Sudbury's Michael Sgarbossa embracing role, moment
By Mackenzie Liddell, Contributing Editor
Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - Sudbury wasn't given much of a chance against the Ottawa 67's in the opening round of the Ontario League playoffs, a situation all too familiar for Wolves center Michael Sgarbossa.
Fresh off a four-goal, 12-point performance in a four-game sweep of the Eastern Conference's second-place team, Sgarbossa is thriving as the Wolves go-to-guy after spending parts of the past two seasons fighting for ice time on deep teams in Saginaw and Barrie.
"In Saginaw I never thought I was playing my role," Sgarbossa said. "I was more of a two-way, defensive player. When I came here they told me right away what they wanted me to do and I became more of a scorer."
He's had no problem adjusting to his new role, scoring 29 goals and 62 points in 37 regular season games (1.68 per game), while also being named the OHL's Player of the Month for March after leading the league with 27 points in 13 games.
Despite a respectable 20 points in 26 games with the Spirit to begin the season, Sgarbossa was made expendable when Saginaw GM Todd Watson traded for a package built around Sudbury star John McFarland in early December.
"He was always high on our radar," said Wolves GM and president Blaine Smith. "He was always one of those top players that if the opportunity came around we were obviously very interested in trading for him.
"When Saginaw contacted us about John, we made it clear to them that if we're looking to move a player of his quality, we would certainly be looking for a player like Michael in return."
Although the Spirit added a complimentary scoring threat to a roster already loaded with talent, the Wolves got their MVP and a player they can lean on heading into the second round of the playoffs.
With a semifinal date set against the OHL-best Mississauga Majors beginning on Friday, the Wolves will need Sgarbossa to bring the same intensity and scoring punch he's demonstrated so far if they are to stand a chance against coach Dave Cameron's staunch defensive unit.
"They're probably one of the hardest working teams, you're not going to get anything for free," Sgarbossa said of the Majors. "They will always back-check and play a solid physical game. For us, it's going to be a battle along the boards and who can chip up the most pucks and get the most odd-man rushes and who can capitalize on those chances."
Heading in as a massive underdog is nothing new and doesn't faze the 18-year- old Campbellville, Ont., native, who proudly wore the dark-horse label in the first round.
"We knew we were the underdog and that took some of the pressure off," he said. "I think they [67's] realized 'these guys can play' and I don't think they were prepared enough to play against us and we gave them a bit of a shock."
Given the break between the series, as both Mississauga and Sudbury will have had more than a week off, it's doubtful the Majors will come unprepared or take lightly a team that just went toe-to-toe with and conquered one of the league's best.
And if they do, it will be another chance for Sgarbossa and the Wolves to shock the hockey world.
04/05 13:15:16 ET