It was hardly conventional, but the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks rallied to take a 6-5 win over the Minto 81’s on Friday night at The Plex, in the process winning their WOAA Sr. “AA” quarterfinal series in five games.
Things started out on a good note for the Winterhawks, as James McHaig scored 4:41 into the 1st period.
Jay Thomson and Andy Mitchell had an odd-man rush broken up, but the puck bounced to McHaig in the slot, who spun and fired it past Minto netminder Ben Nelson.
Minto picked up a four-minute power play moments later and were able to tie the game during the first-half of the double-minor.
The Winterhawks killed off the remaining two minutes, but seconds after the penalty expired, Collin Hartwick stripped the Winterhawks defender of the puck behind the net and flipped the puck over Winterhawks goalie Jeff Flagler to put Minto on top, 2-1.
Minto held the lead through the first period, but the Winterhawks again came out strong to open the 2nd period. Bryan Kazarian and Trent Hawke worked a cycle down low, with Hawke getting the puck to Andy Fracz in the slot, and he beat Nelson to tie the game at 2-2. Minto answered right back 21-seconds later off a face-off to restore the lead at 3-2.
The Winterhawks picked up a powerplay at the midway point of the 2nd period, and were able to tie the game again.
Mike Rocca worked the puck to Lauchlin Elder in the slot, and while he didn’t get much on the shot, the puck bounced to Blake Underwood, who fired the puck past Nelson to make it 3-3.
Once again, Minto took the lead back in the dying seconds of the 2nd to give themselves a 4-3 lead heading to the 3rd.
The Winterhawks pushed hard early in the 3rd as they sought to tie the game, but it took until the midway point before the dam burst.
Fracz fought off a check behind the Minto net and centered the puck to Hawke, who fired it past Nelson to make it a 4-4 tie. T
he goal seemed to give the Winterhawks extra jump, as the pressure continued. Just 47-seconds later, after captain Trevor Smith lead a rush into the 81’s zone, and while Nelson turned aside another chance, the clearing attempt was knocked down by Elder, and his shot was tipped in by Miles MacLean, giving the Winterhawks a 5-4 lead.
Not yet satisfied, the Winterhawks continued to push Minto, as Rocca and Connor Patton entered the zone on a three-on-two, with Rocca feeding Michael Johnstone on the door step, and he made no mistake, making it a 6-4 game.
All told the Winterhawks went from trailing by one to leading by two, all in the span of 2:26.
Minto added one more with the goalie out with 35-seconds left, but that’s as close as they could get, as the Winterhawks held on for the 6-5 win.
Fracz was named The Wismer House Player of the Game for his one goal, one assist effort.
They will now move on to the Sr. “AA” semi-finals, and have a daunting task on their hands, as they will face the three-time defending champion Clinton Radars.
The series will begin next weekend, however, a full series schedule will be posted as soon as it’s available.