BY DAN MCNEE
The Listowel Junior Cyclones are now poised to wrap up the GOJHL regular season in fine form, taking seven out of a possible eight points this past week with three victories and a shootout loss.
The Cycs began their four-game stretch last Tuesday in a make-up game versus the Cambridge Winter Hawks at Memorial Arena, handily winning a 9-4 penalty-filled affair. The top-line tandem of Jacob Robitaille and Caleb Cameron continued their stellar campaigns, each recording six-point nights including a four-goal performance from Robitaille. Linemate Patrick Bell chipped in with four assists while Sam Feagan added two goals and defenceman Mac Nichol had a goal and a helper.
Goaltender Drew Reinhardt made 26 saves for the win in a game that saw Listowel chase Cambridge backup goalie Jordan Lee from the net after three goals on only seven shots. Lucas Machalski entered the fray to allow six goals and take the loss for Cambridge.
“I liked their work ethic and commitment to doing the little things,” said head coach Jeff Flanagan of his team following the game. “Things like chipping pucks, winning battles, making good passes and getting pucks deep into the offensive zone.”
As Listowel’s lead grew larger, so did the Winter Hawks’ frustration. The Cyclones finished the game 4-18 on the power play, with both sides recording 122 penalty minutes combined.
“We had discussed before the game the things we needed to do; we had some goals we needed to hit stats wise, and then we talked about being disciplined and getting the emotion and hard work into the game but not getting our emotions too high,” said Flanagan. “They did a good job of that when Cambridge really put the pressure on.”
It certainly must have been difficult for Listowel to not get too emotional on what was a very emotional week for the team, following the news last Sunday that former Cyclone Steve Hutchinson had taken his own life. A moment of silence was held prior to Friday’s game versus the Guelph Hurricanes, a team the 18-year-old had also played for during his hockey career that was cut tragically short. Several Cyclones also wore Hutchinson’s number on their helmets to pay tribute to their friend and teammate.
“It’s been a difficult two or three days for our guys,” said Flanagan. “They really did a good job of coming to the rink to play and making sure they did the right thing considering the difficult situation.”
Backup goaltender Daniel Dekoning got the start versus Guelph in what was a back and forth battle that saw no lead safe for long, ultimately resulting in a 6-5 shootout win for the Hurricanes.
Robitaille got the ball rolling for Listowel early, streaking in on the wing and wristing a beautiful rising shot cleanly past goalie Jason DaSilva six minutes in. The big right-winger has had a huge month for his team, recording 12 goals and six assists in seven games following Monday night’s tilt with the Brampton Bombers.
After three unanswered Guelph tallies that saw Listowel trailing 3-1 early in the second, the Cyclones turned up their physical game.
A couple booming checks by Nichol swung the momentum in Listowel’s favour, as the home team scored three unanswered goals of their own by the end of the second. Aaron Armstrong, Bell and Tanner Mighton gave the Cyclones a 4-3 edge heading into the final frame.
“They got up on us and we thought that we had to get back to the basics,” said Flanagan. “We did that, and then we let off the pedal again.”
Following a Guelph power-play goal early in the third, Listowel was again able to take the lead following a Cameron marker at 9:20. But a couple minutes later the Hurricanes’ Zach McFadden sent a looping wrister on net from beyond the blue line that fooled Dekoning.
Despite a couple great scoring opportunities for the Cyclones in overtime, a shootout was required to determine the outcome. Robitaille and Cameron were unable to beat DaSilva in their attempts, while Michael Courvoisier and Matt Lippa both scored against Dekoning to seal the win, only Guelph’s ninth victory of the season.
“We have to play a full game,” said Flanagan following the loss. “It was like a rollercoaster ride tonight – up and down.”
The coach got that full game from his squad on Sunday night in Elmira, in what was a decisive 6-3 win for Listowel over the Sugar Kings.
Reinhardt returned between the pipes and registered 46 saves for his second straight win and 18th on the season. Robitaille notched his third hat trick of the year and added an assist, while Cameron also put up four points including three helpers. Cameron’s 88 points now puts him behind only Port Colborne’s Dayne Phillips and St. Catharines’ Ben Walsh for the GOJHL scoring lead.
Bell and Nichol also scored for the Cycs, while Scott Pawson added three assists. Listowel made the most of its power-play opportunities, going 4-9 with the man advantage. Special teams also came up big on the penalty kill, allowing only one goal on six Elmira opportunities.
The Cyclones arrived at the Powerade Centre in Brampton on Monday night on a roll to meet the eighth place Bombers and did not disappoint, leaving with a 5-4 victory.
Reinhardt made 33 saves and picked up his second win in as many nights. Jesse Parker led offensively, putting up two goals and an assist. Brandon Priestap had a goal and a helper, Nichol had two assists, Robitaille picked up his 80th point of the year and Bell scored his 20th goal that would also prove to be the game winner.
The Junior Cyclones currently sit in third place in the Midwestern Conference with 59 points. Third will be the best Listowel can finish heading into the playoffs, with only a home-and-home with the first-place Caledonia Corvairs left to play in the 2012-13 season.
The first of that two-game set will go on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Arena. The Cyclones’ final regular season matchup is the following day back in Caledonia, also at 7:30 p.m.