Lauchlin Elder scored a hat trick in a statement win to open the 2024 OEHL Playoffs.The Winterhawks got back to basics and it paid off with a 6-1 victory over the Creemore Coyotes in Game 1 of their quarterfinal series at The Plex on Friday night. It was full throttle from the start of the game, with Elder opening the scoring just over two minutes into the game, picking up Trent Hawke’s bank-shot off the back boards and depositing the puck past Creemore goalie Mason Kameka. The Winterhawks kept it going and expanded the lead to 2-0 at 7:38 of the 1st when Jordan Vanhaelemeesch won a faceoff in the Creemore zone back to Chad Jones, who unleashed a howitzer from the point, beating Kameka clean for a two-goal lead. The two-goal lead held through the first period, but the Winterhawks once again came out firing to open the second period. A Justin Marlowe wraparound was stopped, but Dan Zweep was right there to jam in the rebound just 42-seconds into the period to make it 3-0 Winterhawks, with Vanhaelemeesch also assisting.
The play got physical throughout the second, but power plays tended to be negated by subsequent penalties, and neither team saw much advantage on the power play.The Winterhawks added to the lead just shy of the 15-minute mark when Mike Fiegehen got the puck deep in the Creemore zone. Justin Donnelly put it to the net and Curtis Johnston was right there, his initial shot stopped, but the rebound buried behind Kameka to make it 4-0 Winterhawks. Just over a minute later, Elder added his second of the night when James McHaig’s point shot was stopped by Kameka, but a falling Elder swept the rebound into the net to give the Winterhawks a 5-0 lead. Creemore got on the board in the dying seconds, scoring a buzzer beater off a goal-mouth scramble to ruin any thought of a shutout bid by Winterhawks goalie Jeff Flagler. Any thought of a Creemore comeback was snuffed out quickly in the third period with Elder’s hat-trick goal just 47-seconds into the third period, scoring off a beautiful toe-drag shot as he cut into the Creemore zone, giving the Winterhawks a 6-1 lead. Creemore could not mount any serious offence from there, the Winterhawks shutting down the Coyotes attack to make it a 6-1 final in Game 1. Flagler made 28 saves as the Winterhawks outshot Creemore 45-29 to open the series. It’s a 1-0 series lead in their best-of-seven quarterfinal, but it’s a new day on Saturday as the Coyotes look for revenge on home ice. Game 2 goes in Creemore at 7:30 p.m.
The Winterhawks were honoured to have local Central Bruce Special Olympics athletes on hand to carry the Bruce Telecom flags, as well as help raise funds for the upcoming national Winter Games in Calgary.
The team donated four game-worn jerseys, which were sold through a raffle and silent auction to help send those athletes to Calgary.
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