The Saugeen Shores Winterhawks will begin their quest for a fifth WOAA Sr. “AA” championship at home this Friday night.
The Winterhawks will host Game 1 of their best-of-seven quarterfinal series against the Tillsonburg Thunder at 8:30 p.m. on Friday.
Game 2 goes on Saturday evening at 7:30 p.m. in Tillsonburg before returning to The Plex for Game 3 on Friday, February 14th at 8:30 p.m.
The schedule for games 4-7 will be released when finalized.
Playoff tickets for games in Port Elgin are $10 each [kids 8-and-under free with paying adult] and will be available at the door.
Season ticket passes include playoff admission.
It will be a unique situation for both teams, as the Winterhawks and Thunder have never met each other in the 12 years since Tillsonburg entered the WOAA senior loop.
“I expect a bit of a feeling out process as the series gets going, but we’re starting at home and we want to set the tone right off the bat,” said Head Coach Matt Turcotte.
A glance at the stats suggests Tillsonburg prefers to play an offensive game, scoring 112 times in the regular season, compared to the Winterhawks 101 goals-for.
The Winterhawks gave up far fewer goals against, however, allowing 64 goals this season, while Tillsonburg allowed 88 goals.
The Thunder rely on offensive production from former league scoring champ Ryan Stephenson, who paced Tillsonburg with 30 points in 16 games this season, followed by Michael Rebry at 27 points and Scott Stafford at 24 points.
Blake Underwood took home the Winterhawks regular season scoring crown, netting 26 points in 20 games, while Miles MacLean [24 points] and Connor Patton [20 points] will also play a prominent role in generating offense, though Turcotte points out it will be a team effort.
“When we’ve got everybody, we’re designed to be a team that rolls four lines and gets contributions up and down the lineup,” said Turcotte. “We just need to make sure we’re playing smart and getting lots of traffic to the net.”
It won’t be all unfamiliar faces in the Tillsonburg lineup, as it will be a homecoming for defenceman Eric Langridge.
The 21-year old Port Elgin native posted 8 points in 13 games for the Thunder in his rookie season of senior hockey.
As playoff series tend to, this one may come down to the men between the pipes.
The Winterhawks Jeff Flagler finished second in goals-against average among goaltenders with at least 10 games played this season, with a 2.73 G.A.A., while Tillsonburg will rely on veteran netminder Tommy Lee, who has developed a reputation as a goaltender who can steal games.
Elsewhere in the WOAA, the #1-ranked Ripley Wolves will face #8 Durham Thundercats, #2 Shelburne Muskies face the #7 Minto 81’s and the defending champion and 4th-seeded Clinton Radars will face the #5 Seaforth Centenaires.