Warriors battle injuries, opponents in Junior B loop

It was an up and down weekend for the Stoney Creek Warriors, as they played three games in three nights.

Last Thursday, Oct. 18, at home versus Port Colborne, the Warriors played one of their worst games of the season, losing to the Sailors 3-0. The following night, Stoney Creek rebounded with one of their best road games of the campaign, and handed Port Colborne a 3-1 defeat. Scoring for the Warriors were David Ruberto, Andrew Dovey and Adam Montgomery. Garrett Driscoll turned aside 29 of 30 shots to earn the win.

Riley Steeves, with four goals and five assists so far this season, was nominated as the Warriors’ Player of the Month for October.

On Saturday, Oct. 20, it was a battle of the two top teams, as the first-place Warriors faced off against the hard-charging second place Niagara Falls Canucks.

The Warriors were quick on the board when Sean Murray scored his first of the season on the powerplay at the 8:27 mark. However, the Canucks fired three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead after 20 minutes.

Niagara Falls extended their lead to 5-1 in the second period, and seemed to be cruising to an easy win. However, the Warriors battled back with two straight goals to end the second period down 5-3.

Josh Rannali, who was called up from Glanbrook Jr. C to help shore up a depleted forward contingent, scored at the 16:26 mark, assisted by Jordan Poole. Murray, with his second of the game, scored a powerplay marker with four seconds left in the period. Picking up the assist was David Ruberto.

Niagara Falls made it 6-3 early in the third with a powerplay goal. Riley Steeves closed the gap to 6-4 when he scored on the powerplay, assisted by Murray and Cayle Creen. But the Canucks responded with their fourth powerplay goal of the game at the 13:49 mark to seal the win. Dovey, from Steeves and Montgomery, scored at the 16:56 mark. The Canucks added an empty-net goal to make the final 8-5.

Driscoll took the loss in net.

“We’ve been having trouble beating the big teams in the league,” said Riley Steeves, who was nominated as the Warriors’ Player of the Month for October. “Injuries have really affected us lately. We can compete with the big teams, and we are still playing hard. We just have to take it one game at a time.”

Steeves, who has four goals and five assists this season, said he is enjoying his second stint with Stoney Creek. “A big difference this season is leadership,” said the hard-working 18-year-old East Hamilton native. Steeves has played the bulk of the season on a line with David Ruberto. He said the two forwards are good friends and enjoy playing on the same line. “For me, my game is all about bang and crash, and I really want to put some points on the board this season.” He has also gained the confidence of coach Mike Schutte and his staff, earning not only a regular shift, but being called upon to kill penalties as well. “He’s played phenomenal for us,” said Schutte. “All of our forwards need to play as physical as Riley (Steeves).”

Schutte said it was a disappointing weekend for the team. “We worked hard, but we didn’t play smart,” said the coach. “We need to do both when we play against teams like Niagara Falls.” Schutte added that injuries have been a real issue for the Warriors this season.

Injuries to captain Mike Kavanagh and Greg Bryl have kept the two top-line forwards out of action for the past six games. Defenceman Sean Murray just returned after missing the first 13 games of the season due to a broken wrist. Jordan Radford has yet to suit up for the team this season as he battles mononucleosis, and Marcus Ruberto is out indefinitely after suffering a shoulder injury against Port Colborne.

This week the Warriors face Thorold (Thursday, Oct. 25) and take on Welland (Oct. 27) at Stoney Creek Arena, 7:30 p.m.

“We want to come away with two wins,” said Steeves. Thorold handed us our first loss of the season, so we’d like to beat them in their rink. And we’re looking forward to the game at Stoney Creek Arena. It’s such a great atmosphere in there. Hopefully we’ll get a lot of fans to the game.”