Pat Payton, Gazette sports editor
It was a game that Stratford Cullitons had to win.
But coach Phil Westman was most pleased how his team did it.
Led by Jake Ryan’s hat trick and goalie Michael Pesendorfer’s first victory in a Stratford uniform, the short-staffed Cullitons downed the last-place Guelph Hurricanes 7-1 in front of about 1,250 spectators Friday night at the Allman Arena.
The win ended a seven-game losing skid for Cullitons (0-5-2 in that streak), and another positive was that it was the sixth time in the last two months that Stratford had allowed just one goal against in regulation time.
Due to injury and illness, Cullitons played the Midwestern Conference game with just 15 skaters and two goalies.
“I think when you look back at practice Monday night, we went right back to basics and wanted to get the puck to the net and get rebounds,” Westman pointed out. “And it just proved it tonight. A couple of our goals weren’t the prettiest, but the puck was active with traffic going to the net.”
Hurricanes’ Dustin Baker tied the score 1-1 on a powerplay midway through the first period, but after that it was all Cullitons. Just 16 seconds after Guelph tied it, Ryan put the home team back in front to stay. The 19-year-old from New Liskeard then made 3-1 before the end of the period.
Second-period powerplay goals by Ryan Watson and Dylan Wettlaufer made it 5-1.
In the third, Cullitons peppered Hurricanes’ goalie Jason DaSilva with 25 shots as they swarmed around the Guelph net the entire period. Ryan added his third goal in the first minute of the frame, and Watson added his second of the night with just over two minutes to play.
Captain Andrew Barton, who fired the other Stratford goal to open the scoring, also collected five assists for a six-point outing. His big offensive night also moved him into the team scoring lead. The veteran centre now has 12 goals and 35 points, one more than Shane O’Brien (16-18) who went pointless Friday.
Watson, meanwhile, picked up three assists for a five-point game. Veteran defenceman Mike Pleon chipped in a pair of assists.
Watson and Ryan now both have 13 goals.
Pesendorfer (1-0-1 with a 0.96 goals-against average) made 24 saves for the win. The 19-year-old American was recently signed by the Cullitons, who finished with a 61-25 advantage in shots.
Stratford (12-13-5) moved to within four points of sixth-place Waterloo Siskins with the victory.
Upcoming: Cullitons are in Brampton Saturday night to play the eighth-place Bombers at 7:30 p.m.