More than a few pleasantries were exchanged as the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks and Ripley Wolves renewed acquaintances on Wednesday night at The Plex.
Ripley came back twice to force overtime, taking a 6-5 win in the extra frame on a Nick Seiler game winning goal.
The high flying Wolves came out as one might expect, forcing Winterhawks starter Eric Peicheff to make several big saves early on.
The Winterhawks staved off an early Ripley power play, but a second penalty midway through the period gave Ripley the lead on a goal by Jarrett Kuntz.
The physical play thundered around the rink as both teams landed big checks with plenty of stickwork and retaliation to follow.
The Winterhawks had a power play of their own in the first, but couldn't get much going on the aggressive Ripley penalty killers.
Despite a couple chances late, the Winterhawks couldn't get on the board, and Ripley took a 1-0 lead to the second period.
The spark needed to blow the tinder box open ignited early in a wild middle frame, both on the scoresheet and in the penalty box.
Mike Fiegehen got the Winterhawks on the board at 2:21 of the second, taking a feed from Miles MacLean, and the rookie forward made no mistake, firing the puck over Ripley netminder Jason Hamilton.
The Winterhawks took the lead 48 seconds later, with Captain Trevor Smith finding debuting Winterhawk Logan Freiburger, who wired a shot past Hamilton to give the Winterhawks a 2-1 lead.
The Wolves, perhaps feeling the pressure of the lead slipping away, resorted to some undisciplined play shortly after.
With Ripley already about to be whistled on a delayed penalty, the Wolves Brett Catto took several liberties with Smith.
The Winterhawks captain was left with little choice but to fight back, leading to game misconducts to both players, though Catto picked up two additional penalties on the play, cross checking and instigating.
The end result was a full two-minute five-on-three advantage for the Winterhawks, plus an additional two minutes on the power play at five-on-four.
The Winterhawks couldn't solve Hamilton on the two-man advantage, but the second power play bore fruit as Freiburger sent a shot from the point that was tipped by Donnelly past Hamilton to make it a 3-1 Winterhawks lead.
Ripley got one back seconds later as the puck bounced from behind the net off the stick of Garrett Meurs and somehow ended up behind Peicheff to get the Wolves to within one.
The Winterhawks answered back on an odd-man rush lead by James McHaig, who fed a pass over to Josh Hopkin, re-directing the puck top shelf on Hamilton to restore the two-goal lead.
Peicheff was whistled for delay of game seconds later after clearing the puck over the glass, but the Winterhawks managed to kill off that penalty.
Penalty trouble continued late in the period, as a Brock Pinnell was called for hooking and this time, the Ripley power play connected, with Payton Dunlop cutting the Winterhawks lead to 4-3.
Meurs was again the recipient of a good bounce just under a minute later, as a bouncing puck was unable to be corralled by several players, but ended up right on his stick in the slot and Meurs tied it up at 4-4.
With time winding down, more penalties dogged the Winterhawks, as Matt Shields was ejected for a head contact major penalty, giving the already powerful Ripley power play five minutes to work.
However, it was the Winterhawks who took advantage, as McHaig fed a breakaway pass to Andy Mitchell and he went top corner on Hamilton with 5.4 seconds left to give the Winterhawks a 5-4 advantage heading to the third period.
All told, the two teams combined for eight goals and 25 penalty minutes in the middle frame, and one could argue it could've easily been more.
The Winterhawks came out hard and killed off the remainder of the major penalty to start the third period, but found themselves on the penalty kill at the midway point of the third, and Meurs completed the hat trick to tie the game at 5-5.
With a combination of Christmas turkey kicking in and the bench shortening due to ejections and injury, the Winterhawks held on as the tank dried up, managing to force overtime as Peicheff held the fort to keep it a 5-5 tie.
With more ice during the four-on-four overtime period, the heavy legs got heavier, and the Wolves eventually broke through, as Seiler got alone at the side of the net and snapped a one-time feed past Peicheff to make it a 6-5 overtime final.
Freiburger was named The Wismer House Player of the Game with a goal and an assist in his Winterhawks debut, with an honourable mention to Peicheff, who had a strong game in the Winterhawks net.
The two Bruce County rivals end up splitting the season series, each taking an overtime win on the opposing home ice, as the Winterhawks took an overtime victory of their own in Ripley earlier in the season.
The Winterhawks will have some time to get the legs back, returning to the ice on January 7th for a road game with another rival, the Durham Thundercats.
The Saugeen Shores Winterhawks thank all of our loyal fans for their support as we returned to the ice in 2021, and wish you all a Happy New Year.