Wolves look strong on road to AA playoffs


By Josh Howald

The Ripley Wolves have been WOAA Senior A champions before, thank you very much.

Shawn Stewart makes a move in tight on Shallow Lake goalie Derek Downs Saturday night in Ripley. (Josh Howald photo)


To be considered a top team in the WOAA, the Wolves must compete with the heavyweights in the AA playoff tournament. And with three wins in the last four games, the Wolves have all but locked up a ticket to the big dance.

"Playing in the AA playoffs is what everyone wanted coming into this year," Wolves captain Brett Catto said Monday morning. "Getting a couple more bodies and more commitment from guys has made a big difference."

A weekend split moved Ripley into a tie for fifth place overall in the WOAA Senior AA Hockey League. The Wolves and Durham Thundercats each have 23 points - one behind Tavistock and two behind Petrolia. Saugeen Shores and Mapleton-Minto are first and second, respectively. Then there is a logjam in the standings, with six teams all within three points. The ninth, 10th and 11th place clubs are all six points behind eighth place Clinton. Eight teams in the 14 team loop go to the AA playoffs. The bottom six teams will play for the A crown.

The 11-7-1 Wolves went into Port Elgin Friday night riding a six-game win streak. But the first place Winterhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period and never looked back. Jeff McDermid, Brandon Haefling and Mike Johnstone scored for Saugeen Shores. Nick Quaid assisted on the first two goals. McDermid's was a shorthanded effort. Former Edmonton Oiler Theo Peckham made it 4-0 for the WInterhawks before Devin Kemp got the Wolves on the board at 5:58 of the third period from Shawn Stewart. Alex Kuntz answered for the Winterhawks less than two minutes later, making it 5-1 from Bryan Kazarian and Curtis Johnston. Drew Davidson scored from Brett Catto and Blair Pollock to make it 5-2. Blake Underwood made it 6-2 for Saugeen Shores 1:27 later and this game ended 6-2.

The Wolves bounced back with a huge win the following night on home ice against the Shallow Lake Crushers. The Wolves led this one 4-0 before the first period had ended. Tyler Soehner, Dan Nicoloff, Jared Colling and Catto each scored for Ripley in the first period onslaught. Tyler deVos had two assists, while Jordan Turcotte, Davidson, Colling, Patrick Wiejak, Catto and Soehner each had one.

Andrew Boyle got one for the Crushers midway through the second. Kemp scored from Ryan Armstrong and Stewart to make it 5-1. Boyle scored his second of the game for the Crushers, but Soers and Cody Britton scored goals 33 seconds apart to make it 7-2 at the second intermission. Britton and Ryan Dudgeon set up the first goal, Soers and Catto the second.

"The D and goaltending has been solid all year, and the offence is starting to click at the right time, which is exciting," said Catto.

Colling made it 8-2 in the third from Armstrong and Turcotte. Turcotte completed the scoring from Catto and Hayden Allen for a 9-2 final. The Wolves outshot Shallow Lake 42-28.

Mitch Campbell had the win in goal for Ripley. Josh Sturrock is pegged with the loss for Shallow Lake. Derek Downs entered the game in relief of Sturrock in the middle frame.

With so many teams crammed together in the standings, a playoff opponent is still very much a mystery - not just for the Wolves, but every team. Ripley will close out the regular season Saturday night in Clinton against the Radars. Heading into that game, the Wolves hold a one point lead on Clinton in the standings.

"Basically we won't know what's going on until next Monday," said Catto. "In a 20-game season every single game is important."

Don’t miss next week’s edition to find out who Ripley's first round opponent will be, as well as the other Senior AA opening round match-ups.

"Hopefully we keep trending up for a good run here," said Catto.