It’s always positive to end the season with a win. It’s even better when that win is the team’s eleventh straight. And with the playoffs looming the Hamilton Bengals fought for a close 9-8 overtime victory over the Niagara Thunderhawks.
Both of the squads had already punched their ticket into the post-season so there wasn’t anything on the line on Sunday afternoon except pride. The Bengals, who finished the season with a 15-5 record, were riding a ten game winning streak into the Meridian Credit Union Arena. The Niagara Thunderhawks, who finished the season one place behind Hamilton in the South-West Division and a 10-10 record, were looking for some payback this afternoon. The ‘Hawks were on somewhat of a streak of their own having only lost one game in the month of June, which came at the hands of the Bengals at the beginning of the month.
The two teams got off to a slow start through the first two periods with only five goals being put up on the scoreboard combined and the Thunderhawks taking a 3-2 lead into intermission. Norm Pitt scored for Hamilton at 5:13 of the first period, bookended by goals from Niagara’s Reid Lowe and Zach Luis. Jordan Gillis tied the game for Hamilton early in the second period before Niagara’s Kent Baker-Printup gave the Thunderhawks the 3-2 lead.
Period three saw the feet begin to move and the sticks get into high gear. Hamilton opened the final frame with three straight goals to open up a 6-4 lead thanks to goals from Luke Robinson, Norm Pitt, and Jacob Parkinson. The period would go back and forth with Niagara scoring a pair within ten seconds to tie the game a six, followed by back to back goals from the Pitt brothers Norm and George to retake the lead.
With less than two minutes remaining in regulation and down a pair of goals, Niagara’s Saul Vanderzalm got the ball past Hamilton netminder Dylan Sprentz to bring the Thunderhawks within a goal. Then, with seconds left on the clock, Brett Beetow followed up with the game-tying goal to breathe life back into the crowd at the Meridian Credit Union Arena.
The game was tied 7-7 and it was time for overtime.
Chris Weier gave Niagara the early lead in overtime but goals from Hamilton’s Yvon Bolduc and Jordan Gillis gave Hamilton the 9-8 win.
The Bengals now await the regular season to wrap up on Tuesday and the league to announce the playoff schedule.