The Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves realized that going through some
adversity only made them stronger.
The TELUS Cup hosts started the Great North Midget League season with a
blazing 14-1 record and never looked back, finishing with a line of
31-4-1-0, good for second place with 63 points.
“We’re very happy with the regular season. We ended up one point behind
North Bay,” says head coach Peter Michelutti Jr. “All in all, we were
satisfied by the way we played. We had a game plan and we wanted to make
sure we were improving and working on the things we needed to do to be
successful at the end of the season.”
The highs and lows that come with a hockey season are expected. A rough
patch in November and into December sparked the Wolves into action to
finish the season strong and earn a first-round bye
“I think to go through a long season with adversity and going through ups
and downs is important, and you learn a lot of lessons,” says Michelutti.
“We started off strong, and over the course of the year, in November and
December, we struggled a bit. We made some good adjustments in the New Year
and we are strong and building momentum for the national championship.”
In a decade of coaching in Sudbury, including the 2007-08 TELUS Cup-winning
season, Michelutti has never seen as many injuries as he did this season,
but he hopes it helps his team in the long run.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries. There were some games where we had 10 or 11
skaters,” he says. “It has been a team effort as everyone stepped up and
contributed in different ways. It has been an adjustment, but a good way
for our kids to learn how to do something differently. I think that will be
a benefit come later in the year because of that experience.”
One of those key injuries was to captain Mathieu Dokis-Dupuis, who has been
out since October to a broken wrist – the same one he broke last season. He
is expected to return to the line-up soon.
“The majority of our young steps stepped up when he went down,” says
veteran forward, Tommy Vlahos. “Our goalie, Alex Vendette, is one of the
best goalies in the league and he definitely carried the load for us.”
Vendette was a workhorse for the Wolves, leading the GNML with 1,411
minutes played and a 2.04 goals-against average, and tying for the league
lead with four shutouts.
It was scoring-by-committee up front, with Vlahos (49 points), Joe Mazur
(47), Carson McMillan (46), Parker Savard (44), Brett Shawana (43) and Joel
Mongeon (39) earning places in the top 12 of GNML scoring.
But even with a strong regular-season record, the Wolves struggled during
tournaments, including an 0-3 finish at the CCM Midget AAA Challenge in
Quebec in December. It was that tournament, though, that helped shape their
goals for the rest of the season.
“We didn’t showcase ourselves the best, but since our struggles in Quebec,
we recognized what kind of team we want to be and who we are,” says Vlahos.
“We realized that we don’t just want to get to the TELUS Cup because we are
the host team, we want to earn our way there.”
The ultimate goal is to win the GNML and Central Region championships to
qualify through the front door, but with those expectations come the stress
of being host to Canada’s National Midget Championship.
“You want to do well and perform well, especially in front of the home
crowd,” says Michelutti. “Our goal is just to work hard, compete every game
and get better as that week goes on. We also want the guys to have fun and
enjoy the experience.”