After Barrie Colts fans were done celebrating one of the great players from the past on Saturday night, Ethan Cardwell gave them plenty of reason to be excited about the future.
On a night when the Colts honoured former captain and current Winnipeg Jets forward Bryan Little by retiring his No. 18 jersey and raising a special banner to the rafters in a pregame ceremony, Cardwell kept the party going with four first-period goals to help lead Barrie to an 8-7 overtime win over the Hamilton Bulldogs in front of 4,018 thrilled fans at Sadlon Arena.
Colts, especially Cardwell, got all the inspiration they needed from watching
Little’s banner rise to the rafters and jumped out to a commanding 6-0
first-period lead before needing Aidan Brown to bury the winner on a breakaway
just 1:04 into overtime to pull out the win on a special night.
For Cardwell, who came over in a trade deadline deal earlier this month from Saginaw, he got all the motivation he needed from the ceremony and seeing just what perhaps could be for he and his teammates one day.
“Obviously he was a superstar here and watching his banner get raised and hearing some of the stuff that happened with him in Barrie and all the good memories, it just makes it awesome to hear as a newcomer,” said the 17-year-old winger, who now has five goals and four assists in seven games with the Colts. “I got chills a few times when he was talking and it just kept the blood pumping for the game, and got me really excited as well as the other boys.
“With that whole ceremony, it was a special night for Bryan and a special night for us too.”
Cardwell’s big night was similar to one Little had in a Colts jersey. Little also scored four goals in a period, the third, back on March 4, 2004 in a 6-1 win over Owen Sound. The Jet’s star reeled off his four pack just 13:18 apart, while Cardwell did it in 15:21.
It’s the first time the young winger’s ever scored four goals in one period.
“No, not at any level,” Cardwell said of the feat. “That’s my first (four-goal performance) in a period, anyway. It was pretty wild. I honestly blacked out on the ice when that was going on. After the first (goal) it was like, ‘OK, I’m having a great period.’ And then the second two came and it’s like, ‘Oh, my God! I don’t know what’s going on.'”
The ceremony, which lasted about half an hour, featured some game footage of Little with the Colts and the Jets and then a video of former head coach Marty Williamson, who couldn’t be in attendance, praising his former star and saying there was no better choice as the first player for the franchise to honour.
Little’s parents, John and Brenda, were out on the ice, as well as former team owner Jamie Massie. Current Colts owner and president, Howie Campbell, also spoke of Little, before presenting him with a special plaque from the club.
After Little took to the microphone to thank fans, the organization and former teammates before he and his parents walked over to the East end blue line and watched as the special banner was lifted to the rafters.
“It’s great to be back in this city and on this ice,” Little told fans. “Every time I’m back, I feel like I never left. I have nothing, but great memories of my four years here and it doesn’t seem like that long ago Barrie took a chance on me.”
The Colts all-time leading scorer and former OHL rookie of the year also had some advice for current members of the team, who wore special No. 18 jerseys with Little’s name on them in the warmups.
“For the current Colts, enjoy your time here because it goes by fairly fast,” Little said. “Work hard for each other.”
Cardwell and his teammates certainly did that on this night, chasing Hamilton goaltender Zachary Roy from the net with six goals on 10 shots just 14:25 into the opening period.
That Bulldogs cut the lead in half midway through the second and then capitalized on a lengthy seven-minute power play late in the same frame after Nathan Allensen jumped Nathan Staios. Josh Nelson would make it 7-3 on a shorthanded marker, but goals by George Diaco, Jan Mysak and Ryan Winterton, both their second of the game, and Logan Morrison would spark the comeback and force overtime.
That bonus hockey didn’t last long. Vic Hadfield, who just returned from an ankle injury after missing six weeks, sent Brown in alone and the Barrie overager fired the winner between the pads of Marco Costantini to cap off a memorable night.
“I went into (the room) after the first and it just felt that way,” Colts interim head coach Todd Miller said of the feeling that despite the big lead, something was off. “We were up 6-0 and I didn’t like the feeling. I went in and told the kids, ‘Listen, this game is far from over and you got to keep playing the right way.'”
Turnovers and what Miller called a “dumb penalty” cost them.
“We found a way to win, but I told them we have to live and learn from this,” Miller said. “I’ve seen this a million times, a team with a 6-0 lead. You can’t take the foot off the gas or it ends up in the back of your net and the game changes. I’ve seen it a million times.”
Nicholas Porco, who returned after missing 10 days with a concussion, and Allensen also scored for the Colts (18-21-2-2), who have won two straight now. Navrin Mutter had the other goal for Hamilton (18-21-4-1), which suffered its fifth-straight loss.
It may have been Little’s night, but Cardwell sure did his best to steal a bit of the spotlight.
“I thought he had a hell of a game,” Miller said of the winger, who now has 17 goals and 30 points in 44 games. “He started off really well and everything was going in for him. He’s a player. He’s got high-end skill and he’s just getting better and better every game.
“Since I’ve had him here, he’s been great. He should be proud of himself.”
Cardwell credited his teammates and the organization for making him feel comfortable after the trade.
“It’s been an easy transition,” he said. “I love my billet house, it’s been awesome environment and then in the room the coaches have treated me amazing and the same with the players, making me feel welcome since Day 1.
“I think that contributes to the success the team’s having.”
The Colts close out a busy weekend Sunday night in Oshawa. After blanking the Generals, 5-0, on Thursday, Miller knows they’ll be “an angry Oshawa team” waiting for them.
“We’re going to have our hands full, but we just got to play the same way,” he said. “We got four lines now, which is something nice and something we haven’t had in a long while. We’re just going to bring the gas and try to get two more points.”
Game time at the Tribute Communities Centre is 6:05 p.m.
ICE CHIPS: Jet Greaves faced 45 shots, making 38 saves to record his eighth win of the season. . . Barrie iced a complete lineup for the first time since November. Hadfield, Porco and rookie Trey Zagrzebski all returned to action last night, while blue liner Matthew Sredl and forward Ryan Del Monte remain listed as day-to-day.