With just one game on the weekend, against Waterloo Siskins last Friday night, coach Phil Westman wanted a good outcome.
And Westman got the result he wanted as Stratford Cullitons skated to a well-deserved 4-1 win over the sputtering third-place Waterloo Siskins in front of about 1,450 spectators at the Allman Arena.
“It was a game we really wanted to win tonight,” Westman admitted after the game. “The reason is because we don’t play again for another week, and if you win, it leads to a good week at practice. It leads up to a good week looking ahead.”
Cullitons’ victory also extended their win streak in the New Year to six games—their longest of the Midwestern Conference schedule.
After weekend action, Stratford (19-15-3) sits in a fourth-place tie with Cambridge Winter Hawks (18-14-5). Both teams have 41 points and have played 37 games.
Siskins (26-11-3), meanwhile, have dropped three in a row and five of their last six.
“Basically, we wanted to get the puck in deep, and then forecheck hard tonight,” Westman explained.
“Waterloo comes from an Olympic-size ice surface to our smaller rink. I think it’s a matter of taking their time and space away, and get them out of their comfort zone and get them back playing defence in their own zone.
“So I think we executed our game plan tonight.”
Goals by Nick Nigro and Tyson Baker, on a breakaway, staked Cullitons to a 2-0 first-period lead. It was one of their best periods of hockey on home ice this season.
Captain Jordan Currie made it 3-0 on a powerplay at 18:18 of the second period, and Shane O’Brien put Stratford firmly in control with another man-advantage goal at 1:39 of the third.
Goalie Nick Caldwell lost his shutout bid with just over five minutes to play. Evan Kearns was the marksman for Waterloo.
Siskins held a slim 35-33 edge in shots, after out-shooting Cullitons 18-10 in the final 20 minutes. Caldwell improved his record to 10-9-2 and lowered his goals-against average to 2.59.
“We gave up a few more shots in the third period than I wanted, but we killed some penalties,” Westman continued. “But it was our sixth period in 24 hours, so the guys held up pretty well.
“The way I run the bench, I just ran the lines through and nobody got out of order. We pretty much had four lines going all night.
“We didn’t empty the tank (Thursday) night in Brantford, but I was prepared to empty the tank tonight.”
It was a tame game, with just 22 minutes in penalties handed out. Waterloo went 0-for-7 with the man advantage.
Stratford 3 – Brantford 2 (SO)
At the Gretzky Arena in Brantford on Thursday night, defenceman Ryker Killins was the only scorer in the shootout as Cullitons kept their win streak alive with a 3-2 victory over the 99ers.
It was Cullitons’ fourth victory in five games against the last-place 99ers. Both of Stratford’s games in Brantford to date have been one-goal affairs.
The 99ers held a slim 1-0 lead after 40 minutes on a second-period goal by Guy Polillo.
Trevor MacDonald’s second shorthanded goal of the season tied it 1-1 at 1:43 of the third from Killins.
Mitch Vandergunst (his sixth) then put Cullitons ahead 2-1 just 39 seconds later. Assists went to Nathan Templeman and Dylan Wettlaufer.
Polillo forced extra time when he connected for a shorthanded marker with 7:44 left in the third. Polillo is Brantford’s leading scorer with 14 goals and 43 points.
Polillo’s second of the night came while 99ers were shorthanded for a stretch of nine straight minutes after Scotty Penwarden received a fighting major, plus instigator and aggressor minors.
“It was frustrating for us,” coach Westman said. “I think sometimes when you see a nine-minute powerplay and there’s only 10 minutes left, that you think it’s pretty well in the bag. But it got to be a lot of pond hockey out there.
“We let their goalie (Andre Keire) see too many shots. And when we did get an odd-man rush, we didn’t capitalize. It’s something we have to address because as the season goes on and the playoffs approach, those chances are going to get limited.”
Overall, Cullitons out-shot the 99ers 46-18, including 18-4 in the third. Michael Pesendorfer improved his personal record to 9-6-1. Keire made 43 saves over the course of the night for Brantford.
The 99ers took 28 of the 39 penalty minutes, including two of the three fighting majors. Penwarden, meanwhile, picked up a three-game suspension.
Brantford earned a single point, but is now 14 points behind the eighth-place Brampton Bombers.
--Cullitons have given up just 13 goals in their six-game win streak.
--Nick Caldwell is 9-1-1 in his last 11 starts.
--Cullitons host Listowel Cyclones this Friday at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Stratford heads to Brampton for a 2 o’clock face-off.
After this past weekend, Cullitons have just 12 regular-season games remaining.
--When Listowel defenceman Mac Nichol was recently dealt to first-place Kitchener Dutchmen, the Cyclones’ coaching staff decided not to appoint a new team captain for the remainder of the season.
Ben Shelley and Derek Elliott, meanwhile, have been named assistant captains to replace Dylan Sayle and Scott Pawson, who were also recently traded to other Midwest teams. Defenceman Sam Harris is also wearing an ‘A’.“Everybody has got to pull up the leadership reins now,” Cycs' coach Mark Uniac told the Listowel Banner. “It’s all on the group as a whole.”