By Josh Howald
By the time the Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs showed any sort of life, most fans had already left the Davidson Centre.
It was a less than ideal start to the Western Junior C Hockey Leagu eseason for Kincardine's new goaltender Mitch Campbell. Campbell was pulled in the third period with the score 5-1. (Richard Lawson photo)
And few could blame them. The team’s 20th anniversary celebrations were overshadowed by an ugly performance from the home team, in which they were outhit, outshot and outclassed by the Mount Forest Patriots.
“We just weren’t prepared, and didn’t do much right,” said captain Brett Catto. “It was ugly. We’re all a little shocked, to be honest.”
It was 5-0 in the third period before grinder Paul Lamont scored the team’s first goal of the season, and 6-1 when starting goaltender Mitch Campbell was yanked from the net. The ‘Dogs seemed to click into high gear at that point, and dominated the Pats for the final five minutes, but it was too little, too late. Mount Forest added an empty net goal with 5.8 seconds remaining to make it a 7-3 final.
“We can’t play 10 minutes of hockey and expect to win,” said Catto.
Brendon Aitken and Doug Costanzo scored first period goals six minutes apart to give the much-improved Patriots a 2-0 lead at the first break. Cole Leslie scored the only goal of the middle frame to put the visitors up 3-0, and the Pats put this one away early in the third. Trevor Hughson scored a shorthanded goal early in the period, and minutes later Dean Nixon put this one out of reach with a power play goal that made it 5-0.
With fans headed for the exits, Lamont snapped John Nixon’s shutout bid with help from rookie Keegan McLelland. However, just five seconds later, Justin Graham scored a weak one to restore a five goal lead for Mount Forest. That was all for Campbell, who finished with 24 saves on 29 shots. He was replaced by Tyler MacGregor, who last played for the now-defunct Goderich Sailors. The ‘Dogs also acquired Sam Feagan and Shawn Moore from Goderich. Feagan was ejected early in the game for a hit to the head.
Shawn Moore scored his first goal as a Bulldog Friday night against Mount Forest. (Josh Howald photo)
McLelland made it 6-2 with five minutes left. McLelland and Lamont, together on the fourth line, were two of Kincardine’s best players on this night and generated more scoring chances than any of their counterparts. Thirteen seconds later, Moore scored his first goal as a Bulldog to make it 6-3. Kincardine pressed in the final minutes, pulling MacGregor for an extra attacker, but they couldn’t put another puck past John Nixon, who made 27 stops for the win. Luke Richardson sent a puck into an empty net in the dying seconds to put an end to this affair.
It was a disappointing start to what is supposed to be a big season for Kincardine. That said, this campaign is only just getting going.
“It’s a long season,” said Catto. “That kind of game won’t happen again.”
The Patriots deserve credit for this victory as well. The Patriots played physical hockey, and were sound defensively. They didn’t gift wrap anything for Kincardine’s skilled players, forcing them to take shots from the outside.
The Bulldogs weren’t the only team to suffer an upset on the opening weekend. The five-time defending champions were also defeated in their home opener Friday night. The Wingham Ironmen knocked off the Hawks 4-3 to start the season on a high. The Ironmen then beat Mount Forest 5-2 in Mount Forest Saturday night. Mitchell dumped Hanover 5-3 Friday night, but took a single point from Walkerton on Saturday in a 5-4 shootout loss.
Kincardine vowed to be better this weekend, and the will need to be. The ‘Dogs have three games in three days, though all three will be at the Davidson Centre. Kincardine does not want to squander a fortuitous start to the regular season, playing four straight games on home ice.
Mitchell will be in town Friday for a 7:30 p.m. start, and the rival Walkerton Hawks visit the Davidson Centre on Saturday for a 7 p.m. game, one Kincardine is looking forward to.
“It will be a battle, like it is every time we play Walkerton,” said Catto. “It should be entertaining and a lot of fun.”
Sunday, the Hanover Barons will come to Kincardine, with the puck dropping at 4 p.m.
Elsewhere around the Western League this weekend, the Ironmen and Hawks play a rematch Friday night, this time in Wingham. Mount Forest is in Hanover Friday night, and will host Mitchell Saturday.
DOG BITES: The Kincardine Independent is pleased to welcome back the Canadian Tire Western Junior C Scoreboard for another season. You’ll be able to keep up to date each and every week in the Kincardine Independent....The Independent is also proud to announce the return of photographer Richard Lawson, who will be shooting exclusively for The Independent for a third straight season...