Warriors narrow gap for fourth place

Following a huge road victory in Niagara Falls Friday night, the Stoney Creek Jr. B Warriors (23-17-5) were back on home-ice taking on the visiting Welland Canadians (25-15-5) Saturday (Feb. 12) and picking up a 3-2 victory.

At the beginning of Saturday’s tilt, the Warriors trailed fourth place Welland by six points. Therefore the importance of going head-to-head and winning Saturday and next Saturday (Feb. 19) against Welland at Valley Park Arena was crucial.

Well, when you’re hot, you’re hot. Yanni Rallis picked up right where he left off Friday (two goals including the game winner) scoring his 10th of the season at 4:15 putting Stoney Creek up 1-0. David Ruberto and Luke Nogard added the helpers.

Welland’s Jeff Verreault sniped his 21st on the year at 4:07 knotting the game after two periods.

Three goals were scored in an entertaining third period that would ensure that this game would end in regulation time. At 5:30, Warriors’ Dan Hewko set up Ryan Wilkinson for his fifth on the year and a 2-1 Stoney Creek lead. Exactly three minutes later Canadians’ Mike Marquis tied things up at two, scoring his 23rd.

It stayed that way until, with under eight minutes to go and Welland on their eighth power play; Stoney Creek’s big center David Mazurek buried his sixth of the year – a game winning shorthanded goal. Defenseman Gavin Shantz picked up a well deserved assist.

Stoney Creek goaltender Marcus DelConte stopped 29 of 31 shots for his sixth win of the year. Welland goaltender Matt Coulombe stopped 18 of 21 shots taking the loss.

The Warriors picked a great time to win their fifth road game of the year, 5-3, on Friday in Niagara Falls against the Canucks (35-7-4).

For whatever reason, the Warriors have really struggled on the road this year. Stoney Creek head coach and general manager Ric Nattress puts it this way: “We’re a very young team, probably one of the youngest in the province.”

The Warriors had beaten the top three teams (Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Thorold), this year, so they know they’re a good competitive team and their home record (16-3-3) proves it. However, Nattress said, “Sometimes it’s difficult for young players to bring that same disciplined game plan on the road with them simply because they’re so young. We’ve been very patient with our team knowing that we would struggle at times.”

Now, as you watch the Warriors play, you can see their confidence level building, and when they keep the game simple and stick to Nattress’ game plan, they win.

In Friday’s tilt in the Falls, after the Canucks Nick Gallardi (3) put his team up 1-0 midway through the first period, the Warriors built a 4-1 lead on a very late first period goal by Steven Mueller (3), a second period goal from Brad Kobryn (6), and two third period goals by Yanni Rallis (9).

However, 15 seconds after Stoney Creek scored its fourth goal Kyle Steckley (16th) made it 4-2. Then under five minutes later, Dustin Scott scored his league leading 55th goal of the season to bring the Canucks within one. Stoney Creek’s Luke Nogard potted his 16th at 19:35 to secure the Warriors’ win.

Stoney Creek’s Jason Shaw and David Ruberto picked up two assists, Kobryn also added an assist for a two- point night. Danny Carter, Mark Silvestri and David Mazurek picked up an assist each.

Stoney Creek goaltender Matt Sagrott stopped 13 of 16 shots for his 10th win of the year. Niagara Falls goaltender Cody Vinnai stopped 30 of 35 shots taking the loss.

Only eight minor penalties were called in the game. “The officials let the kids play. It was an old fashioned hard hitting exciting game to watch,” said Nattress.