'Dogs open playoffs at home

Kincardine hosts Game 1 Friday night

Wingham will swing into Kincardine Friday night to kick off the Western Junior C Hockey League playoffs.

A schedule was finally decided upon late Monday night, and the Carruthers Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs will get to play Game 1 against the Ironmen at home, despite being the lower seeded team. Game 2 of this series is Saturday night in Wingham, with Game 3 back in Kincardine next Wednesday night.

The Bulldogs are hitting the playoffs on a high after wrapping up a 18-5-3 regular season with an overtime win on the road Saturday night.

This quarter-final series was to begin tonight (Wednesday) in Wingham. However, a regular season game between Wingham and Walkerton was postponed because of weather on the weekend and the league ruled that game had to be replayed tonight, making the Ironmen unavailable.

The 19-12-4 Ironmen will still have home ice in this series. Games 4 and 5 will both be played at the Wescast Community Centre. Kincardine finished four points behind Wingham in fifth place, and the teams split the season series 3-3. Each team was 2-1 on home ice.

"I think it will be a good series," said Kincardine's head coach Jeff Alcombrack. "Wingham has a good, hard working team. We're going to have to play defensively, and bury the chances we get."

Putting the puck in the net may be a problem for both teams, as goaltending shouldn't be a problem in this series. Statistically, three of the league's top-four goaltenders are involved in this match-up. Gatlin Burt finished the season with 12 wins, three shutouts and a .924 save percentage, while Wingham's Jeff Puddephat was 8-3-0-2 since he was acquired by the Ironmen. He is backed up by Matt Stirling, who had a 2.58 GAA and 11 wins this year.

Kincardine has been putting more offence together as of late, but Bulldog forwards will be looking after their own end first, said Alcombrack.

"No doubt they have some key players who we're going to pay close attention to," he said, speaking quite obviously about Wingham forwared Aaron Armstrong, who finished second in the league points race.

Arnstrong had 33 goals and 59 points in 33 games, just five behind league leader Eric Lekun of the Walkerton Hawks.

"For us to be succesful against Wingham, we have to stay out of the box, limit turnovers and get pucks deep," said Alcombrack.

The Western Junior C League's regular season is set to wrap up tonight in Walkerton with that rescheduled game between the Hawks and Ironmen. It could have impacted playoff match-ups, but will not after Mitchell beat Hanover 6-5 in overtime last night (Tuesday). That win guaranteed Mitchell second place overall, and a first round bye.

The Walkerton Hawks (27-6-2) finished first overall and declined that bye, choosing instead to face the 2-32-1 Goderich Sailors in a seven-game series that will last four. That series opens Friday night in Goderich, with Game 2 Saturday in Walkerton. The third place Barons, meanwhile, will play the 14-21-1 Mount Forest Patriots in the first round. That series actually starts tomorrow (Thursday) night in Mount Forest. Game 2 is Friday in Hanover, and Game 3 is Sunday - also in Hanover.

Garrett Simmons ended the regular season with an overtime goal to give the 'Dogs a 5-4 win over the Patriots. Ryan Armstrong forced overtime with a third period shorthanded goal. The Pats took a 1-0 lead in the first period, and the teams each scored three times in the middle stanza. Joel Alton tied the game on a power play, and then Darrin Borland and Jared Colling scored less than three minutes apart.

The previous night, Kincardine hammered Goderich 7-3 at home. Armstrong scored twice in the first, while Tanner Simpson chipped in a pair in the second. Jamie Miller had a goal and an assist. Alton had two helpers, and even Burt picked up an assist in this game.

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