The Saugeen Shores Winterhawks weekend told two different tales, a disappointing home effort and an offensive outburst on the road.
The Minto 81’s scored early and often as they came into The Plex and stole two points from the Winterhawks on Friday night.
Minto came out flying, keeping the Winterhawks on their heels, with Zach Graham opening the scoring just 2:14 into the game.
The 81’s kept the locomotive heading down the tracks in the 1st period, and Graham again scored at 11:11, getting alone at the side of the net for a tap-in goal on Winterhawks starter Eric Peicheff.
The Winterhawks killed off a Minto power play late in the period, but the 81’s struck again moments after the penalty ended, with Mike Pleon sneaking a shot through from the point to make it 3-0.
The home side regrouped during the intermission and came out with energy in the 2nd period, forcing Minto starter Ben Nelson to make several highlight-reel saves to open the period.
Mistakes again cost the Winterhawks, as a botched breakout ended up on the stick of Jake Pleon, who beat Peicheff to make it a 4-0 lead for Minto.
The Winterhawks got on the board at 9:26 of the 2nd period, as Bryan Kazarian pounced on an 81’s turnover and broke into the Minto zone, sliding the puck to Trevor Smith, who fired the puck over the shoulder of Nelson to cut the Minto lead to 4-1.
The momentum was short-lived, as Minto forced an odd-man rush at 11:21 and Wade Pfeffer made it a 5-1 lead for the visitors.
The Winterhawks again regrouped during the intermission, and Matt Shields scored at 1:56 to cut the Minto lead to 5-2, with assists to Kazarian and Adam Blundell.
The pressure kept up and Miles MacLean stole the puck from the 81’s defender and unleashed a slap shot that beat Nelson at 10:48 to make it a 5-3 game.
The Winterhawks picked up a power play shortly after the goal and despite some chances in close, couldn’t beat Nelson.
Peicheff was pulled for an extra attacker late in the game, and the 81’s jumped on a turnover for an easy empty net goal to arrive at a 6-3 final.
Adam Kading and Mike Rocca each had a goal and two assists as the Winterhawks took an 8-5 over the Seaforth Centenaires on Saturday night.
After a slow start to the game the night before put them behind the eight-ball early, the Winterhawks again found themselves trailing early.
Seaforth’s Reuben Smith opening the scoring exactly one minute into the game, beating Winterhawks netminder Jeff Flagler to give the home side a 1-0 lead.
It took until the midway point of the period for the Winterhawks to get to Seaforth goalie Jesse Raymond.
Rocca tied things up at 10:05, with assists to Kading and Trevor Smith.
Michael Johnstone scored just over three minutes later to give the Winterhawks a 2-1 lead, with assists to Kading and Rocca.
A milestone goal for Blake Underwood finished off the scoring in the opening frame, as the veteran forward notched his 100th goal as a Winterhawk at the 17-minute mark to make it 3-1, with assists to Rocca and Curtis Johnston.
Another milestone followed in the 2nd period, as Kading scored his first goal as a Winterhawk at 3:24, with assists to Johnstone and Nick Quaid to give the Winterhawks a 4-1 lead.
Seaforth roared back with a goal by Rob Vanwynsberghe at 8:58, followed by a goal by Josh Gaynor at 16:32 to cut the Winterhawks lead to 4-3 after two periods.
The Winterhawks came out flying in the 3rd period to end any thoughts of a Seaforth comeback.
Lauchlin Elder scored 54-seconds into the 3rd to extend the lead to 5-3, with assists to Smith and Connor Patton.
Andy Fracz made it 6-3 at 5:59, with assists to Josh Deyell and Miles MacLean.
It was then MacLean who made it 7-3 on the power play at 8:44, with assists to Patton and Smith, his 3rd assist of the night.
Seaforth did not go quietly into the night, as Brendon Merritt and Cal Penney scored just over a minute apart to cut the lead to 7-5.
Underwood provided the dagger for the Winterhawks at 13:36, scoring his second of the night to make it 8-5, with Josh Hopkin picking up an assist.
Flagler made 30 saves for the win as the Winterhawks out-shot Seaforth 40-35 on the night.
The win moves the Winterhawks [11-2-0] back into sole possession of 1st place in the WOAA Sr. Hockey League standings, two points ahead of the Ripley Wolves [10-1-0], Shelburne Muskies [10-2-0] and Clinton Radars [10-4-0], who all sit tied for 2nd place.
The Winterhawks will be off next weekend, before returning home on Friday, December 20th for a pivotal showdown with the Wolves.
Game time at The Plex is 8:30 p.m.