Tillsonburg News defenceman Mike Findlay refused to dignify the 'quality versus quantity' discussion by raising it to the level of debate.
"It's all about quality," he declared outside the Tillsonburg Thunder dressing room following Saturday's 8-0 WOAA Men's Hockey victory over the visiting Goderich Pirates. "I don't know what the five-goal guy said, but mine was the biggest."
True, teammate Brad Jones had buried five markers, a significant offensive contribution by any standard, let alone for a player who has spent the bulk of his career as a defenceman. But it was Findlay who scored the night's most desirable scoring play, the ‘Teddy Bear Toss goal’ on a slapshot teed up 'top cheese' (high, glove side) on a power-play at the game's 5:51 mark on assists to Kevin Galerno and Pat Ouellet. Findlay's first goal of the season teed off a blizzard of teddy bears from the stands to rival the snowfall outside the Kinsmen/Memorial Arena.
"I said I was saving it for the teddy bear toss," laughed Findlay, noting the 2013 goalless drought had made him a bona fide dark horse for the honour during pre-game chatter in the dressing room. "I don't think anyone was putting any money on me."
Thunder captain Brad Streib had scored the last two teddy bear toss goals says Findlay, but the blizzard outside meant he was in a piece of heavy equipment, ploughing snow.
"He was a little busy tonight," said Findlay, more-than-pleased to step up in has absence. "It's kind of nice to get it."
"Doesn't matter to me, just want to make sure we win," said Jones, who missed an open net on his first shift, but was happy for both Findlay, and also with the level of plush, toy bruins passing from the crowd onto the ice and into the hands of the Salvation Army. "Lots of teddy bears - lots of community support."
Jones credited equally-generous linemate support for his offensive outburst: a combination of Cody Chute's energy and Kevin Galerno's skill.
"A fun night for sure, didn't have to do too much work on any one of my goals, just stand in front and let everyone else make me look pretty."
Jones' first on the night came just 20 seconds after Findlay's opener, assisted by Galerno and Chute. Justin Salt, wearing the 'C' for the night in Streib's absence, upped the advantage to 3-0 at the 8:43 mark, with help from Tyler Lamb. Christian Babb rounded a 24-shot, four-goal opening frame with 3:05 remaining, assisted by Ouellet and Lamb.
Jones, who last had a five-goal game years ago in Junior B, added two goals per period across the duration, a power-play marker with help from Oullet and Galerno, and even-strength efforts on assists to Chute and Adam Wallace; Terry Lammens and Ouellet; and Ryan Gaertner and Salt. Goalie Neil Pittock made 26 saves to pick up the shutout, while Dave Riddell faced a 54-shot barrage in goal for the Pirates.
Apart from taking Streib out of the equation, Mother Nature's wintry blast also potentially provided something of an assist to the Thunder, given Goderich opened the game with a short bench, ultimately extended to only six spare skaters.
"It is what it is," shrugged Tillsonburg coach Jim Baxter, agreeing the overall game plan was to pick up the two available points while avoiding injury, suspension and bad habits.
"That's exactly it. And the big thing was the zero (goals against), that's the key."
A 6-5 overtime victory didn't come as comfortably the evening before in Petrolia as Tillsonburg battled back from a 5-3 deficit heading into the third period. Goals by Shane Balcomb (from Curtis Maracle and Lammens) and Salt (Wallance and Adam Vandepoele) pulled the visitors even in the third, before Galerno picked up the OT game-winner, unassisted.
Maracle (Salt), Galerno (Nathan Peacock and Vandepoele) and Peacock (Vandepoele and Streib) had the other Tillsonburg goals. Goalie Ben Thomas picked up the victory in net for the Thunder.
"It was a big win," said Baxter. "Keep the train rolling."
Tillsonburg puts its 14-1 WOAA Men's Hockey record on the line this coming Saturday, at home for a 7:30 p.m. face-off with the 11-4-0-2 Tavistock Royals. The Thunder will close out 2013 with an 8:30 p.m. home start with the 10-2-0-2 Komoka Classics Friday, December 27 at 8:30 p.m., followed up by the back end of a home-and-home with the Royals in Tavistock Saturday, December 28 beginning at 8 p.m.
"Three big games," Jones concluded. "Keep the wheels on turning."