Fans of the Stoney Creek Warriors finally have something to brag about. Their Golden Horseshoe Junior B Hockey League team sits in first place, and undefeated, in the regular season, with four wins and one tie.
And according to captain Mike Kavanagh, the team isn’t even playing to its full potential.
“Right now we are finding ways to win,” said Kavanagh, who recorded a four point night as the Warriors edged Welland 6-4 Sept. 25. “But we are still taking too many penalties, and at times are trying to be too fancy. We need to keep it simple, come together and work out the little kinks. That starts in the dressing room. As captain, that starts with me.”
The Warriors recorded two straight 6-4 road wins, the first against Fort Erie Sept. 22 and then the victory over Welland this week. Last Thursday, the Warriors doubled Fort Erie 8-4 at Valley Park Arena. Kavanagh, who sits in second place in league scoring with 13 points, said despite the team’s success so far this season, the Warriors still have a long way to go in improving their overall game. “We’re not even close to playing our best hockey,” he said.
Against Fort Erie, Andrew Dovey scored a hat trick to give the Warriors the sweep of a home-and-home series with the Fort Erie Meteors. Stoney Creek jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, on goals by Jason Popek and Dovey. Picking up assists were Riley Steeves, Cayle Creen and Kavanagh. Fort Erie stormed back with two power play goals to close out the opening period. David Ruberto put the Warriors back on top converting on a pretty two-on-one passing play from Jesse Healy. Kyle Steckley evened the score with the Meteors third power play marker at the 16:02 mark.
Stoney Creek regained the lead at the 5:16 mark of the third. Dovey banged in a goal mouth scramble, from Kavanagh and Greg Bryl. The scrappy Meteors kept coming back, and tied the game with their fourth power play goal of the game at the 9:31 mark.
However, Dovey, on a beautiful passing play from Kavanagh, put Stoney Creek ahead for good at the 11:33 mark. The shorthanded marker gave Dovey the hat trick. Kavanagh rounded out the scoring with an empty-net marker at the 19:40 mark. Dylan Ellis was outstanding in net for Stoney Creek and earned the win. Vaclav Vlachynsky took the loss in net for Fort Erie.
Against Welland Sept. 25, Dovey got the visitors on the board with a shorthanded marker at the 10:23 mark. Kavanagh picked up the helper. Welland tied the game just 14 seconds later, but the Warriors closed out the period with Dovey’s second of the game, assisted by Bryl and Kavanagh. The Jr. Canadians pulled even early in the second period, but Stoney Creek scored three consecutive goals to take a 5-2 lead. D. Ruberto, Kavanagh and Adam Montgomery notched the goals. Jake Lyons, Justin Sanderson, Kavanagh and Montgomery picked up assists.
The third saw Welland close the gap to 5-3 just seven seconds into the period, but Jordan Poole, with his first goal as a Warrior, re-established a three goal lead. Welland scored a goal midway through the period to make it 6-4. Garrett Driscoll had another strong performance in net for Stoney Creek, stopping 40 shots.
Dovey now leads the GHL in scoring, with 14 points (11 goals). “I can’t get him the puck enough,” said Kavanagh. “He’s always in the right spot.”
Coach Mike Schutte said it was important that his team remains focussed on improving with each and every practice and game.
“We’re only playing at 50 per cent right now, and it’s up to the coaching staff to mine out the other 50 per cent,” he said. “We’ve shown some lack of discipline and take too many stick penalties. But these are bad habits that can be corrected.” The Warriors are now unbeaten in eight straight games (counting pre-season action).
The news for the team only got better this week as last year’s scoring leader Jordan Gignac returned to the Warriors after a brief stay with the Hamilton Red Wings. “I’m excited to see how Gignac, Ozzy (Jamie Osborne) and Monty (Adam Montgomery) will play together,” said Schutte.
To make room for Gignac, the Warriors sent David DeWildt to Glanbrook. Schutte said it was a tough decision. “David loved this team,” he said. “He is a big part of our future plans.”
On Saturday (Sept. 29), the Warriors will host the Thorold Blackhawks at Valley Park Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Sept. 30, the Warriors return to Welland. Fans who can’t make the road games can keep up-to-date with realtime scoring at www.pointstreak.com.