Western Conference Preview

The season is officially a week away, so it’s time to preview the teams.

Chatham

Last season, the Maroons picked up 3 huge stars from Lambton Shores in Kyle Brothers, Adam Arseneault, and Tanner Ferguson.  Despite the pick ups, the Maroons started out a little shaky.  After carrying them for 2 seasons, Darien Ekblad had a rough go of it and played rather inconsistently and the team released him.  In December, the team’s management went out and built what they thought would be a championship team.  They picked up a hot goalie in Jacob Keogh from Cambridge Winter Hawks, Port Colborne Pirates leading scorer Charlie Izaguirre, and brick shithouse John Bowen from New Jersey.  Of course, this did not come without some controversy, but the Maroons battled through it and finished 3rd in the standings.

In the play-offs, they swept the first 2 rounds and landed in the final against Leamington Flyers, and fell to them in 5 games.

The Maroons are without Brothers, Arseneault, Ferguson, Keogh, and Izaguirre this season, but have picked up Alexander Morgan and Brennan Feasey, again, and have Captain Michael Verboom returning.  They’ve also traded the rights to 17 year old Drew Marlatt, a Windsor Spitfires draft pick, to Lambton Shores Predators for the return of 18 year old Steven Beenackers.  Beenackers was traded to the Predators last season for Arseneault and Ferguson.

The Maroons are looking for 2 new goalies though.  It is expected that their back-up from last year, Brendan Johnston, will be with the Windsor Spitfires.

Prediction:  With the group that they have returning, and provided they can find some good goaltending, Chatham should be a top 4 team this season.

 

LaSalle

LaSalle started out last season as the hottest team, with 5 straight wins before a shoot-out loss and suffered their first regulation loss on October 23.  It was a young team and coach Bill Bowler guided them in first place up until the final stretch before play-offs.

In the play-offs, LaSalle took care of St. Thomas in 5 games, but were swept by the Maroons in the 2nd round.

I haven’t seen much about signings, but looking at their roster, they’ve lost 6 to graduation and I believe a couple have moved on to the Windsor Spitfires.

Prediction:  LaSalle is typically a team that flies under the radar.  I see them being a strong club again and another top 4 finish.

 

Lambton Shores

The Predators struggled last season, like they have every season since their beginning, which was the 2008-2009 season.  For a while, they were in the play-off picture, due to St. Marys struggling, but right at the end, the Lincolns caught them and passed them and the Predators missed the play-offs again.  In 6 seasons, the Predators have only seen the post-season twice.

Lambton Shores only lost 1 player to graduation, but have lost goalie Justin Fazio to the Sarnia Sting, 20 yr. old Bryan Boersma to Jr. C, and as stated above, Beenackers has been returned to the Maroons.  So far, I see the Predators have signed a handful of Windsor Spitfires draft picks.  Their head coach is a scout for the Spits.

Prediciton: The Predators will put up a fight like they always do.  They should have a lot returning, but unless coach Don Dickson can motivate and inspire his team, and provided Management doesn’t sell them off, it could be another long year for them.

 

Leamington

Leamington was the top team last year.  They chased LaSalle for the majority of the season and finally at the push for play-offs, the Flyers passed the Vipers for the top spot.

The Flyers have lost 8 players to graduation, including the no. 1 goalie, Austyn Roudebush, and their top line of Alex Seguin, Dylan Seguin, and Tony Spidalieri.

It was speculated at the end of last season that they would also be losing goalie Trevor Wheaton, but I’ve heard recently that it’s looking like he’ll be returning to Leamington.

Prediction: Despite the big losses, I expect Tony Piroski will know how to fill those holes and the Flyers will be a top 4 team again this season.

 

London

Right near the end of the season, London was in the hunt with Sarnia for 4th and 5th place.  The Legionnaires won out for home ice advantage, but it didn’t matter because the Nationals took the first round series.

London has lost the most players to graduation, being 12.  They’ve also lost Ryan Tuffin to Jr. C.  Tuffin would have been a 5 year vet on the team this season.  They’ve also lost defenceman Matt Doty who is attending Laurier University in Waterloo, so he’s been traded to Waterloo Siskins of the Mid-West Conference.

The Nats have signed a slew of young players, and obtained Cam Garrow from St. Thomas.

Prediction: London typically has an older team, stacked with 19 and 20 year olds.  I’ve heard that the Nats going younger this year, due to Kelly Thomson needing experience to develop younger players in order to make the jump to the OHL.  I see them being middle of the pack, anywhere from 3-6 in the standings.

 

Sarnia

As stated above, Sarnia fought with London for 4th place at the end of the season.  They exited in the first round of play-offs as the Nationals took the series in 7 games.

The Legionnaires are losing 5 players to graduation, including leading scorer Josh Kestner and goalie Sean Parker.  Parker was injured for the majority of last season, sustained in a game with LaSalle, which was when they picked up Hunter Johnson from Niagara Falls, and formerly Chatham.

Prediction: Dan Rose is a coach that I highly respect and expect the Legionnaires to be another sleeper team.  That’s what they’ve done the last couple years.  They will be middle of the pack again.

 

St. Marys

The Lincolns have struggled for quite a few seasons now, and narrowly made it to the post-season last year.

St. Marys has only lost 1 player to graduation, but through the grape vine, I’ve heard they’ve lost a couple to Jr. C.  Based on the season they had last year, I’m not sure who they have returning as veterans.

The biggest news that the Lincolns have had this off season is the re-hiring of Merlin Malinowski as head coach.  Merlin left the team a few years ago and that’s when they started to struggle.  Honestly, ever since Merlin left, I’ve been trying to start the rumour that he was returning and this time, it’s true.

Prediction: Merlin is just what they need to turn this team around.  The Lincolns will make the play-offs this year, I think they’ll be 7th, maybe 8th, but within 3 years, they will be a top team again.

 

St. Thomas

The Stars are a team that always fly under the radar.  You never really hear much about St. Thomas and the last few years they’ve always been a bottom team.

They’ve only lost 2 players to graduation, but they’ve also lost their captain, Alex Morgan, who’s returned to the Maroons.  They’ve also traded Cam Garrow to London.

There really hasn’t been much heard about the Stars this off-season.  They’ve announced their 2 16 year old signings, Carson Moniz and Dane Johnstone, and they picked up Andrew Chambers from London in the trade for Cam Garrow.

Prediction: The Stars will continue to be a bottom team, 7-8.

 

Strathroy

The Rockets were a very inconsistent team last year.  They started out the season strong and then struggled when it mattered.  The team finished in 6th place and exited the play-offs after being swept in the first round by Chatham.

The team has lost 4 players to graduation, some to school, and a couple have left to go to Jr. C.  But they have had Stuart King return after a season in the OJHL.  King is expected to be a leader this year.

The team will be relying on Tynan Lauziere as their number 1 goalie and to come up big when they need him to.  He did it last year when he was the only goalie, and I know he can do this job this year.

Prediction: The Rockets will be middle of the pack as well this season.

 

So there you have it.  This is my preview of the teams.  Comment below, or feel free to email me at s_rockets@hotmail.com

You all know that I am a die-hard Rockets fan, but I am also a die-hard GOJHL fan, having been watching Jr. B hockey since I was 10 years old. I will only watch the GOJHL and during the hockey season, you never know what arena RG is gonna show up at.

I’m bringing you the games, news, and updates of the GOJHL.

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If you hear of anything about any of the teams in the GOJHL, or have questions about anything, feel free to post it. If I don’t know the answer, I know how to find it.

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