There’s something about Sudbury.
The CIBC Canada Russia Series returns to the Big Nickel for a record fourth time in event history as Russia carries a 6-3 series lead in points into tonight’s Game 4 at the Sudbury Community Arena.
Tonight’s game follows past meetings in 2007, 2010 and 2013, ones that have featured a host of present day NHL stars in Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), P.K. Subban (Nashville Predators) and Artemi Panarin (Columbus Blue Jackets).
Each of the last two meetings ended in a shootout, with Team OHL winning 2-1 in 2010 before Russia returned the favour with a 3-2 triumph in 2013.
Sudbury is the long-time home of the Wolves, an OHL franchise that has developed NHL regulars in Marc Staal (New York Rangers), Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Benoit Pouliot (Edmonton Oilers) and goaltender Mike Smith (Calgary Flames) to name a few.
It’s your typical Northern Ontario blue collar hockey town.
“Sudbury is home to some of the most passionate fans you’ll find anywhere and they live and die by the success of their Wolves,” said Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds, the former voice of the Sudbury Wolves from 1979-84. “Hockey means a lot to that community, not just the Sudbury Wolves but the NOHA and all the smaller organizations that are up there. Everybody knows how to skate and play hockey and it’s truly part of their lifeblood.”
Originally a native of Hamilton, Ont., Faulds replaced now-Toronto Maple Leafs radio voice Joe Bowen behind the microphone upon his arrival in Sudbury.
He’s eager to see the long term effects of the recent investments made by a new Wolves ownership group led by Dario Zulich.
“The Burgess family was great,” Faulds said of the club’s former owners of roughly 30 years. “They came in at the right time to help that franchise. This new ownership re-energizes the team and I think they want to bring a fresh perspective to the hockey club.”
Two Wolves will be in action tonight including 18-year-old forward Macauley Carson who recently returned to the lineup after suffering an injury back in September. Carson scored 30 goals last season and was a second round pick by the Wolves in 2015.
Across the ice, Wolves scoring sensation Dmitry Sokolov returns to the Russian lineup after contributing an assist in Owen Sound on Thursday. The Minnesota Wild prospect scored 48 goals last season and is off to another strong start with 24 points (11-13–24) over 20 games this season.
Nine other new players will join Carson in the Team OHL lineup tonight including goaltenders Michael DiPietro (Windsor Spitfires) and Matthew Villalta (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), defencemen Keaton Middleton (Saginaw Spirit), Kevin Bahl (Ottawa 67’s) and Sean Durzi (Owen Sound Attack). Forwards Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds), Nate Schnarr (Guelph Storm), Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph Storm), Jonah Gadjovich (Owen Sound Attack) and Jack Studnicka (Oshawa Generals) round out the new additions.
Russia led last year’s series 5-4 in points through three games before the CHL stormed to three consecutive wins enroute to a 13-5 series victory.
The Canadian Hockey League is counting on Team OHL tonight if it hopes to mount a comeback in the series as the puck drops on Game 4 at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT on Sportsnet Ontario, East and Pacific.