Just one week ago, the Coldwater Ice Wolves were sitting in eighth place in the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League (CPJHL) and had lost six games in a row. Since then, the team has reeled off three consecutive wins, including a 5-3 victory Saturday night over their rival the Muskoka Anglers, and now sit in fifth place, just six points behind the fourth-place Anglers.
In defeating Muskoka, the Ice Wolves “played the best game they have all season,” according to Coach Justin Beers. “We only made three mistakes, and those three mistakes cost us the three goals.”
Coldwater played a complete team game, but in the first period it was their top line of Ivan Korčák, Clayton Hongosh and Zachary Iron that put the Ice Wolves up early. Korčák scored twice in the first half of the period and Hongosh added one as well with 4:52 left in the first to make the score 3-0 for the home team.
Muskoka would bounce back with a pair of goals by Jake Grinnell before the end of the period, making the score 3-2 heading in to the first intermission.
The Anglers would come close to tying the game on the power play but Coldwater goalie Ty Golden stood tall and they were able to hold their lead.
Momentum would swing back to the Ice Wolves when they picked up a power play of their own off an Angler’s Too Many Men penalty. Shortly after the power play ended, Jackson Jacques’ point shot deflected off a defenseman in front and right to Rico Opikokew who fired the puck past Muskoka goalie Rikhith Chittajullu to give the Ice Wolves a 4-2 lead.
Coldwater continued to pressure the Anglers, taking 22 shots in the second period alone, and would again extend the lead to three goals early in the third. With Coldwater on the power play, Jacques’ stretch pass found Maksim Kalashnikov, who then centered the puck to Opikokew. His wrist shot from the top of the slot beat Chittajullu for Opikokew’s second goal of the game, making the score 5-2 for Coldwater.
Muskoka would not go down without a fight and Grinnell’s short-handed goal with 2:33 left to play cut the gap to 5-3 and completed his hat trick; but they would come no closer and that would be the final score.
Golden stopped 37 shots to earn the victory for Coldwater while Chittajullu made 46 saves in the losing effort.
Named the first star of the game, Rico Opikokew has now scored twice in each of his last three games and now sits second on the team in goals with 14 and third in points with 28. The chemistry between Opikokew and his linemate Kalashnikov has been noticeable of late, and Opikokew says it comes naturally. “It’s pretty fun, all I have to do is follow him. I just told him I’ll follow, he knows I’ll be there.”
Up next, Coldwater takes their winning streak on the road as they will play their next five games away from the Coldwater arena, and each of those games will have playoff seeding implications. With a rematch against Muskoka and two games apiece with the sixth-place Seaforth Generals and the seventh-place Wexford Raiders, both of whom are trying to catch Coldwater in the standings, this stretch will prove crucial as the teams jockey for playoff position.
For the full schedule, stats, and standings, visit www.coldwatericewolves.com