This article appears in today's Welland (Ontario) Tribune....
Pirates sniper sets sights on first-round upset
PORT COLBORNE — Right now the Port Colborne Pirates don’t mind if Nicholas Hewko isn’t leading the team in playoff scoring. Fact is, the the junior B hockey club really hasn’t needed his offensive output – something it was fortunate to have during the regular season.
The Hamilton native, who was one of Port Colborne’s big off-season acquisitions, tallied 29 goals in 48 games. So far in the playoffs, Hewko has one goal in two games against the St. Catharines Falcons in the Golden Horseshoe Conference quarter-final series.
And incredibly, without major help from Hewko, the last-place Pirates stole the first two games of the best-of-seven series against the regular-season champions, with Game 3 set for tonight, 7:30, at Jack Gatecliff Arena in St. Catharines.
Leading the way for the Pirates thus far in the opening round of the playoffs has been Michael Tanga, who has two goals in the two games.
The 20-year-old Hewko had a good start to his junior B career. He had three goals in his first two games of the regular season, and his first Golden Horseshoe Conference hat trick came on Dec. 5 against the Niagara Falls Canucks. But his production started to head south as the season progressed. In his last nine regular season games, Hewko only had one goal.
“I had a good run the first 30 games. The last 10 games weren’t that good,” Hewko said recently. That is why his goal in Game 1 against the Falcons was so important to him – it gave him a boost of confidence and reassured him that he still can find the back of the net.
“I was in a slump. It feels nice to get a goal,” he said.
Hewko still has lots to prove. He hopes to receive a U.S. college scholarship for next season, and his play in these playoffs could determine where he’ll end up.
The College at Brockport, home of the Golden Eagles and part of the state university of New York system, has shown interest in the Pirates’ forward. Brockport is where former Port Colborne captain Adam Shoff is playing this season.
Brockport is the only school that so far has contacted him and he was invited to have a look at the school.
“It was a nice campus,” he said of the school which is located just west of Rochester.”
Hewko hasn’t ruled out trying out for Brock University’s varsity hockey team in the fall, but if he had a choice, he’d pick the American school over the one in St. Catharines.
Before he continues to plan his future in academics and hockey, Hewko wants to focus on burying the Falcons.
The Pirates are halfway home. Two more wins and they would pull off a stunning upset over heavily favoured St. Catharines. A strong desire to win is required to achieve such a goal.
“A lot of heart, that’s all we need,” Hewko said.
Port Colborne’s next home game in this series goes Thursday at Westside Arena. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m.