By Josh Howald
Hard work pays off, and the Carruthers Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs put in some overtime on the weekend.
Brett Catto celebrates his OT winner Saturday evening at the Davidson Centre. (Josh Howald photo)
Kincardine scored in overtime Friday night in Hanover, and again Saturday against Walkerton at the Davidson Centre to stretch a win streak to seven and seize first place overall in the Western Junior C Hockey League.
“The team is playing with confidence, we’re getting bigger crowds and it’s just a better atmosphere around the rink,” said head coach Jeff Alcombrack.
That will happen when you win. And the ‘Dogs are finding ways to win. Despite taking a 3-1 lead into the third period Friday night at the P$H Centre, the ‘Dogs were again forced to battle from behind. Captain Brett Catto set up Garrett Simmons with less than a minute remaining to even the score at 4-4 and force an extra frame.
“We had a great first half but we let our foot off the gas,” said Catto, who then assisted on Mike Smailes’ game overtime winner.
“(Joel) Alton made a great chip to the middle, I went wide and saw Smailes going hard to the net. I threw it at him and he put it in.”
Alton had the only goal of the first period, and power play goals from Jamie Miller and Dave Mercer made it 3-0. Hayden Allen had assist on both PP markers, before Alex Kuntz made it 3-1 before the period ended.
Brad Pitt, Jason Demetrius and Denver Hill scored three straight goals for Hanover to give the Barons a 4-3 lead with seven minutes to play, forcing the ‘Dogs to pull Maxime Veilleux for an extra attacker. Veilleux was good in this contest, earning the win with 29 saves. He faced 19 of those shots in the third period alone.
Saturday, it was Gatlin Burt’s turn in goal, and he didn’t disappoint. Burt was fantastic in this one, making 45 saves – most of them while trying to see around the ample frame of Walkerton forward Lauchlin Elder.
Gatlin Burt peers around Lauchlin Elder during a third period Walkerton power play Saturday evening in Kincardine. (Josh Howald photo)
On this night, Catto did the finishing in overtime, scoring with Kincardine on a man advantage in the extra period. He took a two-foot pass from Tanner Simpson beside the net, and sent a shot over Jeff Flagler to spark a near capacity crowd at the Davidson Centre and give the ‘Dogs a 5-4 win.
Kincardine was banged up, and without sniper Cody Britton, who was ejected just eight minutes in.
“We’re never out of a game,” said Catto. “Everyone believes in one another and we’re battling through the little adversities – which is what it takes to be a good hockey team.”
It takes a good power play too. And it was working for the Bulldogs early. Tanner Simpson and Catto each scored first period goals with the man advantage, while Connor Patton scored a power play goal for the Hawks. Adam Alexander scored midway through the second to make it 2-2 and Drew Davidson gave Walkerton a 3-2 lead with help from Elder. It was also a power play goal. Walkerton outshot the ‘Dogs 20-8 in this middle frame, and 18-8 in the third.
Kincardine tied the game with an unassisted goal by Dave Mercer, and Jared Colling put the Bulldogs back in front three minutes later from Allen and Tanner Simpson. But Davidson’s 15th goal of the season - another power play goal – forced extra time. The Bulldogs spent all of the extra period with a man advantage – former ‘Dog Haden Campbell was sent off for tripping at 19:10 and Cole Rooney went for interference at 2:50. The Bulldogs had trouble getting anything at all set up for the first minute, but then went to work down low to garner Catto’s OT winner.
“IF we keep playing like this, there is no reason we can’t be a top team,” said Catto. “When it comes down to it, it is up to us to show up game in and game out with the will to win.”
Walkerton and Kincardine each have 20 points, but the Bulldogs have more wins that the Hawks, though Walkerton has a game in hand. Mitchell, who beat Wingham 4-2 but lost to Mount Forest in a shootout on the weekend, is just one point behind both teams with an 8-4-3 record. Mount Forest moved into fourth with that shootout win and an 11-1 pounding of Goderich, while Hanover and Wingham are now tied for fifth place. Wingham lost 6-1 to Walkerton and 4-2 to Mitchell on the weekend.
The Bulldogs will host Mitchell Friday night at 7:30 p.m. It is Kincardine’s only game of the weekend.