Another home playoff game, another overtime hero for the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks.
James McHaig scored 10:32 into the extra frame to secure a 3-2 victory for the Winterhawks over the Minto 81’s in Game 4 of their WOAA Sr. “AA” quarterfinal series.
The Winterhawks dominated for much of the game, including the opening 15 minutes of the 1st period, but it was Minto who got on the board first, scoring a power play goal at 16:30 of the 1st period.
Despite outshooting Minto 16-8 in the opening frame, the Winterhawks found themselves trailing.
A sluggish start to the 2nd period allowed Minto to jump out to a 2-0 lead just 58-seconds into the period.
The Winterhawks continued to pour it on, though they could not find a way to beat 81’s netminder Ben Nelson, who was outstanding all night long.
Though opportunities for Minto were rare, Jeff Flagler was able to shut the door the rest of the way, giving his team time to mount the comeback.
As the Winterhawks threw everything but the kitchen sink at Nelson, they finally found the crack in his armour as Lauchlin Elder threw a shot from the side boards to the net, and the rebound fell to the feet of Nelson, where Miles MacLean jammed it into the Minto net, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
The score remained 2-1 after two periods of play, despite the Winterhawks outshooting Minto 31-11 after two.
The domination by the Winterhawks continued in the 3rd period as they pressured for the equalizer.
Nelson turned aside chance after chance until finally, Andy Mitchell banged in a feed from Jay Thomson at 10:10 of the 3rd to make it a 2-2 tie, with Trevor Smith also assisting.
There were opportunities to win the game in regulation, but again, Nelson came up huge for Minto, who were outshot 48-18 through regulation.
The play evened up a bit as the game moved into overtime, though the Winterhawks had the more dangerous chances.
Elder put a good shot on goal and poked the rebound past Nelson, but the puck squirted wide of the net.
Moments later, Thomson was filled in from behind by a Minto defender behind the net, and while the crowd hollered its disapproval of the non-call, Mitchell corralled the puck and sent it in front to McHaig, who beat Nelson from the top of the crease.
The Winterhawks now lead the best-of-seven series 3-1, and will be back home this Friday night, February 22nd, as they look to win the series and move on.
Game time at The Plex is 8:30 p.m.
SMITH RECOGNIZED: Prior to the game, Winterhawks captain Trevor Smith was named the recipient of the Elgin Jewllers Community Player of the Month for January for his leadership on and off the ice.
Smith was presented with a Hugo Boss watch by Charles Ebenstreit of Elgin Jewellers, then followed up the presentation by recording three assists.