20 shots and most of them were from the perimeter. We didn’t get into the blue paint at all and made his night easy.”
The Wolves did have some early opportunities, but it was Pearson who buried a rebound to open the scoring at 5:48 of the first. Lawrence added Owen Sound’s second marker on a shot that hit a body, bounced and wound up in Purboo’s net at 16:37.
The visitors has the lion’s share of opportunities as the period went on, eventually building a 12-3 shot advantage.
Sudbury looked to pressure in the second, and managed their best period in terms of offensive output with 11 shots, including one on a David Levin breakaway, but couldn’t put one past the Attack netminder.
McMaster, a forward filling in on defence, decided to drive down the wing and launced a hard shot into the far side of Purboo’s net at 10:52. Pearson added another goal with a screened shot, right off a faceoff win, at 13:43.
Neither team could muster much offence in the final frame, though a couple of Wolves, including veteran Macauley Carson, made their presence felt with big hits.
The likes of Carson and Bulitka, Sudbury’s co-captains, will be counted on as Sudbury prepares for a better outcome on Friday night.
“We’re going to need their leadership, for them to pick guys up,” Moxam said. “You’re already seeing it. That’s the thing about our team right now, the older guys won’t let guys get down and you see Cars and Bully and Levs and they’re all grabbing guys during the game, keeping guys up. They have been in this league a long time and they understand the ups and downs, and it’s up to those guys to basically right the ship this week and make sure everybody jumps on their backs.
“We’re going to plug through this. We’re going to stick together as a group and find a way to come out of it on Friday.”
Sudbury may be comfortable atop the division standings, but Bulitka doesn’t want to see his teammates get complacent.
“We want to be at the top,” he said. “I know we’re at the top of the Central Division, but that’s the weaker division right now in hockey. We want to compete with the Peterboroughs and the Ottawas of the East.”
Friday’s game starts at 7:05 p.m.