Watching his teammates from a seat in the stands in not something Sean Murray is comfortable with. The veteran Stoney Creek Warriors defenceman was forced to miss the first 12 games of the season after breaking his wrist in a pre-season tournament in Fort Erie in early September.
“I have never broken or fractured a bone in my life,” said Murray. “It’s been extremely frustrating. I watch the games and all I can think about is getting out there and helping the team.” Murray will get his wish this week, as the 20-year-old Burlington native returns to the Golden Horsehoe junior B hockey team after six weeks of recovery from his injury.
“I’m glad the team has been winning,” said Murray, the Warriors most valuable player from last season. “I’m very impressed and it’s great to be in first place. Instead of trying to catch everyone else, they’re all trying to catch us.” Murray will be a welcome addition to the Warriors’ blueline core. The slick skating defenceman will have an immediate impact on the Warriors’ powerplay, and is a threat for opposition netminders. “It’s a great group of guys; all upbeat and friendly,” said Murray. “I’m looking forward to my return to the ice. I’m sure after a couple of shifts, I’ll feel comfortable again.”
Head coach Mike Schutte said Murray’s return to the blueline and his veteran leadership couldn’t come sooner. He said some of our players looked “like rookies” in a 5-2 loss to the St. Catharines Falcons last Saturday (Oct. 13) at Valley Park Arena. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Warriors, who remain in first place with an 8-3-1 (W-L-T) record after 12 games.
In the first period, it looked as if the Warriors were determined to hand the Falcons their second loss in as many nights.
Riley Steeves opened the scoring on a pretty two-on-one pass from David Ruberto just 3:32 into the first period. Eddie Wright also picked up an assist. The Falcons responded five minutes later as rookie sensation Riley Sheahan broke out from the corner and skated past two Stoney Creek defenders on his way to the net. He beat Garrett Driscoll to the high blocker side to tie the game at 1-1.
The sin bin caught up with the Warriors in the second period. The Falcons netted two straight powerplay goals early in the period to take a 3-1 lead. Adam Montgomery brought the Warriors to within one goal with a powerplay marker at the 6:22 mark. Jordan Winger and Justin Sanderson earned the assists.
Sheahan, with his second of the game, scored at the 6:01 mark of the third to seal the victory. The Falcons added an empty net goal to take the 5-2 final.
On Oct. 11 at home, Stoney Creek swept a three-game series with Wheatfield with a 4-2 win. Jordan Gignac, Jesse Healy, Mitchell Merante and Jamie Osborne scored for Stoney Creek. Picking up assists were Cayle Creen, Mike Gibson, Jordan Poole, Montgomery, Ruberto, Jake Lyons (2) and Andrew Dovey.
Driscoll earned the win in nets.
“The loss to St. Catharines was tough because we got off to such a promising start,” said Schutte. “The Falcons’ top players came up big and that was the difference.” Schutte said the Warriors need to elevate their game when they play the Golden Horseshoe League’s top teams.
“Our players are still learning, and we haven’t even started to match lines or shorten the bench,” he said. “But I’m not concerned. We have to learn from these losses. We’re still working on line combinations. If we had all our players in the line up and we were losing, I might be concerned.”
Mike Kavanagh returned to the line up for Saturday’s game against the Falcons, but didn’t look 100 per cent. Schutte said the team is still waiting to hear the prognosis on Greg Bryl’s injured hand.
This week the Warriors have a busy schedule, with games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tonight (Oct. 19), Stoney Creek will travel to Port Colborne for a return match. On Saturday, the Warriors host Niagara Falls at Valley Park Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The Warriors have not lost more than in a row this season, and Schutte said the team will take this weekend’s action “one game at a time.”
Goaltender Mike Albanese has left the team to try out for Welland. Forward Jesse Healy has returned to the Hamilton Reps Midget team. The departures leave the Warriors with a 24 player roster.