The stakes will be high as the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks welcome a new visitor to The Plex on Saturday night.
The Winterhawks and the Milverton Four Wheel Drives have never met before, but their first meeting will be a big one as the 2017/18 regular season comes to a conclusion.
The 7:30 p.m. match-up on Saturday will go a long way to settling how the playoffs will look when they open on February 2nd.
The eight teams who will compete for the WOAA Sr. “AA” championship have been determined, and five seedings have been set.
The 1st-place Clinton Radars will face the 8th-place Huron East Centenaires in the opening round of the playoffs. The Ripley Wolves have claimed 2nd place, Durham Thundercats will be 3rd place and the Tillsonburg Thunder will finish in 4th place.
The Winterhawks, Milverton and Shelburne Muskies are separated by two points and remain in a battle for the 5th, 6th and 7th seeds.
Shelburne enters the weekend with 20 points and one game remaining, on Saturday in Seaforth against Huron East. The Winterhawks are one point back at 19 points with two games remaining and Milverton is at 18 points with two games remaining.
After the dust settles between the Winterhawks and Drives on Saturday, both teams will wrap up their regular season on Sunday, as the Winterhawks travel to Clinton, while Milverton hosts Tillsonburg.
The Winterhawks are riding a three-game winning streak entering the game, most recently an 8-2 win over Shallow Lake on Jan. 20th.
“We came out with a purpose, we carried the game early and we never let up for 60 minutes,” said Head Coach Jim Grieve.
Entering such a pivotal game against an unknown opponent isn’t the easiest situation, as Grieve admits his knowledge of the Four Wheel Drives is limited.
“I know they wear black uniforms, that’s about it,” joked Grieve.
Grieve predicts both teams will likely start out a bit tentative as they feel each other out, but says his team is confident right now and that will help.
“We’re feeling good about ourselves, our game as turned around and we’re starting to peak,” said Grieve. “Last year, we may have peaked a little too early, but this year, we’re peaking at the right time.”
The Winterhawks will likely lean on forward Miles MacLean for a scouting report, as the team’s leading scorer is no stranger to facing Milverton, having squared off many times during his four-year tenure with the Tavistock Royals.
A look at Milverton’s stat sheet suggests the drives rely heavily on their top players to fill the net.
Dennis Dewar leads the way for the Drives, with 22 points in 15 games, 2016/17 WOAA scoring champion Brent Freeman has 18 points in 15 games and veteran Mike Therrian has 16 points in 12 games.
The scoring stats drop off from there, though Andrew Whelan, Andrew Brubacher and Brendan Valko have impressive stat lines, but in limited action this season.
TST Total Sports Talk is giving away two tickets to Saturday’s game against Milverton. All you have to do is go on Twitter and send a tweet with the hash tag #TSTWinterhawks by Thursday January 25th at 11:59 p.m. to enter. Limit of 10 entries per person. Winner drawn at random.
WOAA Sr. Hockey League Standings