Pat Payton, Sports Editor
KITCHENER - Stratford Cullitons were hoping to end a three-game tailspin here Sunday afternoon at the Kinsmen Arena, which features an Olympic-size ice surface.
But they didn’t get the chance as a “water issue” at the rink forced the Midwestern Conference game between the Cullitons and Dutchmen to be postponed. “A re-scheduled date for this game will be released once determined,” Midwest convener Shawn McKelvie said in an e-mail.
“We just found out; they said it was ice problems,” Cullitons’ coach Phil Westman said when contacted about noon-hour Sunday. “It was pretty vague to tell the truth. One of the compressors could have went down.”
Cullitons didn’t get home from Cayuga until 12:30 Sunday morning, then were back at the Allman Arena loading the bus at 11:30 a.m. for the trip to Kitchener when they received the news.
Following weekend action, Cambridge Winter Hawks and Waterloo Siskins sit in a first-place tie--both with 6-2 records.
Stratford (4-3) and Elmira (4-3) are next on the Midwest ladder, although Sugar Kings were scheduled to play Tuesday night in Kitchener. With three straight wins, Listowel Cyclones (3-4-1) have moved up to fifth spot.
Cullitons’ weekend began with a pair of back-to-back defeats to Caledonia Corvairs (formerly Brantford Golden Eagles, the 2011-12 Midwest champs).
Stratford lost 5-2 at the Cayuga Arena Saturday night after being handed a 4-1 setback 24 hours earlier at the Allman.
In Saturday’s game, Corvairs opened up a 5-0 first-period lead before Cullitons could respond.
“We didn’t play a bad game, but (goalie) Joe (Metzger) kind of struggled a little bit,” Westman reported. “We actually didn’t play a bad first period; it was just one of those night where everything they shot seemed to go in our net.
“In the second and third periods, we played really good hockey. It wasn’t a bad game . . . the score was actually a little misleading. It was a good entertaining game . . . back and forth.”
Stratford out-shot Caledonia 26-10 over the final 40 minutes.
Lack of mental toughness
On Friday night at the Allman Arena, Cullitons were dealt their second straight loss on home ice and Westman wasn’t pleased with his team’s “mental preparation” going into the weekend.
“We lost battles tonight, and when you lose battles you lose the war,” the coach said. “When you lose puck battles, you keep surrendering momentum and it’s hard to get back. I thought we struggled with it the whole game.
“I didn’t like the way we practised this week. I knew Wednesday at practice, we weren’t sharp. I could feel this coming Wednesday night. But I have to do a better job, too. When your team isn’t mentally prepared to play, then the onus falls on myself, too.
“But you can’t win every game. We have a young team, and we knew we were going to have some growing pains,” he added.
Caledonia 5 - Stratford 2
In front of a small crowd Saturday night at Cayuga Arena, Corvairs grabbed a huge advantage with five straight goals in the last half of the first period.
Captain Andrew Barton finally got Cullitons on the scoresheet with a powerplay goal with just four seconds remaining in the opening frame.
Rookie Trevor MacDonald scored the second Stratford goal just over three minutes in the second period, but that’s as close as the visitors would get.
Overall, Cullitons held a 35-22 edge in shots. For the second straight night, goalie Zach Easvet contained the Stratford shooters.
Brendan Bomberry and Connor Murphy each scored twice for Caledonia, with captain Mitch Brown adding a powerplay marker. Dylan Wettlaufer assisted on both Cullitons’ goals.
“I was much more pleased with our effort (Saturday) night than I was Friday night,” coach Westman reported. “I was upset with our (lack of) effort on Friday night.
“(Saturday) night, we competed well and made some nice plays. We were a little snake-bitten on our powerplay, but their goalie made some fantastic saves. He had another good game.
“And I’m sure that Joe (Metzger) would like a couple of those (goals) back. For the most part, we competed well and had good puck movement. We didn’t make any glaring mistakes; things just didn’t go our way.”
Caledonia 4 - Stratford 1
At the Allman Friday night, 30 saves from goaltender Easvet and a pair of goals by centre Mitch Brown carried the Corvairs to the win in front of an estimated 1,150 spectators.
The diminutive Brown, who is only 5 ft., 3 inches, also earned an assist for a three-point night.
“We have a younger team this year, and we challenged the kids and they came and played hard,” Caledonia GM Brian Rizzetto said. “I think we deserved the win, got a few breaks and got great goaltending. I thought it was a 20-man win.”
Powerplay goals by Brown and defenceman Brandon Montour gave Corvairs a 2-0 lead heading into the final 20 minutes. Brown made it 3-0 at 1:33 of the third.
After a breakaway save by Metzger kept Cullitons within striking distance, rookie Mitch Brooks finally solved Easvet when he cashed in a Ryan Watson rebound at 7:05. Trevor Sauder also assisted.
Stratford thought it had pulled to within a goal with 6:29 remaining. Shane O’Brien scored from a wild scramble, but the goal was waved off when the officials ruled that the net came off its moorings.
Corvairs’ veteran Tyler Norrie clinched it with an empty-net goal with 46 seconds left on the clock.
Overall, Caledonia out-shot Stratford 34-31.
This weekend: Cullitons play a couple of tough opponents this coming weekend.
They host Waterloo Friday night at the Allman at 7:30 p.m., and then head to St. Catharines the following day to face Strathroy Rockets, of the Western Conference, as part of the GOJHL’s Showcase Day.
Game time is 7:20 p.m. on Rink 2 at Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre. Cullitons can expect to play a scrappy, hard-working Strathroy team.