BY DAN MCNEE
LISTOWEL – With only six games remaining in their 2013-14 GOJHL regular season schedule, the best thing the Listowel Junior Cyclones can do is forget about last weekend and move on.
The Cyclones (14-21-8) lost three games in three days to the Midwestern Conference’s top three teams over the weekend. Listowel dropped decisions to the Waterloo Siskins, Kitchener Dutchmen and Elmira Sugar Kings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but still manage to hold onto the seventh seed with a two-point cushion over Brampton with two games in hand.
On Friday night, the Cyclones deserved a better fate than the 3-2 overtime loss they received at the hands of the Siskins at Memorial Arena.
Listowel led 1-0 for most of the game before a pair of defensive lapses put Waterloo up 2-1 in under a minute midway through the third.
“A couple mistakes,” said head coach Mark Uniac. “That’s how it goes sometimes, they got a couple breaks and it flips around. I thought we played with them all night and we battled back after we went down 2-1.”
Kenny Huether would respond for the Cyclones with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, beating Waterloo netminder Leo Lazarev with a low shot from the high slot. It was Huether’s second of the game after opening the scoring at 6:38 of the first. Ted Nichol, Kevin Gergely, Tim Nauta and Brad Yowart all picked up single assists on his two tallies.
The game likely wouldn’t have even reached overtime without the steady hand of Daniel Dekoning in the Listowel goal. Dekoning put up his best home performance of the season with a staggering 49 stops, many of which were fantastic in nature.
But the hockey gods were not on his side in overtime, as a seemingly harmless Waterloo dump-in bounced off the end boards, took a strange hop and banked off Dekoning’s pad and in.
“It came off the boards pretty fast and I just misread it,” said the visibly disappointed netminder after the game. “It happens, it was just a bad bounce.”
Neither side could muster much offence on the power play, as Waterloo went 0-3 and Listowel went 0-6.
Lazarev made 35 saves for the win, while Evan Buehler, Mitch Atkins and Andrew Brubacher all scored for the Siskins.
“There’s positives to take out of that game,” said Uniac.
The following afternoon, the Cyclones faced off against former captain Mac Nichol for the first time since his trade deadline move to the Dutchmen as Listowel fell to Kitchener (34-5-4) at the Aud, 5-2.
Huether continued his hot hand with his team-leading 20th goal while Ben Shelley potted the other in the losing effort. Huether now has a point streak of four games, while registering seven goals and three assists in his last 11.
Tanner Topham got the nod in net and made 41 saves, while counterpart Marcus Del Conte turned aside 24 shots for the win.
The Dutchmen’s Adam Kawalec led all scorers with two goals and an assist, while Mac Nichol put up a power-play assist, giving Kitchener points in 11 consecutive games.
Sunday’s game against the Sugar Kings (31-8-5) in Elmira saw Dekoning turn aside 53 shots, but Listowel couldn’t generate much offence in a 5-1 loss.
Five different Elmira skaters registered two points in the game, while goaltender Jonathan Reinhart made 32 saves for the win.
Blake Nichol’s second period power-play marker was the lone Listowel tally of the afternoon, as the Cyclones fell to 1-3-2 versus the Sugar Kings in 2013-14. It was the final time the two teams will meet this regular season, barring a first-round playoff matchup.
“We feel like we can still do something in the rankings and move up a spot,” said Dekoning. “We’ve just got to keep winning.”
Dekoning’s 6-10-5 season record is not a proper indicator of how important he is to the Cyclones and just how well he has played in his sophomore year. The 17-year-old Listowel native has a respectable 3.46 goals-against average through 21 starts, while his .913 save percentage is 14th in the entire 27-team GOJHL.
Listowel welcomes Kitchener to the Memorial this Friday night for a Valentine’s Day clash with the first-place Dutchmen. Game time is 7:30 p.m.