ST. MARYS - A focused Stratford Cullitons’ team was deserving 4-2 winners over St. Marys Lincolns in the "Battle of Highway 7" here Friday night.
Since the head-to-head games between the two Perth County teams began five years ago, Cullitons now lead the annual interlocking series 4-1. The Midwestern Conference Cullitons stopped a two-game losing skid with the win, while the loss was the sixth in the last seven games for the struggling Lincs (14-19-2), who are barely hanging onto eighth place in the Western division.
Stratford (13-15-5) moved to within six points of sixth-place Waterloo Siskins with the road win.
“We were more focused tonight than we have been in a month,” Cullitons coach Phil Westman said following the game. “We had a little meeting before practice this week and we talked about it.
“When things aren’t going your way, it wasn’t getting to be fun anymore. I think we were using the excuse of having injuries and being sick and stuff like that. We were letting too many Friday nights slip away.
“It was time we started playing hockey. You have to pay the price to win,” Westman added.
Teams set fast pace
Before a crowd of over 1,150 spectators, the teams set a fast pace in a scoreless opening period. Centre Trevor Sauder--arguably the best player on the ice--gave Stratford a 1-0 lead on a powerplay at 3:30 of the middle frame. After Lincs’ Cody Filson tied it at 4:56, winger Shane O’Brien put Cullitons back in front with his 18th of the season just over a minute later.
St. Marys tied it 2-2 on a powerplay at 9:14, getting a favourable bounce off Calvin Penney’s skate in front of the Stratford net, before Sauder helped put Stratford back on top at 14:30. His centring pass was whipped home by Dylan Wettlaufer and the goal would stand up as the winner. Mitch Brooks also assisted. The visitors finished with a 21-11 edge in shots in the period.
With Cullitons clinging to their 3-2 lead, goalie Nick Caldwell made the stop of the game with 6:45 left in the third. With Stratford on a powerplay, speedster Sean Consitt broke in all alone, but Caldwell made a spectacular glove save on the Lincolns captain to keep his team in front.
While killing a penalty late in the game, Ryan Watson clinched it for Cullitons with an unassisted empty-netter with 41 seconds left on the clock. It was Watson’s 14th. Overall, Stratford out-shot St. Marys 41-28.
The games have all been close, but it was the fourth straight win for Cullitons over the Lincs. Lincolns won the first game between the two clubs, 5-3, back in 2008, but Stratford won the next three games--5-3, 3-2 and 5-4 in overtime on home ice last year.
Upcoming: Cullitons’ next Midwest game is Friday, Jan. 4 when they host Cambridge Winter Hawks at 7:30 p.m.