By Chris Clark
Humiliating Kincardine 8-3 and Hanover 7-4 on the weekend, the Mount Forest Patriots are the top-scoring team in Western Jr. C hockey.
The Patriots followed a strong opening weekend with the pair of victories, and currently boast six of the league’s top seven scorers. Mount Forest native Ian Bridgwater is at the top of the mountain, hammering home six goals and nine points over his first four games.
Dean Nixon also has nine points, thanks to four goals and five assists, and Luke Richardson has eight points in three games. The Ayton duo of Ben Davis and Dave Culliton have both notched seven points, while Nathan Woodard and Dean Costanzo have six each. Patriot goaltender Paul Boyadjian remains undefeated after a trio of early victories.
“Our three top lines are balanced, and we’re getting scoring from all three,” said Patriots Coach Scott Sutter. “We’re getting goals from every angle.”
In only four games, the Pats have lit the lamp 29 times; nearly double the 16 goals of the next-highest-scoring squads in Kincardine and Mitchell. Mount Forest now shares first place in the league standings, tied with Walkerton at three wins each. The Hawks will test Mount Forest this Saturday night in an 8 p.m. start.
On Friday night in Kincardine, the Patriot scoring surge certainly got under the skin of goalie Gatlin Burt, who was assessed penalties for throwing the stick and travesty of the game. The locals went 4-for-9 on the powerplay, led 4-2 after period one, and then outpaced their hosts 4-1 the rest of the way en route to the big win.
Coach Sutter said the Patriot powerplay has “really been clicking” and is contributing a lot of goals this season. He said the team has been putting bodies in front of the net, capitalizing on chances, and taking control of games with hard work and timely goaltending.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring in period one, but powerplay efforts from Nixon and Woodard, and an even-strength goal from Richardson gave Mount Forest a lead they would not relinquish. Woodard added a shorthanded effort, and stepping up for first-period assists were Doug Ardis, Dylan Hoffman, Wade Mackey, Bridgwater and Nixon.
Nixon struck again on a second period powerplay, assisted by Culliton and Jon Aitken, and the locals led 5-3 after 40 minutes. Three unanswered goals then sealed the deal, as Richardson and Bridgwater both scored and Davis drained one with the man advantage. Costanzo fired a pair of helpers, along with singles from Richardson, Nixon and Ardis.
Saturday’s game back home in Mount Forest had the fans cheering from the get go, as the green machine rolled up an early 4-0 lead, and then took a 6-1 lead into the first intermission.
Tyler McCracken got it started with a goal from Hoffman and Dylan Davidson, and Mitch Betts scored his first of two in the period from Davis and Nixon. Costanzo drained one set up by Bridgwater and “Cool Hand” Luke Richardson, and Culliton dented the twine on another assisted by Nixon and Davis.
“I think we’re clicking on four lines and we’re playing well together,” Betts said following the win. “We’re making good passes and putting it in the net.”
Betts banged in a 5-1 goal on the powerplay, helped by Woodard, and Richardson wrapped up the assault with a buzzer beater off the sticks of Bridgwater and Costanzo.
Hanover managed a powerplay goal in the second period, plus one from former Patriot Robbie Moe, but the two sides shored up their defense and traded single goals in the final frame. Woodard’s empty-netter, from Ardis, put the icing on the sweet win.
“It’s good to have a good start,” said Betts, “but it doesn’t mean much if you don’t keep it going; and if we can keep it going we’ll keep winning.”
Coach Sutter said the Patriots still have to get a look at some of the teams in the league, and the coaching staff expects to see the team tighten its defense and continue to click and work hard at both ends of the ice.