BRAMPTON – More wins!
Stratford Cullitons extended their win streak to nine games here Sunday afternoon, dumping the eighth-place Bombers 8-2 in their final regular-season game.
More importantly, Cullitons (32-13-4) finished with one more win than Waterloo Siskins (31-12-6) to claim third place in the Midwestern Conference standings. Both teams finished with 68 points, but wins are the first tie-breaker in the GOJHL.
Cullitons will now meet sixth-place Cambridge Winter Hawks (24-20-5) in the conference quarter-finals, beginning this Friday in Stratford at 7:30 p.m. Game 2 is Saturday in Cambridge at 7 p.m., with Game 3 Monday in Stratford at 7:30 p.m. Game 4 is Tuesday back in Cambridge at 7 o’clock, meaning the teams will play four games in a span of five days.
Cullitons were 4-1-1 against the Hawks this season.
Elmira Sugar Kings (1) play Brampton (8), Kitchener Dutchmen (2) meet Listowel Cyclones (7), and Waterloo (4) faces Guelph Hurricanes (5) in other first-round match-ups.
Three powerplay goals
In Brampton Sunday, Cullitons built period leads of 3-0 and 6-1 against a short-staffed Bombers’ squad.
Mitch Brooks, Hayden Broomhead (his 17th) and Midget call-up Evan Metelski scored for Stratford in the opening 20 minutes.
Zach Van Louwe (even strength), and defenceman Jake Pleon and captain Trevor Sauder (both on powerplays) scored for the visitors in the middle frame.
Tyson Baker (powerplay) and Brooks (his 24th) added third-period tallies.
“We played pretty well today; it was nice to end the (regular) season like that,” Cullitons’ interim head coach Tyler Canal said. “In the offensive zone today, I thought we moved the puck pretty well, and played the type of game that we need to play.”
Brooks (2-1), Pleon (1-2), Sauder (1-2) and Brook Hiddink (0-3) all finished the game with three points. The three points for Brooks were enough to give the hard-working winger the team scoring title (62-60) over Shane O’Brien, who did not pick up a point Sunday.
Nick Caldwell (24-7-1-2) and Nick Redman shared the goaltending duties for Cullitons, who finished with a 12-10-3 road record.
Brampton, meanwhile, played the game with just 10 skaters and two goalies.
Cullitons swept the season series 6-0 with the eighth-place Bombers (8-34-7).
Stratford 8 – Guelph 7
At the Allman Arena last Friday night, Cullitons emerged with an entertaining 8-7 victory in a shootout over Guelph Hurricanes in front of approximately 1,550 spectators.
But don’t expect high-scoring games like this when the two teams start conference quarter-final playoff series later this week. Both the Stratford and Guelph coaching staffs want their teams to be a lot more defensive conscious.
“You don’t like giving up seven goals,” Cullitons’ assistant coach Tim Schultz said. “But we got the win and we’re still in the hunt for that third spot.
“Guelph has a pretty good team. If we meet them in the first round, I don’t think the games will be like that. We were very loose in our own end, and gave up way too many shots. Caldwell had to bail us out, and that’s why he’s the best goalie in the league. If it wasn’t for Caldwell, it might have been 14-7. He saved our bacon.
“But I’m sure the fans appreciated that game and all the goals.”
Cullitons came storming out of the gates—building a 3-0 lead before the first period was three minutes old on goals by Zach Van Louwe, Brook Hiddink and Patrick McKelvie.
After a Hurricanes’ goal by Patrick Kudla, Jared Nash restored a three-goal Cullitons’ advantage with a powerplay goal at 11:44.
With the game being a possible playoff preview, the ‘Canes appeared to send a message that they weren’t going to quit. Kudla and Brody Milne scored powerplay goals in the final three minutes to close the gap to 4-3.
Guelph’s Jordan Hatzinger then quieted the Stratford crowd with a pair of goals early in the middle frame to put his team ahead 5-4.
Cullitons’ defenceman Joe Leahy tied it shorthanded before the end of the period, after taking a perfect pass from captain Trevor Sauder. For Leahy, it was his ninth goals for the season and fifth in the last seven games.
After Matt Nightingale gave Hurricanes a 6-5 lead early in the third, powerplay goals by Shane O’Brien (his 25th) and Hiddink gave Stratford a 7-6 lead with less than two minutes to play.
Guelph pulled goalie Jason DaSilva in the final minute, and Milne tied it with just 21 seconds left on the clock. Kudla assisted, his fifth point of the night.
Both sides had three shots in a scoreless five-minute overtime period.
The shootout lasted four rounds, with rookie Hayden Broomhead firing the winner for Cullitons. “It was a nice shot by Hayden,” Schultz said. Goalie Caldwell turned aside all four Hurricanes’ shooters.
Hiddink and Leahy both finished the game with three points.
Overall, Guelph out-shot Stratford 39-38, one of the few times Cullitons have been out-shot on home ice this season.
Cullitons won the season series with Hurricanes, 4-2, and also finished with a 20-3-1 regular-season home-ice record.