Wolves open with big win over Winterhawks

Late goal gives Wolves 2-1 victory

By Josh Howald

What would Hockey Day in Kincardine be without a Ripley Wolves game?

Jason Hamilton denies Brent McDermind on this first period scoring chance in a 2-1 Ripley win Saturday in Kincardine. (Josh Howald photo)

Well, not quite as fun.

Jason Hamilton put on a goaltending clinic and sniper Cody Britton scored the game winner with 21 seconds to play to lead the Wolves to a 2-1 win over the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks. A near-capacity crowd was on hand to see Ripley open the WOAA Senior AA season at the Davidson Centre in Kincardine as part of the Hockey Day in Kincardine festivities.

The game wasn't quite the marquee affair it might have been, with each team playing without several key players. Ripley was missing eight regulars from the line-up and the Winterhawks were without four forwards off their top two lines.

But that didn't mean it wasn't entertaining. However, in the first period it was evident this was the first game of the season for both teams. Misfired passes, icings and turnovers were prevalent in the early going.

Hamilton, a Listowel native who recently signed with the Wolves, bailed his teammates on number of occasions early in this contest. He robbed Brent McDermid of what seemed to be a sure goal after he danced through the Wolves and in all alone. Hamilton stretched his left leg to the post, then lifted his leg to stop McDermid.

The Wolves rallied around that stop, and opened the scoring less than two minutes later. Former Kincardine Bulldogs forward Patrick Wiejak, making his senior hockey debut, poked a loose puck past Jeff Flagler in the Winterhawks net at 11:42.

The Wolves held that lead for nearly 20 minutes. Midway through the second, Trent Hawke took a pass from Jay Thomson and had all kinds of time to deke out Hamilton. The former Mapleton-Minto goalie, as well as the Wolves bench, felt the play should have been blown down for icing - and they had a point - but it fell on deaf ears.

Shortly after, Ripley scored what looked to be the go-ahead goal. Mike Osadca fired a puck that hit the side of the goal and caromed in off Flagler's foot. But the goal was immediately waved off by the officals. Apparently the left post had become dislodged, but the whistle did not sound until the puck hit the back of the Saugeen Shores net.

It remained 1-1 until the final minutes. Josh Hopkin was sent off for hooking with two minutes and change to go. Hopkin could have been penalized numerous times in this game, but didn't necessarily earn this one. After working the puck back and forth a few times with Brett Catto, Britton buried a wrist shot on the power play with 22 seconds left on the clock.

The Wolves were outshot 45-33 in this game, and Saugeen Shores certainly had more quality opportunities to score. But Hamilton was the difference as he bailed his teammates out on several occasions. He picked up his first win for the Wolves with a 44-save performance. Hamilton came to Ripley after the 81's took a one-year leave of absence from the WOAA. He played his junior hockey in Wingham prior to senior hockey. He spent time with three now-defunct franchises - Walkerton, Moncton and Mapleton-Minto.

The Wolves have next weekend off before returning to action. The next game will be a good test for the Wolves, a Friday, Oct. 20 trip to Clinton to face the defending champion Radars. The Radars defeated Whitby last weekend 3-2 in an exhibition game with the OHA Senior AAA franchise.

Saturday night, the Wolves will play their first game of the year in Ripley. The Huron East Centenaires will be in the village Saturday, Oct. 21 for a 7 p.m. affair.