By Josh Howald
The Western Junior C Championships series was kind of like a summer vacation at Camp Crystal Lake. You were really looking forward to it, but it didn’t end up being much fun all, and to be honest, you really don't want to talk about it ever again.
Kincardine's top two scorers, Cody Britton (left) and Brett Catto were left wondering what went wrong after being swept in four games by the Walkerton Hawks. Britton had eight points in seven playoff games, while Catto had five points in four games against Walkerton. (File photo/Kincardine Independent)
Nobody saw this coming. Pundits had Bulldogs in seven. Psychics picked the Hawks in six. Nostradomus thought this one was going to go the distance.
The Hawks clinched Sunday evening at the Davidson Centre in Kincardine with a thorough thrashing of the Carruthers Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs in Game 4. It wasn’t even as close as the 6-2 score indicated, as the Hawks put a stamp on this series after overtime wins in Games 2 and 3.
“We certainly didn’t expect to be done right now,” said head coach Jeff Alcombrack. “We’re almost in shock. It can be as close as a few bounces, or a call going your way.”
Walkerton took a 2-1 lead in the first period of Game 4, then scored three unanswered goals in the middle stanza to put the series away. The teams traded third period markers. Both of Walkerton’s first two goals came with Kincardine playing shorthanded hockey, as they did for much of this postseason.
“We thought we could win this series right up until the end,” said captain Brett Catto.
“I like this team as a group, and I think we were good enough to win this league.”
But they did not.
Connor Patton scored in overtime of Game 3 to give Walkerton a commanding series lead coming to Kincardine Sunday. Tanner Simpson had forced the extra period with a late goal to make it 2-2. A post-game altercation between Kincardine goalie Gatlin Burt and Game 3 offiicials left him suspended for Sunday and threw Max Veilleux into the spotlight. He played well, keeping Kincardine in the game early as Walkerton outshot the 'Dogs 16-8 in the opening frame.
“(The Hawks) are a good team, said Alcombrack.
“You can’t totally open things up against them or they will bury you.”
Lauchlin Elder, Drew Davidson, Jordan Turcotte, Patton, Nathan Thompson and Jay Thomson scored for Walkerton, who will now face the champions of the Georgian Bay Mid-Ontario League. Alliston held a 2-1 lead on Wallaceburg as of Monday afternoon. The Hornets have defeated Walkerton in five straight playoff runs.
After the initial shock of elimination, both Alcombrack and Catto were able to step back and put the 2012-13 hockey season in perspective.
“The goal we set at the beginning of the season was to finish in the top-three (in the standings), to be back in the hunt,” said Alcombrack.
“We finished second, not too far behind Walkerton, so that tells me we are pointed in the right direction. We need to take the next step.“
"(Alcombrack) and (General Manager Doug Kennedy) really did an awesome job, worked hard and I really like the moves we made at the deadline (bringing in Jordan Cale, Mike Sharpe, Adam Hughes and David Jones), said Catto, who left the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League in the summer to play for his hometown Bulldogs.
"We were committed, we had guys driving up from Kitchener to practice,” he said.
“We made a big jump in the standings, and we played in the final for the first time in five years,” he added. “Five years! It wasn’t right.”
Kincardine got a first round bye, then swept Mitchell in the semi-finals. The Bulldogs were well rested while the Hawks swept Goderich, and then squeaked by the Mount Forest Patriots in a seven-game battle. They faced elimination twice against the Pats, and brought that – as well as six years of championship experience – to this year’s final.
Game 4 was the final junior hockey game for overagers Joel Alton, Justin Ainslie, Garrett Simmons and Burt. Permitted to keep four, there will be some tough cuts next season. Catto will obviously take one of those slots, while Kennedy and Alcombrack will have to pick three of Jamie Miller, Jared Colling, Cody Britton, Josh MacDonald, Tanner Simpson and Shawn Stewart.