Five different goal scorers, 47 saves from Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, and a 5-4 win over the Niagara IceDogs.
With that, the Sudbury Wolves, now owners of 73 points, moved ahead of the IceDogs for first place in the OHL Central Division, after picking up a gigantic victory at Meridian Centre in St. Catharines on Sunday afternoon.
“Anytime we play them, it’s a four-point game,” Wolves head coach Cory Stillman said. “We gave up too many shots, but the biggest thing is we found a way to win.”
Shane Bulitka, with his 17th goal of the season, Adam Ruzicka, with his 24th, Owen Robinson, with marker No. 8, Nolan Hutcheson, with his 19th, and Macauley Carson, with his 12th, all scored for the Wolves.
Philip Tomasino, Jason Robertson, Akil Thomas, and Ben Jones scored for the IceDogs.
In net for the home side, Stephen Dhillon stopped 19 of 24 shots.
The Wolves finished Sunday’s outing having gone 2-for-5 on the power play, while the IceDogs were 1-for-7 with the man advantage.
Of the five goals scored by the Wolves, two were short-handed and two came by way of the power play.
“It just shows you the committee we are, the team that we are,” Stillman said. “We were short-staffed. We had 10 forwards today and six D, and everyone got an opportunity to play, and it showed how much they play for each other.”
While two short-handed goals make for a nice statistic, Stillman wasn’t pleased with the amount of power-play chances his charges gave the IceDogs.
“I don’t want to get into the habit of that,” Stillman said. “It means we were taking too many penalties.”
After Tomasino opened the scoring only 2:43 into the opening frame, Bulitka responded four minutes later with a short-handed goal on a backhand shot off of a short breakaway opportunity.
Robertson took the lead back with a goal less than one minute later, at 7:18.
However, at 14:02, Ruzicka found himself all alone in front of the IceDogs net, picked up a pass from Bulitka and beat Dhillon short side during a power play.
After 20 minutes, both teams headed to the dressing rooms with a 2-2 tie, with the IceDogs leading in shots 19-10.
In the second period, the Wolves took over the game with three straight goals, despite being outshot 15-6 in the frame.
At 3:51, again on the power play, Robinson tipped in a shot off of a beauty of a pass from Ruzicka, pushing the Wolves forward to a 3-2 lead.
At 11:34, Hutcheson buried a shot from the high slot.
And at 15:35, Carson got in on the scoring frenzy, firing in another short-handed goal off a pass from Quinton Byfield.
The Wolves held a 5-2 lead after two periods.
“We were skating and managing the puck,” Stillman said. “We were putting the puck in good areas and getting on their defencemen. One of those was a short-handed goal, and two of the goals scored were within five feet of the net, and for us, that’s where we have to go. You have to go to the dirty areas to score some goals.”
In the third period, Thomas scored from a rebound at 12:02, while Jones scored at 18:27 with Dhillon pulled for the extra attacker.
But the Wolves held on for the win.
“We competed,” Stillman said. “They’re a very skilled team. They can score in bunches. It showed tonight that if you give them an opportunity, you give them a bit of life, and they’re going to come and score. Any chance they get to score is usually a shot on net.”
The Wolves now have 10 wins in 11 games, their one blemish during that span being a 10-4 defeat against the Soo Greyhounds on Friday. Sunday’s loss served as a strong bounce back from a lopsided loss.
“I just think that the feeling in the dressing room of coming to the rink, wanting to win and knowing that we’re going to compete to give ourselves a chance,” Stillman said of what’s working for the Wolves during this stretch of victories. “Ukko was great tonight, we relied on him probably too much, and from him, to our defencemen (being steady), and to our forwards by committee scoring, it shows the depth that we have as a team and what we are.”
The Wolves return to action on Monday with a 2:05 p.m. puck drop at Tribute Communities Centre, to take on the Oshawa Generals, holders of 75 points and second place in the East Division.