'Dog days are done

WIngham trails Walkerton 1-0 in Western final

By Josh Howald

The 'Dogs are done.

The Wingham Ironmen advanced to the Western Junior C final on Friday night with a 3-2 win over the Nicol Insurance Kincardine Bulldogs in Game 6 of their semi-final series.

Mike Smailes gets behind Mitch Campbell in case the puck finds a way through into the Kincardine crease during Game 6 of the Western Junior C League semi-finals Friday night at the Davidosn Centre. Both players have played their final games in a Bulldogs sweater. (Josh Howald photo)


The Bulldogs didn't go down without a fight. Kincardine gave debatably its best effort of the season Friday night at home, and Game 6 could have gone differently with a few different bounces. But when it was all said and done, the Bulldogs will now be watching the playoffs from the sidelines while the Ironmen try to defend their league title against the Walkerton Hawks.

"Our guys battled right to the finish, but in the end we couldn't match (Wingham's) firepower up front," said head coach Steve Stepaniak. "We had trouble scoring goals all season long, and that continued in this series."

Matt McCracken and Patrick Wiejak traded first period goals, and Kincardine took a 2-1 lead on a second period power play. Chad Simpson tipped a Luke Inglis point shot past Ben Nelson to put the Bulldogs up front, but the Ironmen answered back less than two minutes later. Alex Kuntz shook off multiple checks in the neutral zone before dancing around the Kincardine defence and burying a wrist shot to the blocker side of Mitch Campbell.

Kincardine was finishing up a penalty kill on which the 'Dogs didn't allow a shot. But a turnover in Kincardine's corner quickly led to the game winning goal. Kiefer McInnes jumped on a loose puck and found Holdyn Lansink in the slot. Lansink made no mistake, snapping one off the bar and in with 6:51 remaining in the game.

The Bulldogs pushed, but couldn't put another puck behind Nelson as the Ironmen hung on to win Game 6 3-2, and the series 4-2 in front of a full house at the Davidson Centre. Kincardine's effort in Game 6 is not what cost them this series.

"We didn't show up to play in Games 1 and 4," said Stepaniak. "We handed them those wins - you can't give a team like that two free games."

Kincardine was shut out in both those games he mentioned, 7-0 in Game 1 in Wingham and 4-0 in Game 4 on home ice at the Davidson Centre. Still, Stepaniak was pleased with what his young team displayed in the postseason.

"I'm proud of the effort from the guys, and in the end we lost to a very strong team. A couple of bounces here and there, and maybe it's a different outcome - but that's playoff hockey."

The Ironmen finished first overall in the regular season with a 29-7 record. They had a first round bye, while Kincardine finished fourth in the Western League with an 18-15-3 record and faced the Mount Forest Patriots in the opening round, a series that went six games.

Wingham and Walkerton have already kicked off the league championship series. Game 1 of the finals was played Sunday night in Wingham. The Ironmen held a 3-1 lead heading into the third period, but the Hawks battled back and scored twice in the third period to force extra time. Brett Coulson ended this game at 8:11 of overtime with an unassisted goal to give Walkerton a 1-0 series lead. Game 2 is to be played Friday night in Walkerton at 7:20 p.m. The remainder of the series had not been finalized as of press time on Monday.