Galt Hornets 1964/65 The Second Year in Review
"City Folks Loose a Good Man", that's what the headline read in the Galt Reporter in early August as Len Gaudette, the man who helped revive senior hockey in Galt, accepted a position of coach and general manager with New Haven of the E.H.L. Jack Scott and Wes Lillie were named to take over his duties. Wes would be a fixture on Shade Street for much of the next decade. The next day the news didn't get any better as Ron Hergott, last seasons M.V.P. and scoring leader left the Hornets nest and signed a contract with the Portland Buckaroos of the W.H.L.
Ivan Tennant signed on for another season as player/coach. Last season top point getters after Hergott signed early as did goalie Dave Dryden. Captain and Galt native Joe Hogan returned for a second season, as did Jim Dahmer and Pete Kowalchuk. A few new faces also popped up, the two most notable being Ron Smith and ex. NHL'er Earl Balfour. At age 20, Smith, a native of Rockton, had already proved to be one of the City's best all round athletes. As well as being a standout in junior with the Waterloo Siskins, he played baseball with the Junior Cubs and the Senior Terriers. Over the summer Smith actually signed a contract to play Major League Baseball in the San Francisco Giants organization. (Smith went on to coach in the N.H.L.) Balfour, a Toronto native brought a wealth of experience to the team. A veteran of 12 pro seasons, tallied 30 goals and 22 assists for 52 points in 288 N.H.L. games with Toronto and Chicago, helping the Black Hawks to a Stanley Cup victory in 1960/61.
With the start of a new season, the only change in the league was the absence of the Port Colborne club. The season began with a flurry of 3 games in 4 nights with the Hornets winning 3 of the games. Galt signed Bob McKnight, one of the best two way performers in senior hockey as well as big defenseman Larry "Moose" Zilliotto who played last season with Port Colborne. The Hornets found out quickly the signing of Zilliotto was a good move as defenseman Reg Whaley was hit with a 21 game suspension in early November. He received a match penalty after he slashed Guelph player and ex. NHL'er Jack McIntyre in the face with his stick. The Galt-Guelph was once again the topic of discussion. Games between the two teams proved to some of the most exciting hockey action in recent memory. Goaltending would steal the spotlight on more than occasion with Dave Dryden providing the heroics for Galt and former Galt Terrier, Harold "Boat" Hurley was not to be outdone in the Guelph net. The "Boat" at times was larcenous and unsinkable posting two shutouts against Galt, as he displayed the form that by far made him the best goalie in Senior hockey.
As December came to a close, the Hornets were in the thick of a great race with Guelph,with Galt winning 17 of 25 games. By the end of January, the Hornets were stuck in a mid winter spin. Their record was .500 and the only real excitement came January 29th when they played a team of ex. NHL'ers in Port Colborne but were on the short end of a 6-4 score. In early February, Dave Dryden fell ill with pneumonia that kept him out of action for the remainder of the regular season and most of the playoffs.Backup goalie Bob McArdle went 3-2 in the final five games of the season. On February 20th in a game against Oakville, a wild brawl broke out late in the game. Oaks defenseman Gus Mortson, a veteran of almost 800 N.H.L. games, triggered the melee when he viciously cross checked forward Bob McKnight across the face, cutting him on the upper lip for 6 stitches. The bench clearing brawl saw six Oaks players and four Hornets kicked out of the game. As the season ended Galt once again finished in second place, this time to Guelph. With no backup goalie, Galt requested and received permission to use Welland's goalie Lynn Zimmerman for the remainder of the playoffs.
The Hornets opponent would be none other than arch rival from Guelph. The Regals took a quick 2 game lead in the series. The Hornets actually outplayed Guelph for the most part but two bad periods sealed the Hornets fate. Game three was one of the longest, and perhaps the best game of the season with Galt coming out on top 5-4 but they paid a very large price. Pet Kowalchuk fired the game winner in the 72nd minute of play, and then seconds later crashed into the boards, breaking is right leg and all but ending a very successful hockey career. He would spend many weeks in hospital and 22 weeks in a cast. In game four, the Hornets displayed the style they played for much of the season, playing a tight checking game and winning 5-3 to even the series at two. The Oaks took the next game 3-2 with the key factor being the play of goalie Al Bennett. In game six, Dave Dryden finally returned to the Hornets goal and would play his last game as a Hornet. With the game tied at six, the game went to overtime. in the 1960's played a ten minute non-sudden death overtime period. Six minutes in, Oakville score to go ahead, but with less than one minute remaining Joe Hogan scored to tie the game that this time went to a sudden death period. Oaks forward Carl Hymers fired a twenty five foot shot past Dryden, three minutes in to end the Hornets season.
One bright note at the end of the season was the Dave Pinkney trophy being awarded to Dave Dryden as league M.V.P. Dryden finished second behind "Boat" Hurley for the Turofsky trophy as league's best goalie. Less than one week after the playoffs cam to a sudden end, Dryden began his pro career for the Buffalo Bisons of the A.H.L. The Hornets faced a tough summer ahead, the task of replacing a top notch goaltender and the hunt for a new coach. Ivan Tennant resigned in August at his own request and the hunt for a new coach and starting goalie would begin.
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