Wolves look for strong start: Pack hosts Barrie, travels to Owen Sound, Guelph this weekend

Nolan Hutcheson, right, of the Sudbury Wolves, and Nathan Allensen, of the Barrie Colts, battle for possession of the puck during OHL action at the Sudbury Community Arena in Sudbury, Ont. on Friday December 7, 2018. John Lappa/Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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Cory Stillman likes that his players have the confidence, as well as the ability, to battle back from an early deficit.

But the Sudbury Wolves’ head coach doesn’t want his team to make a habit of it.

For every successful rally, such as those against the Kitchener Rangers three weeks ago and the Mississauga Steelheads just this past Saturday, there’s seemingly another that comes up short, as the Wolves found out in a rematch with Kitchener on Sunday afternoon.

“You can’t dig a hole in this league,” Stillman said. “We have come from behind once or twice early in 10 games and that’s all you’re going to get. You can’t be coming from behind, chasing the hockey game.

“We’ll be ready to play Friday night.”

That’s when the Wolves host the Barrie Colts, their rivals in the OHL Central Division, in a 7:05 p.m. start.

The Wolves take a 6-4-0-0 record into the contest, after dropping two of three last weekend, while the Colts owned a 5-2-0-1 mark prior to Thursday’s tilt against the Sarnia Sting.

Stillman, who has spoken several times this season of the need for a more complete effort, hopes to see that on Friday night.

“Come out and compete,” said Stillman, when asked about his message to the Sudbury skaters. “We do some things very well and then, at times, we have some lapses. The end result of those lapses end up in your net, but sometimes, they start 200 feet away or in the neutral zone.”

While Sudbury goaltenders Christian Purboo and Mitchell Weeks have struggled to stay consistent in the early going, Stillman wasn’t about to hang the Wolves’ losses on their netminders.

“Often, goals get looked at as being on the goalie, but there’s still five guys before that,” he said. “Sometimes, maybe it could have been prevented.”

The contest against Barrie is the first in a challenging three-in-three weekend for the Wolves, who visit the Owen Sound Attack (6-2-0-1) on Saturday night and the Guelph Storm (2-3-1-1) on Sunday afternoon.

“We have to get off on the right foot here, in the first 10, 15 minutes, to be ready to play,” Stillman said. “I expect a battle Friday night. Both us and Barrie have gotten off to quick starts. For Saturday and Sunday, we won’t get there until we get through Friday night’s game.”

Wolves forward Quinton Byfield hopes to recapture the momentum that led them to a five-game winning streak prior to last weekend.

“We need to get our confidence back,” Byfield said. “We have a lot of depth and if we get everyone scoring again, I think we’ll be fine.”

When the Wolves have been at their best, he said, they’re playing down low, putting pressure on opponents.

“We’re a very strong team,” Byfield said. “We have a lot of skill and speed, but when we play below the goal line, we just grind teams down, get a couple of changes in, get their guys tired and when we’re working down there, that’s definitely one of the keys to our game. We outshoot a lot of teams, too, get a lot of pucks to their net, tire out the goalie, so if we keep doing that offensively, we’re very strong defensively, as well, and if we play the way we should, it all adds up.”

bleeson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @ben_leeson

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