Stratford Warriors use spread offence to beat Brantford Bandits

Stratford Warrior Cole Melady watches Drew Welsch's shot hit the back of the net behind Brantford Bandits goalie Ben Edwards. Stratford won 8-3 at the Allman. Cory Smith/The Beacon Herald jpg, SF

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Evan Dowd will never be confused for a goal scorer, but he looked the part for at least one game.

Dowd’s two tallies Friday sent Stratford to an 8-3 win over the Brantford Bandits in the Warriors’ home opener and represented 20 per cent of Dowd’s goal total of 10 in 84 regular season games with the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League club.

“Obviously it would be nice to get to those dirty areas that coach talks about, try to get to the front of the net and tap some of those in,” he said. “It was good to see, but definitely would like to start helping the boys out offensively, too.”

Stratford’s Evan Dowd celebrates a second-period goal Friday against Brantford. Cory Smith/The Beacon Herald

The 19-year-old forward from Milverton scored the winner 6:14 into the second period – less than two minutes after Brantford’s Shaun General tied the game at three. Dowd struck again 63 seconds later with another goal from inside the crease.

Both came on the power play – something Dowd didn’t see much of in his first two seasons with the Warriors – and both were the result of rebounds and good positioning in front of Bandits goalie Ben Edwards.

“Good point shots from our (defence),” he said. “(Drew) Welsch had a good shot on that (second) one, so just trying to get to the right spots.”

Dowd might have had a hat trick, but the puck rolled off the toe of his stick on a two-on-one in the middle frame.

“Hopefully I can keep this going,” he said, “but whenever you get those opportunities you really hope to capitalize on them and just put yourself in a good position to get them again.”

Seven different players scored for Stratford (2-1), and five had multi-point nights.

Welsch finished with a goal and two assists, Zac McCann and Cole Melady each had a goal and assist, while Danny Heath, Kyle Kuznik and Jacob Murray also scored. Zac Hatch added two assists, and Sheldon Pryce picked up three helpers.

It was the kind of well-balanced effort the Warriors will need to make up for the loss of Sean Ross, Ryan Cullen, Dylan Lebold, Addison Macey, Nathan Smilsky and Kam Shearer – six of the team’s top seven point-getters a year ago – plus Corson Searles, who averaged nearly a point per game when he rejoined the club late in 2018-19.

Four of Stratford’s goals against Brantford came on the power play.

“The boys had good energy,” Dowd said. “We were going to the right areas. Young group of guys, they all want to get their first goals, so I think that really helped us. It was really good to do that in the home opener.”

Troy Allison scored twice for Brantford and gave the Bandits an early two-goal lead.

Stratford shook off a slow start and carried the play for most of the last 50 minutes.

“(We) started off a little slow but showed good resilience coming back,” Dowd said. “We got the energy and kept it going, and it was just a good all-around game.”

NOTES: Stratford goalie Tyler Parr made 25 saves in his second start of the season. His best came early in the third period when he thwarted Tanner Mitton on a one-timer from in close Edwards was pulled after the eighth goal. He finished with 26 saves. Stephen Giasante stopped all seven shots he faced … Kuznik will be suspended for one game after taking a hitting-from-behind penalty late in the third period. Stratford visits Listowel Sunday afternoon at 1:30 Brantford went 1-for-5 with the man advantage Attendance was 812.

cosmith@postmedia.com

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