The Saugeen Shores Winterhawks are headed home with a 3-1 series lead on the Durham Thundercats.
The Winterhawks withstood a barrage of power plays as the referees dominated Game 4 of the W.O.A.A. Sr. AA quarterfinal series, taking a 4-1 decision from the home Thundercats.
The tension was in the air even before the puck dropped, as the two teams scuffled during the pre-game warmup, but little came of it as they quickly separated.
Durham failed to score on a man-advantage situation to open the game, and the Winterhawks were able to quickly capitalize the other way once play returned to five-on-five.
Jacob Brown and Alex Kuntz teamed up on a two-on-one, with Brown banking in a pass off the Durham defender, making it 1-0 Saugeen Shores at 11:51 of the opening frame.
The penalties continued as the Winterhawks couldn’t convert with the extra man, which was followed by five-consecutive Winterhawks penalties in five minutes at the end of the first period and into the opening minute of the 2nd.
Tenacious penalty killing by both the Winterhawks skaters and goaltender Jeff Flagler held Durham off the scoresheet until they finally took a penalty of their own 25-seconds into the 2nd period.
The Winterhawks couldn’t convert on their own two-man advantage before Trent Hawke was whistled for an unsportsmanlike conduct infraction, but another penalty by Durham put the Winterhawks back on the powerplay in a four-on-three situation.
Again, the Durham defenders were their own worst nightmare, as a Nick Quaid point shot deflected off a Durham stick and past netminder Gatlin Burt, with Curtis Johnston picking up an assist.
The penalties continued fast and furious, including Durham’s Dean Nixon attempting to fight the Winterhawks’ Alex Penner, with Nixon throwing several punches at Penner, which hardly fazed the big winger. Nixon received a double-minor for roughing, while Penner inexplicably received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Durham finally got on the board 23-seconds into the 3rd period, on yet another two-man advantage, with Kyler Nixon feeding a point shot through a crowd and past Flagler to make it a 2-1 game.
The Thundercats took several more penalties late in the 3rd period to derail their comeback attempt, as Penner deflected a Greg Thede point shot on a two-man advantage to make it a 3-1 Winterhawks lead with 1:23 remaining.
Brown would add his second of the night into an empty net with eight seconds remaining to seal the 4-1 win for the visitors.
All told, the two teams were called for 28 minor penalties during the game.
Flagler was outstanding in the Winterhawks net, making 24 saves for the win.
The Winterhawks lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 and will be home on Friday, February 17 as they look to send the Thundercats packing for the second-consecutive season. Game time at The Plex is 8:30 p.m.