The 2001-2002 Sudbury Wolves season came to an end Saturday March 30th. But the season ends with great enthusiasm for next year. In his 25th year of coaching, Bert Templeton made it painfully obvious that the Wolves were under construction. September, October and November were marred with trades as young, no name players made their way to the Nickel City. Programs were the hottest item at the Sudbury Arena, as fans tried to keep up with the trades.
December rolled in and the team showed signs of improvement. Players were buying into the Templeton system, but then one road trip at the end of the month turned the Wolves upside down. Leading scorer and rookie, John Winstanley left the team, actually left hockey all together, he said he “lost the love for the game”. The Wolves continued there three game trip, and more bad news followed. Third leading scorer Rob Shilton sustained a knee injury and was knocked out for the season.
The Wolf pack slowly began to turn into a Templeton team in mid January…. a solid defense, with a veteran goalie kept Sudbury in most of their games. While the back end excelled the forwards sputtered. The Wolves finished the year with the lowest number of goals in the OHL, but still managed to finish 6th in the Eastern Conference.
15 games before the play-offs began again the injury bug made its presence felt. The Wolves 4th leading scorer, Trevor Blanchard, dislocated his shoulder, the next night leading scorer and overage centre Shawn Snider, dislocated his shoulder as well. Again the Wolves were scrambling to fill spaces, players that started the season in the stands were getting a chance to play and show the Wolves what thier all about.
The two shoulder injuries heeled and Blanchard and Snider returned for the play-off run, which ended 5 games later. The Barrie Colts beat Sudbury, 4 games to 1 in round 1 of the O.H.L Eastern Conference play-offs.
This season was a true stepping stone, 12 rookies wore a Wolves jersey throughout the year. 12 rookies that have a year of OHL experience under their belts. But its in their hands now. “Some players will come back a year older, some players will come back a year better” says Templeton. “I’ve told the boys, the numbers are leaning our way, if you want to be part of the team you will have to prove it this summer.”
Templeton is excited about the upcoming off-season, in one of the Wolves trades they acquired a 2nd round pick, along with their 1st and 2nd exsisting picks mean May’s Bantam Draft will be of up most importance. Sudbury can pick 3 players that will be eligible to play next season. “Training camp is going to be tough we have a lot of good players coming in.” says Templeton.
Captain Josh Legge retired from the OHL as an overage, leaving only one space available on the blue line. The same blue line that held the Wolves in so many games this season. Templeton will surely look to Dene Poulin to take over the leadership role and the brunt of the Wolves key defensive situations.
In-between the pipes Sudbury is expecting Mike Smith to return. Smith is a late draft pick of the Dallas Stars. The Wolves brass say they are solid regardless of what happens “Joel Whitmarsh proved he can be a number one goaltender if he puts the work in this summer, which I’m sure he will, because he is a good young man” Templeton says proudly. The Wolves also have two other goaltenders in the system.
The forwards will be an interesting situation. A lot of centres and winger will be in camp next season. Templeton will have the luxury to pick and choose. Sudbury native Bobby Chaumont scored 24 goals as a rookie and will be a go to guy. Another key rookie return will be the toughness of another Sudbury native Zach Stortini. Stortini scored 8 goals to go along with 187 penalty minutes. Stortini took on the best fighters in the league and came out on top 90 percent of the time. 6 of his 8 goals were from inside the crease where Stortini would fight for position every shift. Templeton calls him the “total package”, and a big package he is, 6’5 225 pounds and 16 years old.
The future is truly bright for next season, the Wolves are shopping John Winstanley around for a trade. This along with a few quality bantam picks, and Sudbury will be rewarded after dealing with a long 2001-2002 season.