BRAMPTON – Stratford Cullitons went into the two-game weekend series two points behind Brampton Bombers.
Cullitons, however, gained no ground and still sit two points behind the much-improved Bombers in the Midwestern Conference standings.
Brampton gained a split here Sunday afternoon with a 6-3 victory after Stratford posted a 5-1 victory at home Friday night in front of approximately 1,375 spectators.
Sunday’s win pulled Bombers (10-10-2) into a tie for fourth place with Cambridge Winter Hawks (10-7-2). The loss halted a modest four-game winning streak for the sixth-place Cullitons (9-11-2), leaving them three points ahead of Guelph Hurricanes (8-11-1).
In the season series, Brampton holds a 2-1 lead on Stratford.
“It wasn’t a bad game, back and forth,” Cullitons’ coach Phil Westman reported. “But we let Brampton score at inopportune times. Every time we got some momentum going, we seemed to let an easy one in.
“It puts us two games behind .500 with some tough games coming up.”
After Bombers opened up a 2-0 first-period lead, Cullitons rallied to tie early in the second on goals by captain Jordan Currie and centre Brett Heaman. However, it was short-lived as the home team gained the lead, on a powerplay, just 70 seconds after Heaman had tied it at 12:39.
Reid Jackman made it 4-2 for Brampton before the end of the period.
Dylan Wettlaufer’s 10th of the season, on a powerplay, 50 seconds into the third pulled Stratford to within a goal.
That’s as close as the visitors would get as Bombers’ Francois Cote made it 5-3 just over five minutes later and then Owen Burry added an empty-netter in the final minute.
Chris Malone scored the first two Brampton goals, including one on a powerplay.
Cullitons took just three minor penalties, but Bombers scored twice on powerplays.
Stratford out-shot Brampton in every period and 33-22 overall. Michael Pesendorfer (6-3-1) took the loss for Cullitons.
“The first period was probably our best period and we were down 2-0,” Westman added. “After we made it 2-2, we got caught pinching and they scored on a powerplay. We kind let them back in it after I thought we had them on the ropes.”
Stratford 5 – Brampton 1
Coach Westman has often said the Cullitons go as exciting centre Trevor Sauder goes.
In the first game between the two teams Friday night at the Allman Arena, the 19-year-old Tavistock native scored his 11th and 12th goals of the season to spark the Stratford attack.
Sauder in his third year with Cullitons currently leads the team in scoring with 29 points.
“It was a big win for us tonight, but it wasn’t the most exciting game we’ve played all year,” coach Westman said. “I didn’t think we skated like we have in the past few games.
“But the game went our way. It was a combination of opportunistic scoring and playing good defence. We were able to run our four lines through, and it was a good team win.”
First-period goals by Sauder and defenceman Jake Pleon staked Stratford to an early 2-0 advantage. Sauder, on a powerplay, made it 3-0 at 4:33 of the middle frame.
It stayed that way until rookie forwards Nathan Templeman and Deven Kropf fired powerplay goals in the third, giving Cullitons a commanding 5-0 lead. It was the first game back from injury for both Templeman and Kropf.
Goalie Nick Caldwell (3-8-1) lost his shutout bid with 6:48 remaining when Brad Sheppard scored for the Bombers. “When we needed it, Nick came up with the big saves for us,” Westman added.
Playmakers for the Cullitons were Mitch Brooks with three assists and Nick Nigro with two.
Stratford out-shot Brampton in every period and 43-25 overall.
The teams combined for 90 minutes in penalties. Cullitons’ Patrick McKelvie and defenceman Jake Pleon were involved in fights. Pleon and Bombers’ Phil Caputo battled in the final two minutes and had to sit out Sunday’s rematch.
Upcoming: Cullitons have just one game this weekend. They entertain the last-place Brantford 99ers Friday at the Allman, starting at 7:30 p.m.
“We only have a one-game weekend, and that’s one we want to take to the bank,” Westman noted. “We have to focus on that one.”
The 99ers were 6-15-1 after this past weekend, but just two points behind Listowel. They host the Cyclones (5-11-5) Thursday evening before making the trip to Stratford Friday night.