A late lead evaporated quickly as penalty trouble got the best of the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks.
The Tavistock Royals scored four unanswered goals to take a 5-3 victory over the Winterhawks on Friday night at The Plex.
The two sides quickly reignited their rivalry from last season's playoffs, setting the tone with tight defensive play and some loud checking.
The Winterhawks struck first at 11:07 of the first period, when Luke Pither drew in the Tavistock defenders and dished it off to Matt Shields, who slid a low shot under the pad of the Tavistock goalie to make it a 1-0 Winterhawks lead.
Tavistock evened things up after a strong penalty kill by the Winterhawks when an innocent looking centering pass hit a skate in front of the net and re-directed past Winterhawks goaltender Eric Peicheff.
The Winterhawks took the lead back early in the second period when Pither found Miles MacLean in the slot, whose initial attempt was stopped, but he gathered his own rebound and found the back of the net to make it a 2-1 Winterhawks lead at 2:20.
Tavistock had several more power play opportunities, but Peicheff made key saves to hold the lead for the home side.
With a few late scratches, the Winterhawks called on an all-time great to fill in for the night, and Curtis Johnston did it with authority.
The Winterhawks picked up their first power play of the night late in the second period, and a good cycle paid off as Pither fed the puck across the slot to Johnston, who one-timed it in for his first goal in his first game in three years.
Tavistock answered back shortly after with another flukey goal, banking a pass from behind the net off a skate and past Peicheff to cut the Winterhawks lead to 3-2 after two periods.
An ill-timed penalty proved to be the Winterhawks undoing, however.
The Winterhawks managed to hold off Tavistock without many dangerous chances until midway through the period when Hawks defenceman Chad Jones picked up a major penalty for a head check.
Tavistock scored twice on the ensuing power play, first on a breakaway, then off a one-timer 27-seconds apart to silence the large crowd at The Plex, turning a 3-2 Winterhawks lead into a 4-3 Royals lead.
Tavistock was successful in shutting things down from there, adding an empty netter with six seconds left to make it a 5-3 final.
Pither was named The Wismer House Player of the Game with three assists on the night.
The Winterhawks gear up for a busy January with three games next weekend. They're home next Friday night, January 6th, when Bruce County rivals Ripley Wolves stop by at 8:30 p.m.
A road game in Shelburne follows the next night, then back home on Sunday, January 8th against the Minto 81's.