The Saugeen Shores Winterhawks scored five unanswered goals in the 3rd period to take a 5-1 win over the visiting Milverton Four Wheel Drives on Friday night.
The Winterhawks came out quickly against Milverton, but goaltender Tim Bester was unbeatable early on, stopping the Saugeen Shores shooters from all angles.
Eric Peicheff got the call in the Winterhawks net, and wasn’t busy in the opening frame, but made the saves when called upon.
The Winterhawks looked like they were poised to take the lead, as Mike Rocca slid a cross-ice pass to Connor Patton, who was alone at the side of the Milverton net.
Patton fired a quick shot toward the roof of the net, but Bester drew gasps from the crowd at The Plex as he snared the puck on the goal-line to keep it 0-0 after one period, despite the Winterhawks outshooting Milverton 17-7.
Bester continued to put up a brick wall in the Milverton net, thwarting the Winterhawks shooters as the 2nd period got underway.
Perhaps frustration lead to some sloppy plays, as Milverton picked up a couple breakaways in the 2nd period, the second of which resulted in Curtis Rawn firing the puck past Peicheff to give Milverton a 1-0 lead.
The Winterhawks still could not solve Bester as the game moved to the 3rd period.
It appeared as if the Winterhawks had finally broken through early in the final frame, as Andy Mitchell lead a two-on-two rush up the ice with Jamie Shoemaker.
Mitchell, with a Milverton defender draped over him, slid a pass across to Shoemaker, who redirected the puck from his skate to his stick and past Bester, appeared to tie the game at 1-1.
While the referee initially indicated a goal, the officials conversed and changed the call to no-goal on grounds of the puck being kicked in.
The bad break didn’t faze the Winterhawks, who scored a no-doubt goal minutes later, as Adam Kading converted from Trevor Smith and Blake Underwood to draw even at 4:32 of the 3rd.
The floodgates opened from there, as Miles MacLean gave the Winterhawks the 2-1 lead at the side of the net following nice passes from Lauchlin Elder and Patton.
Just over a minute later, Mike Rocca made it 3-1 when he picked a rebound off the end boards and stuffed it past Bester, with assist to Shoemaker and Mitchell.
Shoemaker got some retribution for the bad call earlier, scoring to make it 4-1 when his centering pass banked in off the Milverton defender, with Rocca and Mitchell assisting.
MacLean finished off the scoring with his second of the night from Patton and Elder to arrive at a 5-1 final for the Winterhawks.
Shoemaker was named The Wismer House Player of the Game for his two-point effort, while Peicheff made 27 saves for the win in goal.
The win improves the Winterhawks to 14-3-0 on the season, keeping pace for 1st place with the Clinton Radars, who also won on Friday night.
A huge game looms as the Winterhawks travel to Shelburne next Saturday night [Jan. 11th] to face the Muskies, who are currently neck-and-neck with the Winterhawks.
Roster News: Prior to the game, the Winterhawks signed 6’2″ defenceman Brenden Welsh, who made his debut against Milverton. Welsh, 22, is a native of Owen Sound and played five seasons for the PJHL Walkerton Hawks.
The Winterhawks and all WOAA Sr. Hockey League teams will be setting their playoff rosters prior to next weekend’s games. Teams must submit rosters with no more than 25 players by Jan. 10th.