The Saugeen Shores Winterhawks waged another entertaining playoff game with the Minto 81’s, but for the first time in the series, it was Minto coming out on top, 5-4 in Palmerston on Sunday afternoon.
Minto got on the board at 4:47 of the 1st, as a turnover behind the Winterhawks popped out front, and while starting netminder Eric Peicheff tried to spawl on it, Minto’s Adam Kawalec gathered it in and fired the puck over Peicheff.
The Winterhawks evened things up on the power play at 9:42 of the 1st, as Josh Deyell blasted a point shot past Minto goaltender Ben Nelson, with assists to Matt Shields and Bryan Kazarian.
Kazarian put the Winterhawks up 2-1 in the dying seconds of the opening frame, as he finished off a pretty passing play with Andy Fracz and Trevor Smith.
Minto tied the game at 7:08 of the 2nd, but the Winterhawks answered right back on a re-direction by James McHaig at 10:13, as he deflected Smith’s pass into the top corner of the net.
Minto tied the game again with 25 seconds left in the period, leaving things deadlocked after two.
A bevy of penalties followed to open the 3rd period, as Smith was whistled for roughing 50-seconds in, followed almost immediately by Justin Ainslie for boarding.
With a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage, the 81’s struck almost immediately, putting Minto up 4-3, the only blemish on an otherwise effective penalty killing game, as Minto went only 1-for-8 on the power play.
The Winterhawks killed off Ainslie’s penalty, but were whistled for another penalty almost immediately.
An aggressive penalty kill lead to Minto taking a penalty just past the halfway point of the power play.
The 81’s were whistled again just under 30-seconds later for tripping, with the officials calling five minor penalties between both teams in a span of four minutes.
It gave the Winterhawks a 5-on-3 advantage of their own, but despite some good chances, they were unable to capitalize.
Peicheff came up huge on a point-blank chance once the teams finally got back to 5-on-5, but Minto went up 5-3 at 9:41 after a play in close.
Miles MacLean answered back less than a minute later to bring the Winterhawks to within one, stealing the puck and firing an unassisted goal past Nelson.
The Winterhawks pushed for the equalizer right down to the final buzzer, including a breakaway attempt by Jay Thomson, but couldn’t find the back of the net, making it a 5-4 final for Minto.
The Winterhawks still lead the series 2-1 and will be returning home for the next two games.
Game 4 is this Tuesday night, February 19th, at 8:30 p.m., followed by Game 5 on Friday night, all at The Plex in Port Elgin.