War­riors slump­ing at the box of­fice

De­spite Strat­ford’s stong start, at­ten­dance has dropped 16 per cent from last sea­son

The Beacon Herald - - SPORTS - CORY SMITH

Al­most ev­ery­thing has gone right so far early in the Strat­ford War­riors’ sea­son.

The team has won 13 of 16 games – seven by one goal, in­clud­ing four in over­time – thanks to a group of mostly un­sung play­ers de­ter­mined to defy the doom­say­ers af­ter sev­eral skilled skaters moved on.

But it hasn’t grabbed the at­ten­tion of hockey fans in the city, and the re­sult has been a 16 per cent drop in at­ten­dance from last sea­son.

“We’re off to a pretty good start, and I think the fans in Strat­ford are miss­ing some pretty good hockey on Fri­day nights,” War­riors di­rec­tor of hockey op­er­a­tions Phil West­man said this week at prac­tice. “I don’t know if the park­ing is that much of an ex­cuse be­cause we do have lots of park­ing ... and we got a good prod­uct on the ice. I don’t think there’s any­body that left here, whether it was a Water­loo fan or a Strat­ford fan (last) Fri­day night who wasn’t ex­cited, and I

Sea­son ticket hold­ers are get­ting older, and younger fans have more op­tions. Nearby teams in Tav­i­s­tock, Lis­towel, St. Marys and Mitchell have also taken turns ic­ing a com­pet­i­tive prod­uct.

But the War­riors need to find a way to stop the box of­fice slide, es­pe­cially af­ter fi­nan­cial losses of more than $100,000 over the last two sea­sons.

“We al­ways say we’ve got the best fans in ju­nior hockey in Strat­ford, and we need to go out and prove that,” West­man said. “I just think the fans are miss­ing a good time at the All­man Arena.”

Strat­ford has won four straight en­ter­ing tonight’s game at home against Cam­bridge at 7:30.

“Any­body who’s watched our group play, I think the one thing that we’ve been pretty con­sis­tent with most nights is our ef­fort,” War­riors head coach Dave Wil­liams said. “You can only do cer­tain things, and if you try to do the right things you hope that if you do enough of them the right way con­sis­tently it gives you a chance to win. I think this group, even though we lack some of the higher-end skill maybe we’ve had the last cou­ple years, I think where they do a bet­ter job some­times is they take a great deal of pride in do­ing the lit­tle things re­ally well and do­ing them con­sis­tently, so I think we’ve been re­warded for do­ing that.”

Cam­bridge (5-10-0-1) is sixth in the Mid­west af­ter mov­ing from Guelph. The Red­hawks are com­ing off a 5-3 win over Brantford last week­end.

Lis­towel play­ers swept the Mid­west­ern Con­fer­ence awards for Oc­to­ber.

Hol­dyn Lansink was named Of­fen­sive Player of the Month, Bren­den Clay­ton was named De­fen­sive Player of the Month, and Ri­ley McCabe earned Goal­tender of the Month hon­ours.

Lansink reg­is­tered a point in ev­ery game last month (2.9 PPG) and fin­ished with 12 goals and 14 as­sists. He’s third in the Greater On­tario Ju­nior Hockey League with 15 goals and 37 points.

Clay­ton had four as­sists and played a shut­down role, while McCabe went 9-0 with a 1.33 goal­sagainst aver­age, .941 save per­cent­age and three shutouts.

Lis­towel (13-2-0-1) is rid­ing an 11-game win streak en­ter­ing tonight’s home game against Elmira at 7:30.

St. Marys hosts Strathroy tonight at 7:30 look­ing to bounce back from an over­time loss a week ago.

The Lin­colns (6-11-0-1) are eighth in the Western Con­fer­ence, three points ahead of the last-place Rock­ets. There are just six points sep­a­rat­ing St. Marys from third­place Leam­ing­ton.

Tav­i­s­tock vis­its New Ham­burg in a rare Fri­day night road game.

The Fire­birds and Braves are one-two, re­spec­tively, in the PJHL’s Do­herty Di­vi­sion. New Ham­burg holds a three-point lead, but Tav­i­s­tock has three games in hand. The Braves have won five straight. Their last loss came Oct. 19 against Nor­wich, and the teams will meet again Satur­day in Tav­i­s­tock at 7:30 p.m.

The Mitchell Hawks’ lone game this week­end is Sun­day in Mount For­est at 2 p.m.

Mitchell has lost five straight and con­tin­ues to strug­gle de­fen­sively, al­low­ing 4.5 goals per game, which is sec­ond worst in the Pol­lock Di­vi­sion. The Hawks (5-14-1-1) sit sixth and have played the most games with 21. co­smith@post­media.com

CORY SMITH/THE BEA­CON HER­ALD

Strat­ford War­riors head coach Dave Wil­liams watches his play­ers go through a drill at prac­tice this week. The War­riors host Cam­bridge tonight.

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