'Dogs done in five

Wingham to face Walkerton in Western semi

By Josh Howald

When the Western Junior C Hockey League semi-finals start, Kincardine will be watching from the sidelines.

The season ended for the Carruthers Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs Saturday night, when the Wingham Ironmen took a 5-4 win in Game 5 of the best-of-seven quarter-final series. Wingham advances to a league semi-final series against the Walkerton Hawks after eliminating Kincardine 4-1.

“This was a good team, a good group of guys,” said head coach Jeff Alcombrack, his first season behind the bench complete. “They showed a lot of character and heart. We just came up a little short.”

Wingham took the first two games of this series, but Kincardine bounced back with a 5-2 win in Game 3 of the series last Wednesday night in Kincardine. The Ironmen scored three power play goals to squeeze out a win in a tight checking Game 4 Friday night at the Davidson Centre in Game 4, and clinched the series with a 5-4 win Saturday night at the Wescast Community Complex.

After Kincardine took a 1-0 lead in the first Saturday night, the teams exploded for a seven-goal second period. When it was all said and done, the Ironmen held a 5-3 lead. Captain Paul Stewart scored from Ryan Armstrong with two seconds left to close out their junior careers.

“They were our best players,” said Alcombrack of his two overage players. “Armstrong had two goals last night and Stewie had points in every game. “We couldn’t have asked for more from them.”

But they couldn’t score at the same pace as Wingham’s top line, which was the difference in this series. Wingham’s Aaron Armstrong displayed why he was selected as the league’s most valuable player. He had two goals and two assists in Game 5 Saturday night, and had five goals and 11 points in this five-game series. He leads all playoff scorers, while linemate Wade Stephenson is one point behind him with 10 after five goals and five assists in this series.

 “That number one line for them was making great plays,” said Alcombrack. “They were getting pucks to the front and showing some great finish. If they can keep things going, they may steal a couple of games from Walkerton.”

The Walkerton Hawks finished first overall in the regular season, but opted not to take a first-round bye. Mitchell decided to take the bye, while Walkerton swept the Goderich Sailors in four games. Mitchell will now Mitchell battle the third place Hanover Barons. The Barons wrapped up an opening round series against Mount Forest last Wednesday night at home in Game 4. Mitchell and Hanover were to play Game 1 of a best-of-seven series last night (Tuesday) in Mitchell at 7:30 p.m. Game 2 is Friday night in Hanover, with Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Sunday in Mitchell and Hanover, respectively. The Walkerton – Wingham series schedule had not been finalized as of press time.

The Bulldogs will hold a rookie camp sometime in April, said Alcombrack, and will be busy scouting local arenas during the OMHA playdowns.

“There is a good core group of guys coming back,” he said. “But we do need to build up at some positions.”