After three weeks between games, the Saugeen Shores Winterhawks quickly shook off the rust as they opened their playoff series with the Minto 81’s.
Mike Rocca scored two goals and added an assist as the Winterhawks took a convincing 6-2 victory over the 81’s in Palmerston on Sunday afternoon.
The rust was evident on both sides early on, as the passing wasn’t quite as crisp as one might expect.
The Winterhawks were forced to find their legs early on as the 81’s found themselves with an extended 5-on-3 advantage.
The penalty killers were able to keep the 81’s to the outside and starting netminder Jeff Flagler made the saves when needed, and the penalties were killed off.
Minutes later, the Winterhawks picked up their first power play of the game.
Much like the 81’s, the Winterhawks struggled to generate chances with the man-advantage, but got things together as the penalty ticked down.
Miles MacLean and Andy Fracz were able to work the puck over to Rocca off the rush, and he made no mistake, burying the puck past Minto netminder Marc Williams one second after the power play had expired.
The Winterhawks kept the pressure on, generating chances on the Minto net.
Blake Underwood extended the lead to 2-0 at 14:22 of the 1st, firing a wrist shot in the slot past Williams, with assists to MacLean and Nick Quaid.
A quick start to the 2nd period allowed the Winterhawks to take a 3-0 lead, as pressure in the Minto zone allowed Rocca to slide a pass across to Connor Patton, who fired a quick shot past Williams.
The 81’s answered back moments later on an odd-man rush to cut the lead to 3-1.
Rocca was able to restore the three-goal lead at 8:41 of the 2nd, getting the puck in close and tucking it under Williams to make it 4-1, with assists to Patton and Chad Schockenmaier.
The Winterhawks killed off a penalty to open the 3rd period, but the 81’s scored off a faceoff shortly after, cutting the Winterhawks lead to 4-2.
A power play came the Winterhawks way minutes later and as the penalty clock was winding down, Josh Hopkin fired the puck past Williams to make it 5-2, with assists to Fracz and Trent Hawke.
Schockenmaier added an empty netter in the final seconds to make it a 6-2 final.
The Winterhawks lead the best-of-seven quarterfinal series 1-0, and will be back home for Game 2 on Friday night, February 15th, at 8:30 p.m.