By Chris Clark
Bring on the Hawks. The Patriots are on to the second round.
For the first time in recent years, the Mount Forest Patriots have advanced to a Western Jr. C playoff semi-final series. The Pats stunned the Wingham Ironmen with 3-2 and 4-0 wins on the weekend, eliminating the higher-ranked Ironmen in six games.
Wingham learned quickly their league quarterfinal with the Patriots was going to be no easy ride, as they were handed a humbling 4-0 loss last Wednesday night at the Mount Forest and District Sports Complex.
The Patriots drew even in the best-of-seven 2-2 with the dominant win, essentially reducing the series to a best of three. The Pats owned the first period, and the Ironmen, scoring all four of their unanswered goals inside the first 20 minutes.
Trevor Hughson got it going just two minutes in, nailing a power play effort from Doug Costanzo. Doug Ardis followed with a beauty, assisted by Cody Wright and Dean Nixon; and Ben Davis scored the 3-0 goal, thanks to helpers from Hughson and Matt Marshall. Dylan Hoffman capped the rout with a goal, after missing on an earlier penalty shot attempt. Costanzo earned the lone assist.
“This shutout was just what we needed to get the ball rolling,” said Patriot Captain Jon Aitken following the win. “This shows us and our fans what we can do and hopefully we can go a little further.”
The locals certainly did on Saturday night, when weather woes moved game five to Mount Forest, and the home side kept right on rolling with a tight 3-2 victory.
Ardis found Nathan Woodard for the opening goal only 1:37 into the first period, however Wingham drew even a minute later. Following a scoreless second, it wasn’t until period three that Ardis played set-up man again and assisted on a 2-1 tally from Wright.
The Ironmen continued to fight hard for the game, notching a tying goal on the powerplay, but Davis stepped up as the hero at the 13-minute mark with what would stand up as the game-winning 3-2 goal. Hughson and Luke Richardson garnered the assists on the powerplay marker.
Competition switched back to Wingham on Sunday, where the Patrtiots made no mistake in saving the series from a seventh game. Mount Forest goaltender Luke Bierworth was flawless as he picked up his second 4-0 shutout of the series and helped carry the Pats to victory.
Neither side could light the lamp in period one, but a chance power-play inside the first minute of period two gave the Patriots the space they needed to open the floodgates. Nixon netted the goal, assisted by Ardis and Davis; and Wright followed with a 2-0 goal, again set up by Ardis, at 7:19.
Dave Culliton increased the lead to 3-0 midway through the third period, finishing a play from Davis and Tyler McCracken. Hughson then capped off the shutout with a late tally, assisted by Culliton and Davis.
Only two of the league’s top eight playoff scorers are not members of the Walkerton Hawks, who found little resistance against Goderich. Mount Forest sniper Ben Davis notched four goals and six assists for 10 points in six games, while former Patriot Robbie Moe scored nine points for Hanover. Doug Ardis was second in Patriot scoring with two goals, six assists, and eight points.
Across the league, the first-place Hawks swept the hapless Sailors in four easy games, and now meet the Patriots. Game two of their series is this Saturday in Mount Forest, at 8 p.m. The Mitchell Hawks toppled the Hanover Barons in six games in their quarterfinal, and move on to face the Kincardine Bulldogs.