Pat Payton, Gazette sports editor
Stratford Cullitons defeated one of the hottest teams in the Midwestern Conference in front of about 1,350 spectators Friday night at the Allman Arena.
Waterloo Siskins came into the Allman riding a six-game winning streak. But a 5-2 Cullitons victory gave Siskins their first loss since Jan. 5 and moved
Stratford (20-16-6) to within four points of Waterloo (23-15-4), Elmira Sugar Kings (23-16-4) and Kitchener Dutchmen (23-17-4). Those three teams are now tied for fourth spot.
Using a great forechecking attack, Cullitons built a 3-0 lead by the 15-minute mark of the first period. It also proved to be the difference on the scoreboard at the end of the night.
The marksmen for Stratford were Jared Culliton (his 12th), Ryan Watson (his 15th) and Jake Ryan (his 17th) on a powerplay. Ryan Doucette finally put Siskins on the scoreboard with 3:36 left in the period.
A goal by hustling centre Trevor Sauder at 2:12 of the middle frame restored a three-goal Cullitons’ lead, but Waterloo wouldn’t go quietly. A breakaway goal by Jimmy Soper at 6:49 left the visitors trailing 4-2 at the end of 40 minutes.
Stratford returned to its strong forechecking game in the third, and clinched their 13th win on home ice with a goal by winger Mitch Vandergunst at 9:32.
In addition to Ryan’s goal, the veteran forward also had two assists for a three-point night. Dylan Wettlaufer chipped in a pair of assists.
Overall, Cullitons out-shot the Siskins 39-34. Nick Caldwell, who made the big stops when he had to, improved his record to 15-10-4 with the win.
Cullitons’ victory evens the season series between the two teams at 2-2. Both of Siskins wins came on Stratford ice earlier this season.
It was also Cullitons’ third straight victory, and their fifth in the last six games. Since the Christmas break, they are now 8-1-1.