BY DAN MCNEE
LISTOWEL – For a while it looked as though fans were going to have to pitch their teddy bears onto the Memorial Arena ice at the final buzzer, rather than after a Junior Cyclones goal that they had been hoping for all afternoon.
But it was Ben Shelley who saved the day for the Listowel faithful, beating Stratford Cullitons goaltender Nicholas Caldwell from the high slot with just over seven minutes remaining in the third to prompt a cascade of plush toys from the stands. And while the seventh annual North Perth Hospice Teddy Bear Day was a big success on Sunday, the same couldn’t be said for the Cyclones on the scoreboard.
Stratford (17-15-3) beat Listowel (12-18-7) 5-2 for their third win in four tries against the Cyclones this season. Five different Cullitons scored on goaltender Daniel Dekoning, who held his own in net with 29 saves despite the crease-crashing Stratford forwards.
As the game wore on, Dekoning was happy to greet a few of the culprits with a friendly trapper to the face after he covered up for a whistle.
“I have to protect my crease,” grinned Dekoning after the game. “I just can’t let them in there – I let them know not to do it again.”
Stratford led 3-0 before the Shelley goal, his sixth of the campaign. Kenny Huether made things interesting a few minutes later with his 15th, but Stratford would add two empty netters to seal the win, its fourth in a row.
Defenceman Brad Yowart was playing in just his second game in a Cyclones uniform on Sunday, following his acquisition last week from the Guelph Hurricanes for veteran Dylan Sayle. The Cyclones also had a significant hole to fill with the departure of captain and top-two defenceman Mac Nichol via trade to the Kitchener Dutchmen on Jan. 8.
Yowart certainly didn’t look out of place on Listowel’s back end, as the smooth-skating blueliner was active on both the power play and penalty killing units.
“He’s a tremendous skater and that makes the loss of Mac a little easier to handle,” said head coach Mark Uniac.
“I knew a lot of the guys coming in,” said Yowart, a 17-year-old Guelph native. “I like it so far, it’s going great.
“I know we didn’t get the ‘W’ tonight, but we’ll work on that this week at practice and hopefully get it done next Friday.”
The seventh-seeded Cyclones did manage to keep their distance from eighth-place Brampton on Friday night by beating the Bombers 3-2.
Ray McFalls, Tim Nauta and Kevin Gergely scored for Listowel and Tanner Topham made 36 saves for his sixth win of the season. Cameron Cruickshank and Greg Wilson responded for Brampton, who is 2-3-0 versus the Cyclones this year.
Scott Patton made 23 saves in defeat.
Brampton went 1-4 on the power play, while Listowel was held scoreless with the man advantage over eight opportunities.
NO ‘C’ TO BE AWARDED
The Cyclones coaching staff will not be appointing a new captain for the remainder of the 2013-14 season with the departure of Mac Nichol, Uniac told The Banner.
Shelley and Derek Elliott will be named assistant captains to replace both Sayle and Scott Pawson, the latter who was traded to the Cambridge Winter Hawks in late December.
Shelley and Elliott will join veteran Sam Harris in wearing the A’s.
“Everybody has got to pull up the leadership reins now,” said Uniac, who said that the atmosphere has been good in the Listowel dressing room with all of the recent roster changes. “They’re a bunch of young guys – they know there’s no one great player going to come in and do it for them. It’s all on the group as a whole.
“They’re up to the challenge.”
The Cyclones host the Brantford 99’ers (7-27-3) this Friday, Jan. 17 at the Memorial in their only action this weekend. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.