Overall, the Sudbury Wolves didn’t score their way out of their problems in this game.
Shane Bulitka, traded from Sudbury to North Bay, led the North Bay Battalion to a 4-2 victory over the Sudbury Wolves. Blake Murray also had a pair of goals for Sudbury, but it wouldn’t be enough. The Wolves have one game left during this three-game stretch, so hopefully, they have learned a few lessons.
Let’s talk about the key storylines from this game and how they fit the narrative of the Wolves season as they make a playoff push.
Story #1: Brad Chenier and Shane Bulitka have both impressed with their new teams
After watching Brad Chenier score his 20th goal of the season and his first for the Sudbury Wolves, Shane Bulitka decided to score a few goals of his own. Scoring North Bay’s first two goals of the game, it was clear that he wanted to impress his former team.
On January 9th, the Wolves and Battalions swapped players during the OHL Overeager Trade Deadline. Both teams departed their captains and the Wolves believed that adding Brad Chenier would help improve the team for a playoff run.
So far, the Wolves haven’t looked two different since the trade. They are still first in the Central Division, but that isn’t exactly the best accomplishment. Chenier has been a contributor on the Wolves special teams and he has stepped up in the absence of Quinton Byfield these past few games.
Shane Bulitka scored 30 seconds into the game, positioning himself to the left of Christian Purboo and sniping a shot over Purboo’s shoulder.
— North Bay Battalion (@OHLBattalion) January 25, 2020
Both Chenier and Bulitka had great games during this back-to-back and stood out individually. It’s a good sign for both of their respective teams.
Story #2: Joe Vrbetic stole the show for the North Bay Battalion
Vrbetic is a 17-year-old goaltender playing in his first OHL season and he hasn’t been spectacular, but that was a different story on Friday night. Vrbetic stopped 38 of 40 shots and carried North Bay to a 4-2 victory and was named the first star of the game.
North Bay is a very bad team this year, but they’re rebuilding. Teams in the OHL can turn from bottom-feeders to championship-caliber in a couple of seasons. If Vrbetic can play like this more often, he will become a legitimate starting goaltender in this league.
The goals he allowed were a power-play goal and a cross-ice feed on a two-on-one.
It’s safe to say that he carried the defense in this game and North Bay was able to generate enough offense around him.
Story #3: Blake Murray is becoming one of the best shooters in the league
The 2019 sixth-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes is on a hot stretch. Scoring his 20th and 21st goals of the season, Murray has shown that he is a weapon on the powerplay and he can shoot from anywhere on the ice.
— Sudbury Wolves (@Sudbury_Wolves) January 25, 2020
In terms of next season, Murray is likely returning to the Wolves for his D2 season and will have even higher expectations. I could even see 50 goal upside with Blake Murray. Quality of teammates does matter in these scenarios and that could depend greatly on whether Quinton Byfield returns next year.
Although, if we are just focusing on this season, Murray is already the team’s second-leading goal scorer behind Byfield. He’s continuing to grow his frame and his wrists shot has become the most dangerous element to his game.
Murray’s efforts weren’t enough to help his team win this game, but his consistency will be relied upon down the stretch as the Wolves continue their playoff push.
Question of the Day: What is the Potential of Blake Murray?