From the Coaches – Their Thoughts Entering a Pivotal Game Four

By Lee Griffi, GOJHL Director of Communications

Dave Williams, Stratford                                       

Tonight’s game four, for obvious reasons, is a big one for both teams. The question is, can Stratford continue its momentum from Monday’s 6-2 home victory on Leamington’s larger ice surface? The stakes are high. The Warriors either come home tomorrow down three games to one and facing elimination or tied at two wins apiece.

Stratford head coach Dave Williams says mental toughness is the most important game plan at this point. “In these long playoff runs, teams have to be able to rebound. After dropping the first two games of the series, we needed to bounce back with a really strong effort on our home ice. We expect that Leamington will have a similar mindset going back to their home ice.” He adds the atmosphere in both buildings has been outstanding and gives the home team some extra energy at the opening faceoff. “It will be key for us to be ready for a strong push from Leamington to start the game. We will need to get to our competitive level right from the outset and maintain it for the full 60 minutes. Check effectively, possess the puck, and generate lots of shots on goal.”

Leamington bench boss Dale Mitchell says the Flyers will have their game faces on in game four, but he knows the Warriors will as well. “Our team knows we didn’t have our best game, and as I mentioned before we have two very good teams playing. We know the importance of the next game. We will be ready, and I know they will be as well.” Mitchell made the decision to pull starting goalie Bryce Walcarius in the third period of game three once Stratford scored their sixth goal. “He has been fantastic for us during this entire playoff run. We weren’t generating much, and we have a great second goalie in Boe Piroski, who had a great season, deserved minutes in these playoffs and I felt that was an opportunity to do it.”

Special teams played a big role in game three as the Warriors scored three times with the man advantage. “Our penalty killers did a great job, especially in the second period when Leamington really pushed. We gave them more power play opportunities than we would have liked and need to clean that up. Our power play was really solid and the goal to make it 5-2 going into the second intermission was key in getting some momentum back on our side after they had closed it to 4-2,” says Williams.

It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone, including Mitchell, that Stratford bounced back with a solid effort in game three. “We are two very good hockey teams and are both here for a reason. They had their backs up against the wall being down two games. We knew they would come out strong and fast and credit to them, they executed. We just played the night before, so energy levels were not up to par. We never thought this was going to be an easy series and we split the round-robin games so we knew this would be a back-and-forth affair.”

Dale Mitchell, Leamington