They’re affectionately known as ‘The Kid Line’, but according to head coach Mike Schutte, the line of Jordan Winger, Marcus Ruberto and Jason Popek are one of the reasons the Stoney Creek Warriors continue to be the class of the Golden Horseshoe League this season.
“They work hard and execute on every shift,” said Schutte. “They never take a shift off.” The consistent play of ‘The Kid Line’ has earned Winger, 15, Ruberto, 16, and Popek, 17, added ice time this season, including penalty killing and power play minutes.
For Winger, who was one of the final selections to the team coming out of training camp, every extra minute of ice time is a bonus. “Starting the season, I wasn’t expecting to get as much ice time,” said the grade 11 student at Orchard Park High School. “I was told I would play 20 to 30 games, and I was just happy to be on this team. I knew when I did get ice time, I had to give it my all, and make every shift count. All three of us recognize that if we don’t work hard, we can’t expect to get a lot of ice time.” Winger is the third member of his family to don a Warriors jersey. His brother Matt was a popular player who spent three seasons with Stoney Creek. Curtis Winger also spent some time with the Warriors.
“I really wanted to play for Stoney Creek,” said Jordan. “It’s also a bonus to play with Marcus. We’ve known each other for as long as I can remember. We’ve played on the same line through most of our AAA years. We see each other well on the ice.” Jordan said he also enjoys playing with Jason Popek. “He’s a great guy, and a strong skater. All together, we want to make things happen.”
The young guns showed tremendous leadership Saturday at home against the Wheatfield Blades. After coughing up three straight goals in under two minutes, and allowing the last place Blades to tie the game with just over five minutes remaining, Winger told his teammates his line was going to go out and take back the lead. ‘The Kid Line’ did just that, with Winger scoring the winning goal at the 14:38 mark, assisted by none other than Ruberto and Popek.
Winger added two more goals Tuesday night, as the Warriors travelled to Wheatfield and came home with a 9-5 victory.
Schutte said his young centreman continues to impress the coaching staff. “Our intentions was to bring him along slowly, but his play hasn’t allowed us to take him out of the line up,” he said. “We knew he was skilled, but we didn’t know he was this ready to play at this level. He executes what we tell him. He has great speed and never takes a shift off. He’s also a quiet leader on the bench, and is very mature for a 15 year old. He is very respectful of the veterans and everyone knows he’s earning his ice time.”
In recent action, the Warriors rebounded from a 3-1 loss in St. Catharines last Friday, Oct. 6 by taking two straight from the Wheatfield Blades.
Against the Falcons, the Warriors came out strong in the first period but were shut down by St. Catharines netminder Steele DeFazio. The Falcons broke the scoreless tie in the second and scored two more in the third. All three goals were powerplay markers. Jordan Gignac broke DeFazio’s shutout bid at the 19:12 mark of the third. The power play marker was assisted by Andrew Dovey and Mike Kavanagh.
On Saturday night at home against Wheatfield, the Warriors led 4-2 after 40 minutes on goals by Aaron Gorka, Mitchell Merante, Dovey and Gignac. Riley Steeves made in 5-2 early in the third, but the Blades battled back with three straight goals to tie the game. Winger responded late in the third to salvage the win. Picking up assists in the game were Jamie Osborne, Adam Montgomery, Mike Gibson, Gignac, Dovey, Jesse Healy, M. Ruberto and Popek. Dylan Ellis earned his fourth victory against no losses in net for Stoney Creek.
In Wheatfield on Oct. 9, the Warriors ran into penalty trouble early and found themselves down 2-1 after 20 minutes of play. Cayle Creen scored the lone marker for Stoney Creek. Winger tied the game early in the second, but the Blades responded with two straight goals to regain a two-goal lead. Osborne scored a natural hat trick with three straight goals to give the Warriors a 5-4 lead early in the third period. Dovey made it 6-4 at the 7:30 mark. The Blades closed the gap to 6-5 at the mid way mark of the period, but the Warriors closed out with three straight power play goals to make the final 9-5. Gibson, Winger and Jordan Poole scored the goals. Assists in the game were recorded by Dovey (2), Gignac (4), Ruberto, Gibson (3), Creen, Popek, Justin Sanderson and Gorka. Mike Albanese started the game in net for Stoney Creek, but was replaced at the mid way mark by Garrett Driscoll.
The Warriors played the last two games missing the bulk of their first line. Captain Mike Kavanagh went down with a knee injury suffered in the St. Catharines game and is questionable for this Saturday’s home game versus St. Catharines. Greg Bryl suffered a hand injury against the Falcons, and is also listed as day-to-day. Defenceman Sean Murray is expected to make his return to the line up in another week.
This weekend Stoney Creek will look to avenge last week’s loss in St. Catharines as they host the Falcons at Valley Park Arena this Saturday, Oct. 13. Game time is 7:30 p.m. The Warriors next home game is Thursday, Oct. 18 when they take on the Port Colborne Sailors. Game time is 7:30 p.m. at Valley Park Arena.