By Mac Christie, Times-Advocate Staff
EXETER – The Exeter Hawks dispatched the Lucan Irish handily with a 6-3 win Friday night in Exeter, in the final regular season match for both teams.
Hawks head coach Dale Timmermans said it was a good strong win for Exeter.
"We definitely wanted the win," he said. "With a change in personnel and a new attitude it showed and it paid off."
The Hawks shipped out forwards Tim Ruston, Cody Hern and Dylan Bedard to the St. Marys Lincolns at the Jan. 10 trade deadline, as well as sending rearguard Jake Currie to Lucan.
In their place, the Hawks added forwards Chris Chapman and Ashton Waters, who made their Hawks debuts Friday.
"We knew that we had to step things up," Timmermans said of the personnel moves. "We weren't going to go far in the playoffs with the attitude we had in the dressing room and on the ice.
"The players knew we meant business with the player change and I think they all took it positively and put a good performance on."
The Hawks got on the board early, when Cam Jude scored a shorthanded marker just 1:09 into the opening period.
Jude then put the Hawks up 2-0 with just two and a half minutes to play in the frame on the power play.
Brodie Balcom then made it 3-0 before the intermission.
Balcom added his second of the night with 7:35 to play in the second period, before Jude completed the hat trick just over a minute later.
Newly-acquired forward Ben Lawton got the Irish on the board just over a minute later with a shorthanded marker to cut the score to 5-1.
But Jude made it 6-1 under two minutes later with his fourth of the night.
Although Lucan's Mitch Smith and Mike Hisey scored power-play goals in the third, that was as close as the Irish would get in the 6-3 loss.
Colton James made 30 saves for the win, while Dylan Hoover turned away 33 shots in the Lucan goal.
Timmermans noted he split up the top line of Jude, Balcom and Kalvin Thornton for the game, replacing Balcom with the newly-acquired Chapman, while Balcom slotted onto an energy line with the returning Hayden Cann.
"It worked out pretty well," Timmermans said of the line juggling. "Brodie's a high-energy guy and he needs to play that style. I think playing him with Cann on the wings together was a good mix."
The result put the Hawks in fourth place with an 18-16-3 record, while the Irish drop to 16-17-4, good for sixth place.
As a result, Exeter will face the fifth-place Thamesford Trojans in the first round of the playoffs, while Lucan faces the third-ranked Port Stanley Sailors.
Timmermans said to be successful in the playoffs Exeter will have to keep getting pucks to the net and stay out of the box, as well as making some defensive adjustments.
"Thamesford is a run-and-gun team," Timmermans explained. "I think our biggest adjustment will be playing a little more defensively in their end-zone than we'd normally do."
The 18-17-2 Trojans were paced offensively on the season by Kyle Walker, who recorded 72 points in 31 games, good for second in league scoring.
"He's a good hockey player," said Timmermans, who coached Walker last season with the Jr. 'B' Strathroy Rockets, "but as for concentrating on one player, I never really got into that.
"We'll keep an eye on him when he's out there and keep him in check."
Timmermans noted the Hawks have yet to make a decision on a starting goalie, adding both James and Bryan Paolotto have been playing well.
"We're going to keep going with the status quo until we feel more comfortable with one guy," he said. "Maybe one guy will be playing more against one team if it fits his style better."
As for the team's fourth-place finish, Timmermans said he's OK with where the team placed.
"We could have done better," he said of the regular season. "We ran into a bit of a lull with injuries and school work, but overall I'm happy sitting in fourth.
"We're in the mix with the top few teams and in the playoffs it's a seven-game series, so you never know."
The Hawks will open the playoffs Friday night at 8 p.m. in Exeter, with game two taking place at 8 p.m. on Saturday at the South Huron Rec Centre.
Sailors shut out Irish
The Lucan Irish fell to the Port Stanley Sailors 6-0 Jan. 16 in Lucan in a preview of their first-round playoff matchup.
Port Stanley scored once in the first period, twice in the second and added three in the third in the 6-0 win.
Joseph Frustaglio made 45 saves for Lucan in the loss, while the Irish put 45 shots on the Port Stanley goal.
The Irish opened the postseason Jan. 22 in Port Stanley after press time and will face the Sailors in Lucan tonight (Wednesday) at 7:45 p.m.