BY DAN MCNEE
LISTOWEL – Heading into last weekend’s action, the Listowel Junior Cyclones knew they had a tall order ahead of them.
Listowel (5-3-3) faced two of the GOJHL Midwestern Conference’s top three teams in the Waterloo Siskins and Elmira Sugar Kings and managed to secure three out of a possible four points. The Cyclones topped the Siskins (6-3-1) 5-3 at Memorial Arena on Friday before bowing out to the Sugar Kings (9-2-0) 5-4 in a shootout on Sunday.
Waterloo had upended the Cyclones handily back on Sept. 8 in a 6-1 rout at the Waterloo Rec Complex, but they faced a different, more determined team on Oct. 4. Ted Nichol recorded four points (two goals, two assists) and Kenny Huether had a hat trick to lead Listowel offensively, but the Cyclones’ overall effort still wasn’t enough to please head coach Mark Uniac.
“I wasn’t happy with that game at all,” said Uniac following the contest. “A lot of the little mistakes that we kept making we’ve been talking about for weeks and weeks. Turning pucks over in bad spots, not getting them out, bailing out, soft plays – they were still there tonight.
“They had 26 shots in the first period. Danny (Dekoning) stole that one.”
Dekoning (3-0-2) was indeed stellar in the Listowel net, turning aside 49 Waterloo shots to remain unbeaten in regulation since returning to the Cyclones from the OHL’s Erie Otters two weeks prior. Counterpart Leo Lazarev made 35 saves for the Siskins.
“He was stellar, he kept us in the game,” said Ted Nichol of his netminder. “He stopped that one breakaway in the third and just made some key saves on the penalty kill.”
Listowel held Waterloo to one power-play goal in seven opportunities, while the Cyclones lit up the scoreboard with the man advantage, going 3-7. The Siskins led 2-1 early in the second before Nichol and Huether would explode for three unanswered power-play markers to give the Cyclones a 4-2 advantage halfway through the third period.
“Those two will be staying together for sure,” said Uniac of his efficient second-line scoring tandem. “They have a lot of energy, they know each other well and they like playing together.”
“We’re just having fun, things are going our way,” added Nichol. “The chemistry keeps growing, it’s good.”
After Nichol gave his team that two-goal cushion by slapping home a Scott Pawson rebound just as the power play expired, Waterloo would make things interesting following a questionable Kevin Gergely high-sticking call. The Siskins would pull Lazarev with just over two minutes remaining for a 6-on-4 advantage, and managed to get within one on a Ryan Taylor goal following a scramble in front of Dekoning.
But Huether would ice the game with his third of the night into the empty net from his own blueline with 10 seconds to go to give the Cyclones their third win in a row.
“It’s real nice, it’s a big day,” said Huether of getting the hat trick. “A lot of people have been in this league for four years and haven’t had the opportunity, so it’s nice to get.”
Both Pawson and Mac Nichol pitched in for two assists each, while Dylan Sayle and Sam Harris each picked up a helper to round out the scoring for Listowel.
Travis Harvey and Danny Hanlon had the other goals for Waterloo.
On Sunday, the Cyclones failed to protect a one-goal lead heading into the third period and ultimately dropped a 5-4 decision to Elmira in a shootout at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena.
Derek Elliott scored twice, Huether had a goal and an assist and Mac Nichol had two helpers for Listowel, who failed to register a goal in the shootout. The Sugar Kings’ Brad Kobryn scored twice and got the shootout winner to lead Elmira, who now sits in a tie with the Kitchener Dutchmen for first in the conference with 18 points.
Dekoning made 36 saves for the shootout loss, while Sugar Kings goaltender Jonathan Reinhart picked up the win with 33 saves.
Listowel returns home this Friday, Oct. 11 to face the defending Midwestern Conference champion Cambridge Winter Hawks at the Memorial at 7:30 p.m. The Cyclones also travel to Thorold on Saturday to meet the Blackhawks in inter-conference play, and Waterloo on Sunday for a rematch with the Siskins.