Silver Stick win builds momentum for Nickel Capital Wolves
by Randy Pascal
Only time will tell if a tournament championship performance at the International Silver Stick serves as the catalyst for the 2018 Telus
Cup hosts, as Peter Michelutti's End of the Roll GNML Weekly Report catches up with the gold medal winning coach.
Putting together a string that would see the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves win five of six games in Sarnia last weekend, a stretch capped off with
a 4-1 triumph, in the final, over the Richmond Hill Coyotes, head coach Peter Michelutti Jr and his staff are hoping they have found a recipe
for success with their crew which has shown signs of inconsistency this year.
"Throughout a season, there's always ups and downs," said Michelutti. "For some reason, there always seems to be a lull, and it always seems to happen,
for us, near the end of November and into December."
"But we've always been a team that can build momentum and play some consistent hockey coming out of the Christmas break and into the new year. That was
really our goal heading to the tournament."
At no time in the recent past, however, was this reversal of fortunes likely to be tested as much as in 2018, with the Nickel Capital Wolves hitting the
ice at the Silver Stick well short of 100% healthy.
"We started with nine (forwards) and five (defencemen), but we had seven or eight guys that were sick, as well," said Michelutti. The team knew, going
in, that they remained without the services of veteran Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis, recovering from wrist surgery and not likely back until the beginning
of the playoffs, at best.
An altered game plan would be needed. "We knew guys were likely to be tired, so the game plan was to keep it as simple as possible, realizing we needed
to keep our shifts very short and not try and do too much."
Positive results came quickly, Sudbury besting the Windsor Spitfires 7-2 right out of the gate. "When you simplify the game, you can often create
more opportunities, more chances," stated Michelutti. "It just started to build momentum after that, it was really encouraging to see."
Alex Fowke and Carson McMillan scored two goals apiece in the opener, with teammates Hunter Chibow, Brett McGlade and Patrick
Musico finding the back of the net once each.
The only blemish of the tournament for the Nickel Caps would come in game two, a 3-2 setback at the hands of the Winnipeg Thrashers, with McGlade
and Joe Mazur scoring for Sudbury.
The locals rebounded nicely, however, recording a 3-2 win of their own over the Brampton 45's, with Mazur, McGlade and Parker Savard all
hitting the mark. Slipped into a very tight division, the Midget "AAA" Wolves secured first place with a record of 2-1-0, advancing them through to a
cross-over quarter-final matchup opposite the 95 Giants from Attleboro, Massuchusetts.
A two-goal performance by McMillan, who was rewarded in the end, selected as "Tournament MVP", along with solo markers from Tommy Vlahos
and Chiblow, proved more than enough to double the U.S. entry 4-2.
Clearly on a roll, the Nickel Capital Wolves bounced Brampton 5-1 in semi-final action, with Chiblow, Fowke, Mazur, Savard and Joel Mongeon all
hitting the scoresheet for the winners. Overcoming the effects of a short bench, the Great North Midget League reps broke open a 1-1 tie in the third
period of the final against Richmond Hill, scoring three unaswered goals for the win.
Chiblow, Christopher Clark, Mongeon and Savard handled the offense.
According to Michelutti, this championship was clearly a team effort. "There were times when we played with six forwards and three defencemen," he
noted. "The fact that they fought through it and played for each other, it was good to see, as a staff. It's something you're going to need, down the
As one might expect, however, there were some noteworthy individual performances, including the aforementioned Most Valuable Player and current
leading scorer in the GNML, Carson McMillan.
"And Brett McGlade was a horse out there," said Michelutti. "He was playing so strong, moving his feet, protecting the puck. We like to use him in front
of the net on the power play and teams, right now, can't control him."
"Chris Clark has simply been one of the best players on our team," Michelutti continued. "From a coaching standpoint, he's really changed his game. For
the past few years, there was always that discipline problem, taking unecessary penalties."
"I'm not sure if it's just the maturation process, but he's come back and been, by far, one of the biggest leaders on our team." Clark was named to the
tournament all-star team at the Silver Stick event.
After winning just two of 36 games last year, the Timmins Majors opted to look for one of their own in an attempt to turn things around in
2017-2018. With a sweep of the Sault Major Midget Greyhounds last weekend (10-3 and 4-2), the Majors boast a record of 12-17-0-1 under rookie coach
Brandon Perry, a point per game player with the team back in 2004-2005.
"I'm proud of where I'm from, and I really wasn't liking the way things have been the last couple of years," said the graduate of the Queen's Gaels
CIS varsity program. "Instead of being one of those guys on the outside, pointing fingers, I figured why not try and help change it."
And right from the start, Perry and his staff identified the elements of change that were necessary. "When we took over the team, we looked at the stats
from last year," he said. "They were the most penalized team in the league, by far, and they allowed the most goals against, by far."
"Those are the two areas that we started with." And though evidence of progress may not be obvious each and every game, Perry is convinced the team is
trending in the right direction. "I like the way that we have really good bounce back games when we get beat," he said.
"I like the way our kids take pride in their game, and they work and they work and they work. Sometimes, we run into some talent problems against the
better teams, but these kids don't give up. It's been a challenge, at times, but I really enjoy the group."
As for his development as a coach, Perry is no different than his players, encountering a learning curve along the way. "I became more patient, that's
the biggest thing," he noted of his first half season. "Reality kind of sets in and we see that we're not quite there yet."
"That doesn't mean that we can't get there. It's an attitude, it's a culture. We want kids to want to come and play for the Majors. We want the Sudbury's
and North Bay's to take us seriously - and I think we're slowly getting there."
The battles being waged, these days, between the Sudbury Minor Midget "AAA" Wolves and the North Bay Minor Midget "AAA" Trappers are among
the best that the GNML has to offer.
The teams split their two game set, in Sudbury, on January 13th-14th, with North Bay edging the locals 4-3 on Saturday night, and the Wolves exacting a
little retribution the next afternoon with a 6-5 victory.
For coach Mardy St Jacques' crew, the contests came on the heels of a solid 4-0 win over Timmins to close out the calendar on 2017, with
goaltender Owen Kilganon recording the shutout.
"The boys are playing really well in front of me," said Kilganon. "We did some really good work on the PK, and just overall, played a good defensive
game. I find we've gelled really well and very quickly."
"We've brought in some new kids and we've never excluded them from the group." The two rivals will go toe to toe again next Sunday, January 28th, facing
off in Temiskaming.