Stoney Creek looked to finish out their regular season on a winning note, but were downed by Colt Kennedy and the Blackhawks 4-1.
The playoff picture in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League was still unclear as the puck dropped Saturday night. Stoney Creek had secured sixth place in the conference but, with just two points separating Port Colborne and Thorold, their opponent for the first round of the playoffs was still up in the air.
Saturday’s match up was the final game of the regular season for Thorold while Port Colborne had two more games, one Saturday night and the other Sunday night. A Thorold win Saturday would coupled with a loss by Port Colborne would result in Stoney Creek facing the Thorold Blackhawks in the first round. The magic number for Port Colborne is three with a win and an overtime or shootout loss by the Pirates securing their spot in third. In that event the Warriors would take on the Pirates.
Brock Novak got the start for the Warriors and he was tested early. Just over a minute into the opening frame Stoney Creek defenceman Josh Villaflor was sent to the penalty box for two minutes, called for kneeing. The penalty was costly for the home team. At 3:05 Greg Cerilli beat Novak and gave the Blackhawks an early lead. Shots were evenly distributed for both teams in the first period with the Warriors only one shot behind.
The second period was evenly matched with both teams coming up nearly even in the shot department once again. Tempers flared up during the middle stanza more than once. After a slashing penalty was called against the Warriors just 2:26 into the period, Mike Casale and Gabe Ruggi were given five minutes for fighting and a game misconduct. With under five minutes remaining in the period Warriors’ Kyle Dube was penalized for checking from behind as was Blackhawks’ Kevin Lavoie for roughing after the whistle. The teams combined for twenty six penalty minutes in the second.
Thorold managed to once again beat Brock Novak before the horn sounded to end the period. Colt Kennedy found the back of the net at 17:09 of the second to double Thorold’s lead 2-0.
Colt Kennedy got things started quickly for Thorold to start the third period with another goal. The Ajax native lit the goal lamp just 1:40 into the final frame, his second goal of the game. Stuart Isnor ended Blackhawks’ goalie Evan Buitenhuis’ shutout bid at 17:57, netting his third goal of the season. Joseph Monticchio and Jesse Paul picked up assists on the goal.
With the lead cut to two goals, Novak was pulled from the Warriors’ net to bring on an extra attacker. Stoney Creek’s effort wasn’t enough as Thorold came away with an empty net goal in the dying seconds, and the victory.
Port Colborne also came away with a victory in their game Saturday night. Port Colborne’s final game is slated for Sunday evening. If Port Colborne loses, in either regulation or overtime, then Stoney Creek will face the Thorold Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. If Port Colborne earns a victory in their game on Sunday then the two teams will end their respective seasons with an identical win-loss record of 32-17-2.
Port Colborne has the edge over Thorold in the teams’ season series 4 games to 3 and also has a higher goals for. With the victory the Pirates would jump to third place and Stoney Creek would face the Pirates in the first round.
The final playoff picture won’t be known until tomorrow night. All eyes in Stoney Creek will be on Sunday’s match up between Port Colborne and Welland.