There will be little time to rest this weekend for the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks and Durham Thundercats.
The two sides are set to resume their W.O.A.A. Sr. “AA” quarterfinal on Friday, the beginning of three games in a span of about 42 hours.
The Winterhawks struck first, defeating Durham by a 6-4 score in Game 1 and will look to extend that lead when the puck drops on Game 2 on Friday night in Durham (8:30 p.m. start).
Head Coach Jim Grieve said he was generally pleased with his team’s effort to open the series, though alluded to the need to stay out of the penalty box with an extra set of striped eyes on the ice for the playoffs.
“We knew we were going to face some adversity, sometimes it was self-inflicted, but we rose to the occasion and we’ve got that one behind us now,” said Grieve of the Game 1 victory.
The two sides will return to The Plex for Game 3 on Saturday night for a 7:30 p.m. start, then return to Durham for Game 4 and a Sunday afternoon matinée at 2:30 p.m.
It will undoubtedly be a grind for players who aren’t used to playing more than once, perhaps twice, each weekend but Grieve is not inclined to reveal if the Winterhawks will dip into their depth pool as the weekend rolls along.
The Winterhawks scratched five players (Chris King, Brett Brophy, Alex Penner, Adam Little and Trent Hawke) for Game 1 and while not all are healthy, Grieve said there are options available if he wants to swap in a fresh body or two for Game 3 or Game 4.
“We have that luxury of putting an extra guy in the lineup, somebody fresh, but it’s not like we’re playing three different teams, [Durham] is going to be up against the same challenge,” said Grieve.
That luxury, however, may not be afforded to Durham, as they were one player shy of a full bench in Game 1, with their scratches including their top-two leading scorers in Randy Cox and Trevor Hughson.
Much of the discussion around the league after the first weekend of playoff hockey surrounded the officials, specifically the addition of an additional referee for all playoff games.
Playoff games on the “AA” side are averaging 39 penalty minutes per game (including misconducts) so far in the playoffs, though the Winterhawks and Thundercats were the least-penalized teams of the weekend.
The Winterhawks took seven minor penalties to Durham’s six in Game 1, but Grieve thinks the switch to the four-man officiating crew has more of an impact on the two referees than it does the players.
“Other than having an extra body on the ice, I think it’s more of an adjustment for them,” said Grieve. “We’re not going to worry about referees, we’re just going to play our game.”
Elsewhere in the W.O.A.A. Sr. “AA” playoffs, Mapleton-Minto has jumped out to a 2-0 series lead on Tillsonburg, thanks to a pair of overtime victories. Petrolia and Ripley are knotted at 1-1 after the Wolves erased a 6-0 deficit to win 7-6 in Game 2. Clinton and Tavistock are also tied 1-1 after Tavistock held off Clinton for an 8-7 overtime win in Game 2.