The Mitchell Hawks learned a hard lesson on home ice last Saturday night – you can’t take any team lightly.
Fresh after a 3-1 win in Hanover one night earlier, the Hawks came home to take on Walkerton, winners of just one game in the early going of the PJHL Pollock division regular season, and after a 7-0 shellacking by Mount Forest the night before. But it was the visiting Hawks who came away with the two-points, claiming a 4-3 decision.
“The league’s too good, you can’t take any nights off,” said Hawks’ general manager Kevin Ward afterwards. “The points you lose now usually come back to bite you at the end of the year.”
Walkerton took a 2-0 lead before the game was four minutes old, squeezing two shots past a shaky Ryan Govier in the Mitchell net. But Mitchell slowly turned their game up a notch, and were rewarded when Jake Finlayson neatly tipped home a shot up and over Walkerton netminder Mathew Donnelly before the end of the opening frame.
Mitchell continued to carry the play in the second but not before Walkerton scored on the tail end of a power play just 11-seconds into the period on another shot Govier would like to have back. Mitchell’s Reid Ramseyer cut the lead in half on a power play marker of his own six minutes into the period but despite firing 15 official shots on net – and seemingly at least that many that missed the net – still trailed 3-2 after two periods.
The hometown Hawks carried the pressure into the third but Donnelly was up to the task, especially their penalty killers as Mitchell failed to convert on back-to-back power plays, then saw Walkerton come down and regain their two-goal edge midway through the period after they successfully killed the penalties.
Finlayson counted his second goal of the game, on yet another man advantage, less than two minutes later but that was as close as Mitchell would get.
Mitchell outshot Walkerton 38-27, but Ward wasn’t pleased with a lot of the team’s low percentage shot selection from the side of Donnelly and high rather than just firing at the net and hunting for a rebound.
One night earlier, Govier was sharp and Mitchell counted two power play goals in the second period which was the difference in their 3-1 victory over the Barons. After a scoreless first, Jarett Bogdon and Brett Denny scored with the man advantage seven minutes apart in the second to build their lead. Hanover scored a power play goal of their own just 85-seconds into the third but they never got the equalizer despite outshooting the visitors 46-45 on the night. Tyson Hall completed the Hawks’ scoring with under eight minutes to play.
“There was about an eight-minute lull in the third where we let our foot off the gas,” said Hawks’ coach Daryl O’Connell, saying this is something that has become a pattern early in the season.
The pattern wasn’t there one night later, though, as Mitchell never had the lead.
HAWKS’ TALK: Mitchell is in the midst of a four-game homestand, and hosts unbeaten Wingham tonight (Wednesday) at 8:30 p.m., Hanover this Friday at 8:30 p.m. and a Thanksgiving Sunday game against Mount Forest at 3 p.m….For the month of October, during their seven home games, the Hawks will wear pink jerseys during warm-up for breast cancer awareness. A silent auction will be held on all jerseys throughout the month at the Blueline club, with eventual proceeds benefitting cancer research…..Defenceman Spencer Dowd was moved up to forward to play along Jarett Bogdon and Jake Finlayson in the third period against Walkerton to try and generate some offense, and the three overagers had some scoring chances. O’Connell hopes to leave the trio intact until Dowd’s services are required at the back end again due to injury, suspension or performance….Defenceman Eric Rolph is expected to make his season debut tonight (Oct. 9) after sitting out a suspension he received at the end of last season.