During their recent 10-game winning streak, Stratford Cullitons defeated teams such as Elmira Sugar Kings, Waterloo Siskins, Cambridge Winter Hawks and Listowel Cyclones. And five of their victories came on the road.
So it was a little surprising that the eighth-place Brampton Bombers were the team that handed Cullitons their first Midwestern Conference loss of 2014. And it came on home ice, where Stratford hadn’t lost since Dec. 13.
Bombers fought back from 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 deficits to down the Cullitons 5-4 in front of just over 1,400 spectators last Friday night at the Allman Arena.
Cullitons may have been guilty of looking past Brampton and ahead to Tuesday’s road game this week against the first-place Kitchener Dutchmen.
“It shouldn’t be a big surprise because we were 3-3 with (Bombers) on the season,” Stratford coach Phil Westman pointed out. “They always play us well.
“But to be quite honest, we lost tonight on Monday night (at practice). Our heads were getting too fat, and I didn’t think we practiced well. I think when we pay the price in practice, then we deserve to win in a game.”
First-period goals by Tyson Baker (his eighth, just 10 seconds into the contest) and Nathan Templeman (his eighth) staked Cullitons to an early 2-0 lead.
Bombers’ winger Reid Jackman got the visitors on the board in the final minute of the period, and then Jackman tied it at 6:29 of the middle frame.
Deven Kropf (his 13th) put Cullitons back in front at the 18:50 mark.
Brampton’s Brandon Clelland tied it again on a powerplay 35 seconds into the third. Captain Jordan Currie (his fifth) gave Stratford its last lead of the night at 4:15.
Bombers’ Josh Villaflor tied it just 58 seconds later, and Clelland fired what proved to be the winner at 6:39.
Westman replaced starter Michael Pesendorfer (11-7-1) with Nick Caldwell following the goal.
Overall, Cullitons out-shot Brampton 40-32, including 12-6 in the final 20 minutes.
There were only two minor penalties called over the final 40 minutes.
“I thought we lost the blue lines at both ends of the rink tonight,” Westman added. “I didn’t think our wingers did a good job of getting pucks out, and I thought our defencemen made some real soft plays at the other blue line.
“The guys were getting a little cocky, and they have to remember that we’re just a fourth-place hockey team right now. And we have to go out and work.
“We got a little needle in our balloon, and we really needed it. The next four games coming up are going to be real tough.”
After weekend action, Stratford (23-16-3) sat alone in fifth place — two points behind Cambridge Winter Hawks (23-15-5) with one game in hand.
Upcoming: Cullitons, who played the front-running Dutchmen Tuesday night in Kitchener, have a busy and important weekend ahead.
They host the second-place Elmira Sugar Kings (31-8-5) Friday night, travel to Cambridge Saturday evening, and then entertain the seventh-place Listowel Cyclones (14-21-8) on ‘Family Day’ Monday. Opening face-off at the Allman is 2 p.m.
Following this weekend, Cullitons only have three regular-season games remaining.