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Battalion can't blunt the Wolves bite

'I thought there were ups and downs in terms of some really bright spots and some really negative spots'

Nic Sima picked up his first career OHL goal, but it wasn’t enough as the North Bay Battalion fell 6-4 Sunday afternoon against the Sudbury Wolves. 

“I thought there were ups and downs in terms of some really bright spots and some really negative spots,” head coach Ryan Oulahen explained.

“I thought a lot of our kids played extremely well today and it was nice to see some goals go in for them. I just didn’t like our goals against work ethic based and it’s disappointing.” 

The two northern rivals met last on Thursday, January 20, (a 4-1 win for the boys in green) and took some time to feel each other out before Marc Boudreau (5) beat Joe Vrbetic just over 16 minutes into the game. However, two minutes later, Troops rookie Dalyn Wakely potted his ninth with a powerplay goal to tie the game at one. 

The first six minutes of the second was all Battalion as Sima scored his first, and Van Steensel added his third. 

“What a nice goal by him (Sima),” Oulahen stated on Sima’s first. “I joked with him on the bench, ‘you’ll remember that one, it’s a lot nicer than my first ever’ I think mine was a tip and in. But from there, it’s amazing what it can do for confidence and I thought he had a really good game and he did a lot of good things. It was well earned, well deserved.” 

Secondary scoring has been a talking point around the team since early December, and out of North Bay’s four goals, three were from the secondary.

Oulahen explained that can be looked as a positive as the team looks to regroup. 

“We put a priority on secondary scoring," he said.  

"It would be nice to blend that in with the big boys as well, but ultimately we need to do a better defensively and keep the puck out of our net.” 

After Van Steensel gave North Bay the 3-1 lead, Sudbury added two of their own to tie it off the sticks of Dylan Robinson (3) and Jacob Holmes (3). In the third, Kocha Delic (11) and the 2021 first overall pick from the OHL priority selection, Quentin Musty (9) added to the Wolves lead. Brandon Coe (25) scored late before David Goyette (14) sealed it for Sudbury with an empty netter. 

Missing from the Battalion lineup were captain Liam Arnsby, Matvey Petrov, Kyle Jackson and Kyle McDonald. Between injuries and suspensions, the lineup has been a bit of a revolving door for Oulahen. 

“It makes it difficult but there is a difference between making it difficult and finding excuses,” he said. “We don’t want to find excuses at all for this group and what doesn’t hurt you makes you stronger and I think that’s what we were going to see on the other end of it. We’re getting some really good minutes out of younger players and that is going to pay dividends.

“Quite frankly this can happen at any given time and you have to be prepared and ready for it. You see it in our league, in the NHL, and sometimes when you go through a season and it’s too easy and then you hit adversity in game one of the playoffs and it’s too late to figure out what to do. I think in the positive sense, we’re going through this right now where we’re scraping and clawing and getting some points and I think we’re going to be better on the other end of it when we get some bodies back.” 

On the goaltending front, Vrbetic started both games this weekend back-to-back for North Bay. After Saturday’s OT loss to Barrie (3-2), Oulahen said a lot went into the decision to start Vrbetic the next day. 

“We have to forecast looking ahead and Joe’s had a tendency to play really well back-to-back and we want Dom (DiVincentiis) to go Tuesday in Niagara. From there you’re going to see both guys playing a lot of hockey.” 

As mentioned by Oulahen, the team doesn’t have a lot of time to rest between games. 

“No time to feel shame, have to turn the page, got to get better and have to get rested. That’s going to be the number one thing, get energized and get ready for Tuesday.” 

North Bay will travel south to St. Catharines for a matchup against the Niagara IceDogs on Tuesday looking for some revenge. The last time the two teams met, the IceDogs skated to a 7-6 overtime victory at Memorial Gardens on December 16, 2021.