Pat Payton, Gazette sports editor
ST. MARYS – Stratford Cullitons’ coach Phil Westman says it’s a game on the hockey calendar that he always looks forward to.
This year, Western Conference St. Marys Lincolns will host the Midwestern Conference Cullitons here Friday, Dec. 28 at the Pyramid Rec. Centre, starting at 7:30 p.m.
It’s the fifth straight year that the GOJHL interlocking game is being held between the two Perth County Jr. ‘B’ clubs. The game alternates each season between the two centres. Bragging rights are always on the line, and more importantly to the coaches–two points are up for grabs.
The game has sometimes been promoted as ‘The Highway 7 Showdown’ and the Cullitons and Lincs have certainly given the fans their money’s worth. Stratford currently holds a 3-1 edge in wins, but every game has been been decided by just one or two goals.
In last year’s game at the Allman Arena, Cullitons won 5-4 in overtime in front of one of the biggest crowds in Stratford in 10 years–over 1,800 fans.
Both teams have struggled at times this year, but it’s almost a guarantee that the intensity level will be cranked up a notch or two for this annual affair.
“With the geographics, it becomes an exciting game,” coach Westman said last week. “Some of our players live with St. Marys players at school. A couple of Stratford kids also play for the Lincolns, so it’s kind of a natural rivalry.
“For the two teams, it’s always an exciting game and one that I think both teams look forward to. It’s a fun night of hockey, the atmosphere in the arena, and the long-time rivalry that exists between Stratford and St. Marys. It should be a good night, and one that a lot of people look forward to.”
Cullitons won spirited pre-season tilt
Cullitons and Lincolns have already met once this season. Back on Aug. 31, Cullitons emerged with a 3-2 win in a spirited pre-season tilt at the Allman Arena.
It’s his first season with the team, but Lincs’ new head coach Steve Hillier is well aware of the St. Marys-Stratford rivalry. And it’s a game Lincolns circled on the calendar during training camp in August, he noted.
“I haven’t seen Stratford very much this season, since they beat us in the exhibition schedule,” Hillier said. “I know that they have a good team and a good coaching staff.
“They’re going to be just as ready to go as we are. Stratford might be struggling a little bit, too, but they’re a team that has some weapons.
“It’s nice to have the game on home ice this year, and I’m sure the rink will be full and we can feed off our crowd. We don’t like to look too far ahead, but I know the boys will be ready. It’s a big game, and it’s one where we need to get two points.”
–To mark the 50th anniversary of their memorable season, St. Marys Lincolns will recognize the 1962-63 All-Ontario championship team prior to the Dec. 28 game between the Cullitons and Lincolns. The ‘62-63 Lincs were the first St. Marys Jr. ‘B’ team to win a provincial title.
For Friday’s game, 1962-63 replica jerseys will be worn by the current Lincolns team. Sweaters will have the original number and name of each player.
Players from that first championship club, executive, trainer and selected fans will be introduced at centre ice, prior to the national anthem.
–Varna’s Ryan O’Reilly recently signed a two-year deal with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia.
O’Reilly, 21, is joining his older brother Cal, who plays for the Metallurg team. They will play hockey together for the first time in their professional careers.
Ryan O’Reilly, who led Colorado Avalanche in scoring last season with 18 goals and 55 points in 81 games, had recently been helping out at Cullitons’ practices as the NHL lockout drags on.
Metallurg coach is former Maple Leafs’ bench boss Paul Maurice.
–Former Cullitons’ defenceman Craig Dalrymple (2008-10) is the leading scorer among Ohio State Buckeye defencemen.
A freshman, the 21-year-old from Kippen has one goal, five points and no penalty minutes in 18 NCAA Division 1 games.
The 6 ft., 5 inch, 212 lb. Dalrymple, who has a howitzer for a shot, collected 29 goals and 84 points the past two seasons with Powell River Kings of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League. He added 14 points in 31 playoff games.