It was not to be as the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks bid to pull off the “reverse sweep” of the Ripley Wolves came up short on a deflection in overtime.
Prior to the game, the Wolves held a very much-appreciated moment of silence for Winterhawks scorekeeper Doug Wood, who passed away on Sunday.Once the game got underway, the two sides set a quick tempo, trading chances on the small Ripley ice surface. The Winterhawks opened the scoring at 8:44 when Captain Trevor Smith fired a slapshot that rang off the post behind Ripley netminder Jason Hamilton and fell into the net, making it 1-0, with assists to Miles MacLean and Logan Freiburger. Ripley picked up a power play almost immediately after the goal, and the Winterhawks managed to kill the penalty thanks to some tenacious penalty killing. The Wolves struck just after the penalty ended when Jeff Flagler made an excellent save off a rush, but the rebound went right onto the stick of Garrett Meurs, who tied the game at 1-1. The Winterhawks killed another penalty to end the period, leaving the score at 1-1 after one period of play. The tie was broken on the first shift of the second period, when Andy Mitchell put a beautiful cross-ice feed onto the stick of Luke Pither, who was alone in front of the Wolves net. He made no mistake, putting the puck top shelf to make it 2-1 Winterhawks. The Winterhawks appeared to go up 3-1 moments later when a scramble in front ended up with the puck hitting the post and coming to rest in the crease behind Hamilton. The Ripley goalie appeared to knock the puck across the goal line, but the referee waved off the goal before it had crossed the line, and was unwilling to reconsider his decision, keeping it a 2-1 Winterhawks lead. The Winterhawks drew the ire of the officials shortly after, and were whistled for an extended five-on-three disadvantage. The penalty killers again held the Wolves off the scoresheet, but once again, the Wolves struck just after the penalties had ended when ex-Winterhawk Derek Skinner unloaded a slap shot that beat Flagler to make it a 2-2 game. The Winterhawks came close to going ahead again late in the period, but Hamilton made several big saves in the Ripley net to keep it a tie game. Once again, the focus of Game 7 became the officials when Mitchell was singled out for an unsportsmanlike penalty on a meaningless scrum well after the buzzer had sounded to end the period, sending Ripley to another power play to start the third. The Winterhawks battled again to keep the Ripley power play off the board, though Flagler suffered an injury during the penalty kill, but stayed in the game despite being in obvious pain. The ‘Hawks battened down the defensive game from there to help their goalie out, keeping Ripley to few chances in the third period. The power plays evened out somewhat in the third, with the Winterhawks having two opportunities with the extra attacker, but the Wolves responded with solid penalty killing of their own. As the clock ticked down, the Winterhawks threw more pucks at the Ripley net, but couldn’t solve Hamilton one last time. Overtime featured several more chances for the Winterhawks, but again, Hamilton kept denying them. Alas, the season came to an end at 9:40 of the extra frame when Cody Britton got a stick on a point shot to deflect the puck past Flagler, punching Ripley’s ticket to the championship series, making it a 3-2 final for Ripley. Shots on goal ended up 36-31 in favour of the Winterhawks. The executive of the Winterhawks wish to thank all of our amazing fans and sponsors for a memorable season. Coming out of the pandemic, we were so appreciative of the big crowds that came out to watch the team every weekend. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the players. We got off to a bit of a rocky start, but the boys came together and went on one hell of a run over the past few months to put ourselves within a goal of the finals. The guys went through hell and back during the playoffs. We had shoulders popped out, knees blown, bones broken, teeth knocked out. Yet, they showed up at the rink, got taped up and went out there and battled. We couldn’t be more proud of that group of guys who put our jersey on this season. We wish the best of luck to the Wolves and the Tavistock Royals in the final. Go out there and do our league proud. We have the best product at the best family friendly prices in the province. Finally, again our condolences to the family and many friends of Doug Wood. Woody was a friend to many, a tremendous human being and more importantly, a great husband, father and grandfather. He’ll be missed by us, and by so many in our community who were lucky enough to know him. Woody, we’re sorry, but we hope we did you proud. The Winterhawks will host our year-end banquet on April 14th at Lakeshore Recreation. More details will be available regarding that event in the near future. We will be back, better than ever. See you in October.