By Darren Lum
A solid first period by the Haliburton Wolves was undone by penalties against the visiting Bradford Bulls in Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League (GMHL) action last Thursday night at the A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton.
A large crowd were treated to a great first period that saw the Wolves score three goals to erase a three-goal lead built by the Bulls one of the top tier teams in the GHML that came into Haliburton with only two losses in nine games.
Unfortunately for the fans the Wolves surrendered four unanswered goals in the second period.
Coach Walt McKechnie was still fuming a day after the loss questioning the officiating. He said there was an obvious discrepancy between the two teams.
“We get about 10 penalties in a row. They don’t get a penalty” he said. “The kids are heartbroken. Especially the unsportsmanlike penalties they gave. There was one two three. You’re trying to tell me their team doesn’t yap? But that’s the way it is.”
According to the online score sheet the Wolves finished with a total of 35 minutes of penalties five of which were unsportsmanlike while the Bulls finished with 16 minutes. In the second period there were two Bulls’ penalties for four minutes when the Wolves received 10 penalties for 21 minutes.
The Wolves’ goals came from Malik Henry Curtis Ballantyne Nick Hunter and Justin Carchia.
When asked how the team moves forward from the disheartening 10-4 loss he couldn’t hide his frustration and wasn’t sure.
“I’m very frustrated. Our kids work so hard to get back in the game last night … you can’t kill five-on-threes for four minutes at a time. If you look at the score sheet they scored two goals right there” he said.
All four goals in the second period by the Bulls were on the powerplay.
He figures he’ll be suspended for his comments to the official in the final minute of the game which he said didn’t warrant such a reaction. McKechnie received one coach misconduct in the second and another in the third period.
From mounting suspensions and injuries it’s difficult for his team to stay competitive when they are seemingly always shorthanded. Five-on-five the team is very good. They have the skill and pace to be competitive with virtually any team.
McKechnie wishes his team would catch a break to make this a reality.
Despite the challenges whether it’s the penalties or the short bench (the team had just 15 players dress – eight forwards five defence and two goalies) he loves its determination.
“Our kids never quit. Even in the third period there they took it to them a bit. Needless to say I don’t know [what we have to do] to stay out of the penalty box. Our penalties are not a violent nature” he said.
McKechnie thought one unsportsmanlike penalty was not warranted as he thought his player was just trying to “communicate” with the official.
Among the players not dressing include local Cole Rowden Wolves captain who is serving a 20-game suspension started a few weeks ago.
Minden’s Tanner Ballantyne brother to Wolves centreman Curtis was recently added to the roster. He played in the game against the Coldwater Falcons on Monday Oct. 12 and will play when he can as he is studying in Ottawa during the week.
Losing 2-0 to the Falcons in the first period the Wolves demonstrated the fight that McKechnie praises when the team stormed back and beat the Falcons 8-3.
“It was a good effort by everybody and we came out on top” he said.
In particular Wolves forward Tanner Hamilton finished with a hat-trick and an assist while teammate and surprise goalie phenom Motoki Watanabe who has been stellar finished with a .939 save percentage in the game as he stopped 46 shots. Hamilton was the first star followed by Watanabe as second star and rounding out the star selections was Wolves forward James Kilgore who had four points (two goals and two assists).
The next home game is this Thursday against the Seguin Huskies at the A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton. Puck drops at 7:30 p.m.