Wolves stand their ground to beat Barrie

Sudbury Wolves forward Landon McCallum (9) dumps a puck into the offensive zone while Barrie Colts forward Matej Pekar (12) gives chase during first-period OHL action at Sudbury Community Arena in Sudbury, Ontario on Friday, October 18, 2019. Ben Leeson/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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As the decibel level rose in Sudbury Community Arena on Friday night, the confidence meter filled for a couple of players who may have needed a boost.

Kosta Manikis, who played on a line with Quinton Byfield and David Levin for the first time this season, scored his first OHL goal, added a pair of assists and completed the Gordie Howe hat trick with a spirited scrap.

At the other end of the ice, Mitchell Weeks recovered from quick pull last Sunday for a superb 24-save performance in a 4-2 win over the Barrie Colts.

Byfield had two goals and two assists and Levin four helpers, while Shane Bulitka chipped in with an empty-net marker as Sudbury improved to 7-4-0-0 on the season.

“It feels good to get a chance and prove myself in the league,” Manikis said with a smile. “And it felt good to get a couple of points and my first OHL fight, too.”

Getting a late start to the season after an injury in training camp, Manikis spent a handful of games on the fourth line before finding out, only moments before game time Friday night, that he would start alongside two of the Wolves’ most skilled skaters.

“It was the first time, but it wasn’t bad for the first time,” Manikis said with a laugh.

“I was sitting in the room, just expecting the same thing, and he said I was starting. So I took the chance and went with it.”

Tyler Tucker and Tyson Foerster scored and Arturs Silovs made 18 saves for the Colts, who battled back from a 2-0 deficit to knot the score heading into the third. Having fallen behind on Manikis’ power-play tally, the visitors turned up the pressure again late in the frame, especially on a power play, but Weeks made a series of big saves, including a highlight-reel reach across the goal mouth to turn aside what looked like a game-tying shot.

“I felt good,” said Weeks, a Barrie native. “The Kitchener game wasn’t my best, and a couple other of my starts, so right now, I’m just trying to find consistency with my game.”

Asked what was going through his mind as Barrie was pressing late, Weeks answered “not much.”

“Honestly, I’m just trying to not really think about anything, not think too much, just stay in the game and support the team,” Weeks explained.

He was certainly pleased with the effort of players in front of him, including determined shot-blockers such as Macauley Carson and Emmett Serensits.

“We’re out there, we’re blocking shots, we’re doing what it takes to win,” Weeks said. “And it worked out for us tonight.”

The combo of Levin, Byfield and Manikis clicked early in the contest, as Byfield stopped a puck near the faceoff dot and beat Silovs low to the glove side at 15:12 of the first. Levin and Manikis, with his first OHL point, had the assists.

Hard work by Levin behind the Barrie goal yielded a scoring chance for Manikis, who shook off a check to get a shot on Silovs, and Byfield was there to bury the rebound with just 18 seconds left in the period.

Shots were 8-8 after 20 minutes.

Sudbury Wolves forward Kosta Manikis (88) protects the puck as he takes a hit from Barrie Colts defenceman Brandt Clarke (55) during first-period OHL action at Sudbury Community Arena in Sudbury, Ontario on Friday, October 18, 2019. Ben Leeson/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

The Colts responded well in the second, carrying the play for much of the frame and forcing Weeks to make big saves on the likes of Ryan Suzuki and Jason Willms on point-blank chances, and then a series of stops on a Barrie power play.

Sudbury’s starter had little chance, however, on Tucker’s point shot through a screen at 11:07. Barrie tied things up when a defensive-zone miscue led to Suzuki going cross-crease to Foerster, who roofed the tying marker at 15:49.

Outshot 12-3 in the middle stanza, the Wolves trailed 20-11 overall as they headed to the dressing room.

The hosts did a much better job generating offence in the third, outshooting their rivals 10-6 and forcing Silovs to be sharp. He was in tough, however, when Suzuki, then Tucker were tagged for back-to-back infractions, and Manikis redirected a Levin feed for a power-play goal at 9:30. Byfield also assisted.

Having given up an NCAA scholarship to sign with the Wolves this past off-season, Manikis was feeling good about his choice on Friday night.

“It was a tough decision, for sure,” said the Richmond Hill, Ont. native. “I gave up a lot, but at the end of the day, I’m here and I don’t look back. I think this was the best league to be in at this age, the best development, and this was a great choice for me.”

Closing out such a tight game, he said, will only serve the Wolves well going forward.

“It was a big game, for sure,” Manikis said. “They played chippy and dirty and we stood our ground. Everyone played a role tonight and it was a big win.”

“It’s good to learn this stuff now, early in the season,” Weeks added. “Then, come playoff time, when it matters, we’ll be ready to go.”

The Wolves visit the Owen Sound Attack on Saturday night, then the Guelph Storm on Sunday afternoon.

bleeson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @ben_leeson

Sudbury Wolves forward Nolan Hutcheson (21) looks for a rebound in front of Barrie Colts goalie Arturs Silovs (30) during first-period OHL action at Sudbury Community Arena in Sudbury, Ontario on Friday, October 18, 2019. Ben Leeson/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

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