The Stoney Creek Warriors snapped their longest losing streak of the season with a 6-3 win over Wheatfield on Tuesday (Oct. 30).
Decimated by injuries, the Warriors had dropped three straight Golden Horseshoe Junior B hockey games prior to making the trip across the border to battle the winless Blades.
Stoney Creek jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, on goals by Cayle Creen and Andrew Dovey. Dovey and Sean Murray picked up assists on the Creen goal, while David Ruberto and Adam Montgomery picked up helpers on the Dovey goal.
Stoney Creek made it 3-0 early in the second period when Montgomery scored an unassisted powerplay goal at the 3:57 mark. Wheatfield finally got on the board at the 14:09 mark, but Riley Steeves scored a shorthanded marker just over a minute later to restore a three-goal cushion for Stoney Creek.
Steeves’ goal proved to be the game winner. Wheatfield scored two straight goals to narrow the gap to 4-3, but the Warriors added two counters in the third period to make the final 6-3. Scoring for the Warriors were Mitchell Merante, from Jason Popek, and Steeves, from Jamie Osborne.
Garrett Driscoll earned the win in net, his sixth of the season. Shots were 40-21 in favour of Stoney Creek. “We controlled the game despite the score,” said coach Mike Schutte. “We only gave up one shot in the first period.” The win moved the Warriors back into a tie for first place with the Niagara Falls Canucks.
On Saturday (Oct. 27), the Warriors dropped a 6-3 decision to the visiting Welland Jr. Canadians. Welland jumped out to a 5-0 lead by the midway mark of the second period, and never looked back. Murray, Jordan Gignac and Sean Davidson scored for the Warriors, who appeared to struggle within the cramped confines of Stoney Creek Arena. Picking up assists were Steeves, Murray, Gignac, Dovey, Jordan Winger and Josh Renalli. Driscoll took the loss in net.
“We gave up seven odd-man rushes in the first half of the game,” said Schutte. “We thought we had the team ready and were very optimistic. But we ran into a hot team.”
On Oct. 25, the Warriors were shutout 3-0 by the host Thorold Blackhawks.
The game was tied through 40 minutes, as both goaltenders – Marcus Menard for Thorold and Driscoll for Stoney Creek – were solid between the pipes. Thorold scored early in the third period and followed up with a shorthanded marker at the 15:47 mark. The Blackhawks added an empty-net marker with 15 seconds remaining in the game.
Schutte said his team has been struggling with some new and complicated systems that were introduced into practice recently. “It just seemed like we couldn’t execute in games, and maybe it was too fast for this level of systems,””he said. “So we decided after the Welland game to simplify things, and the team responded well against Wheatfield. We’ll see how we make out this Saturday against St. Catharines.”
With just five points separating first and seventh in the Golden Horseshoe League standings, Schutte said the Warriors need to start winning some games against the top teams. “We’ve got to claw and scratch and find ways to beat the league’s top teams,” he said. “We need a full roster.”
The Warriors have been plagued by injuries since early October. Captain Mike Kavanagh has missed half of the 18 games this season due to a knee injury, and Greg Bryl has been out of the line up since Oct. 5 with a hand injury. The news didn’t get any better last week as rookie defenceman Aaron Gorka went down with a neck injury that could keep him out of the line up for at least four to six weeks. Also out due to injury is Jordan Poole (groin), Marcus Ruberto (shoulder) and Jordan Radford (mononucleosis).
Fortunately, the Warriors have a lighter schedule in November, compared with the torrid pace of games in October. “We need to get these players back into the line up,” said Schutte.
This weekend (Nov. 3), the Warriors only have one game – a home match up with the St. Catharines Falcons. Game time at Valley Park Arena is 7:30 p.m. On Nov. 8, Stoney Creek will host Fort Erie at Valley Park Arena. Game time is 7:30 p.m.