Listowel takes Game 1, Stratford roars back with three straight wins
LISTOWEL – After making the most of their chances in Game 1 of the 2020 Midwestern Conference quarter-finals, the Listowel Cyclones have found those chances more recently hard to come by in their best-of-seven playoff series with the Stratford Warriors.
The fifth-seeded Cyclones overcame a heavy shot differential in Game 1 to prevail 5-2 over the No. 4 Warriors on Feb. 26, backed by top-line forward Trent Verbeek’s hat trick. The party would be short-lived, however, with Game 2 seeing a more determined Stratford squad take a 5-1 win in Listowel on Feb. 29, and then repeating the effort back at Allman Arena for a 6-1 victory in Game 3 on March 1. Listowel rallied late to force extra time in Game 4 on March 4 at the Kerr Complex, but a defensive zone turnover proved to be its undoing as Stratford’s Evan Dowd potted the winner in double overtime to give the Warriors a 3-1 series stranglehold.
Verbeek and netminder Evan Morrison stole the show in Game 1, as the pair led the Cyclones to an early 1-0 series lead with a 5-2 win.
Morrison stopped 41 shots – including a 17-shot barrage in the third period – for his 12th career playoff victory with Listowel. The Cyclones were outshot 43-23 overall and trailed 2-1 midway through the second before Verbeek took over the game offensively.
The Flesherton native brought Listowel even at 10:06 of the second with an unassisted short-handed tally. After Rylan Bowers gave the Cyclones a 3-2 lead at 11:27 of the third on the power play, Verbeek scored another unassisted goal five minutes later, and added an empty netter in the final minute of regulation to complete the hat trick. Bowers finished with a goal and an assist, while Brenden Clayton also scored for Listowel.
Dowd and Aaron Davidson scored for Stratford, with Tyler Parr taking the loss in goal with 18 saves.
The Cyclones scored on their first shot of the game late in the first period, but there wouldn’t be many more highlights for the club in a 5-1 loss to the Warriors on Saturday night at the Steve Kerr Memorial Complex.
Game 2 was shifted to Saturday after heavy snow squalls throughout the area prevented travel on Friday. And despite being on their heels for most of the opening frame, Listowel managed to take a brief 1-0 lead when Tyler Hotson’s backhand fooled Rhett Kimmel on the Cyclones’ first shot of the game. Thomas Gangl picked up the lone assist.
But then it would be all Stratford the rest of the way; Clayton Lewis and Drew Welsch scored in the second to make it 2-1, and then Carter Schoonderwoerd, Mitchell Casey (PPG) and Dowd (PPG) put the game away with third-period markers. Kimmel took the win with a 15-save performance. The Warriors scored on both of their two power-play opportunities.
Morrison stopped 28 shots in front of 475 Kerr Complex attendees.
It was much the same script for Game 3 on Sunday night in Stratford, as six different Warriors potted goals for a 6-1 victory and a 2-1 series lead.
Stratford scored six unanswered goals before David Mabey got the Cyclones on the board with the man advantage in the waning minutes of regulation. Bowers picked up the lone assist.
Welsch and Callan Christner scored in the first, Drew Ferris and Cole Melady tallied in the second, and Schoonderwoerd and Camden Daigle found twine in the third for the Warriors. Kimmel picked up his second win in as many nights with 23 saves.
Morrison got the start for Listowel but was pulled early in the second period in favour of Dixon Grimes after allowing three goals on 13 shots. Grimes also allowed three goals on the 21 shots he faced.
A tighter back-and-forth physical affair was the storyline in Game 4 on Wednesday night back in Listowel, but it would be the Warriors prevailing 3-2 in double overtime for a 3-1 series lead.
Jonah White opened the scoring for the Cyclones only 3:40 into the first period, but Stratford would respond with a pair of goals from Dowd and Zac McCann. Tyler Healey would draw Listowel even at 2-2 with his first of the playoffs midway through the third, outskating a pair of Stratford defenders down the left wing before potting his own rebound past Kimmel.
The first overtime frame was marked with several big hits from the Cyclones defense corps; Clayton made his presence known by standing up a pair of Warriors at the Listowel blue line over the course of the period. Double overtime had both sides exchanging quality scoring chances, but a giveaway behind the Listowel net saw Welsch feed Dowd the game winner with a quick one-timer that Morrison had no chance on.
White finished with two points for Listowel while Morrison stood out all night with an impressive 40-save performance. Kimmel picked up his third straight win with 22 stops.
Game 5 is scheduled for Friday, March 6 in Stratford at 7:30 p.m. If necessary, Game 6 goes in Listowel on Sunday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. Game 7 would be March 9 in Stratford at 7:30 p.m.
2020 Midwestern Conference Quarter-Finals
(1) Elmira Sugar Kings v. (8) Brantford Bandits
(Kings lead series 3-0)
Feb. 26 – Brantford 0, Elmira 7
Feb. 29 – Elmira 4, Brantford 3 (OT)
March 1 – Brantford 3, Elmira 8
March 2 – Elmira @ Brantford
(2) Kitchener Dutchmen v. (7) Brampton Bombers
(Dutchmen win series 4-1)
Feb. 26 – Brampton 0, Kitchener 6
Feb. 28 – Kitchener 6, Brampton 4
Feb. 29 – Brampton 4, Kitchener 2
March 1 – Kitchener 7, Brampton 2
March 4 – Brampton 1, Kitchener 6
(3) Cambridge Redhawks v. (6) Waterloo Siskins
(Siskins lead series 2-1)
Feb. 29 – Waterloo 3, Cambridge 6
March 1 – Cambridge 2, Waterloo 3 (OT)
March 3 – Waterloo 3, Cambridge 2 (OT)
(4) Stratford Warriors v. (5) Listowel Cyclones
(Warriors lead series 3-1)
Feb. 26 – Listowel 5, Stratford 2
Feb. 29 – Stratford 5, Listowel 1
March 1 – Listowel 1, Stratford 6
March 4 – Stratford 3, Listowel 2 (2OT)
March 6 – Listowel @ Stratford, 7:30 p.m. (Game 5)