It would seem unlikely the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks and Durham Thundercats will be exchanging Christmas cards on Friday night.
The two heated rivals will once again meet up at The Plex with both teams holding long memories of last season’s playoff series that saw pre-game dust-ups and post-game confrontations, to say nothing of the physical play during the games.
The Winterhawks are coming off a dominating 10-1 win over the Lucknow Lancers on Saturday night, which was preceded by a hard-fought 4-2 loss to the Clinton Radars on Friday, a game which Head Coach Jim Grieve saw lots of positive things.
“That was a solid 60-minute effort [against Clinton], we stuck in there with them and stayed focused and took advantage of our opportunities,” said Grieve. “They’re an excellent hockey team, it just wasn’t enough.”
The Winterhawks have seen a recent bump in physical play, thanks largely to the defensive pairing of Jacob Brown and Justin Ainslie, who were put together when Brown returned to the team following a work commitment.
“It’s definitely a shutdown pairing for us, their physical play is something we’ve been missing on the back end with the loss of Theo [Peckham],” said Grieve. “Definitely a good pairing.”
Durham took the opening match-up between the two clubs on Oct. 27th, a 4-1 decision in Durham, though the Winterhawks outshot the Thundercats 30-15, but had trouble solving Gatlin Burt in the Durham net.
The Thundercats come to The Plex riding a three-game winning streak, most recently taking a 6-5 overtime win over the Tillsonburg Thunder, though Durham saw a 5-0 lead evaporate to a Tillsonburg lineup with 10 skaters.
The Winterhawks have seen their offensive fortunes improve of late, as a resurgent Bryan Kazarian has put up seven points (4G, 3A) in his last three games, while Josh Hopkin has taken over the team lead in scoring (5G, 9A for 14 pts.) after a five point night in Lucknow.
The Winterhawks host the Durham Thundercats at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night at The Plex, sponsored by The Wismer House.