Bulldogs on brink of elimination

Season on the line tonight in Wingham

By Josh Howald

It’s do-or-die tonight for the Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs.

Mike Smailes cuts between Wingham's Greg Hansford and Carter Stewart in the third period of Game 5 of the Western Junior C semi-finals at the Davidson Centre in Kincardine. (Josh Howald photo)


Kincardine must win tonight on the road in order to stay alive and bring this series back home for Game 6. The Bulldogs dropped a 4-0 decision Saturday, one night after a 2-1 overtime loss and now trail the Wingham Ironmen 3-1 in this Western Junior C League semi-final series.

"We're obviously in a tough spot right now," said Kincardine head coach Steve Stepaniak. "But we're confident that if we play the way we are capable of, we can get back in this series, and hopefully to a Game 7 where anything can happen."

The Bulldogs didn't look like a desperate team Saturday at home. After going down a pair of goals early in Game 5, Kincardine had trouble generating any scoring chances. Wingham went into a defensive shell which, with the goaltending of Ben Nelson, stifled any Kincardine chances. Nelson made 21 saves for his second shutout of the series as Wingham left town with a 4-0 win. Alex Kuntz and Jeremy Ross scored in the first period for the Ironmen, and Holdyn Lansink made it 3-0 in the second period. Jamal Jacklin finished off the 'Dogs with an empty net goal with 3:02 remaining. Mitch Campbell was good, but not good enough, allowing three goals on 34 Wingham shots.

"(Game 5) was pretty frustrating, and not the effort we were looking for," said Stepaniak. "We have had trouble scoring on Wingham all season. They have a top-notch goalie in Nelson, and we need to get more pucks and bodies to the net. We've made it way too easy for him, and we need to get in front of him as much as possible."

The previous night in Wingham, Jacklin set up Brett Brophy at 4:58 of overtime to give the defending league champs a 2-1 win in Game 3. Kincardine played without some of its top players Friday night - Dalton Hnatko and Colin Whitfield were serving suspensions, and Sam Feagan and Gerrit Satosek were ejected from Game 4 with game misconducts.

Lansink had the only goal of the first period. Chad Simpson replied in the second with a power play tally from Alex Labrosse. Neither team scored again until Brophy netted the game winner in extra time.

The 'Dogs were routed 7-0 in the series opener, but bounced back with a big 5-2 win in Game 2 the next day in Kincardine. Jordan Bell opened the scoring in the second frame from Patrick Wiejak, and Shawn Moore made it 2-0 36 seconds later from Satosek. Wingham got one back on the power play when Ripley's Greg Scott set up Kuntz, but Mike Osadca restored a two-goal lead for Kincardine before the period ended. Moore and Simpson assisted. Just 20 seconds into the third, Labrosse set up Feagan for a power play goal and a 4-1 lead. Jordan Van Haelemeesch made it 5-1, again with Kincardine on a man advantage. Simpson and Mike Smailes had the assists. Wingham's Bailey Poels scored with 49 seconds left to make the final score 5-2.

Which brings us to tonight's game in Wingham. Should Kincardine win tonight, a sixth game will be played in Kincardine Friday night. A Game 7 would be played in Wingham on Saturday. If Wingham wins tonight, they will advance to the Western Junior C League finals to play the Walkerton Hawks. The Hawks disposed of the Hanover Barons Saturday night with a narrow 5-4 win in Game 5 of their semi-final series. Game time tonight at the Wescast Community Complex is 8:15 p.m.

For results and details of tonight's Game 5, visit us tomorrow online at www.independent.on.ca.