October To November: A Look At The Mid-West by C. Scott Holland
The GOJHL’s Mid-West Conference has two of the league’s highest scoring teams but when it comes to goals allowed there is no clear, dominant team. With the midway point being reached, let’s take a look at how the Mid-West teams fared in November as compared to October.
The Kitchener Dutchmen have the GOJHL’s best record with 26 wins and a single regulation loss and one overtime loss. They haven’t blown out the opposition too many times but have an offense which on most nights generates a minimum of five goals. They haven’t been beaten in regulation time since September and November was a month where they went 9-0. With the exception of two one goal games (vs Listowel and Stratford) the Dutchmen appear untouchable and that has shown in their increased offense. Fifty-one times they flashed the red light in November as compared to 43 in October. But defensively they have slipped just a bit allowing 25 pucks to get into their net while only having 16 permitted in October. Unless they have a large number of injuries or suspensions in the next two months their path to the Mid-West title regular season title appears unchallenged.
The Stratford Cullitons have undergone some serious rebuilding and the transformation is clearly evident. They sit alone in second-place – far enough back of Kitchener that they may not catch them but just far enough ahead of third-place Guelph to be comfortable. Their record is very similar to that of October. At the start of this past month they suffered two one-goal losses, one of which came in double OT, but then rolled off seven consecutive victories. They finished the month with a 7-1-2 record while in October they had an 8-1-0-1 mark. Their biggest concern may be with their offense. In October they tabbed 59 goals and allowed 35 while in November their offense dropped off to 42 goals while remaining steady with 32 allowed. Of their 10 games played, five were decided by a single goal and the Cullitons lost three of them – two of which occurred in OT. The one team with which they had the most problems is Kitchener. Stratford will have to figure the Dutchmen out before season’s end in order to have a shot at winning the Mid-West playoffs.
One real surprise this season is the resurgence of the Guelph Hurricanes who have vaulted into third place. Their October record was a marvelous 6-1-1 with 34 gf and 25 ga. But in November they have struggled – most in the offensive department. The Hurricanes ended the month with a 4-2-1 record but had their offensive output drop to 26. Their goals allowed remains almost the same with 23 in 7 games. With their defense playing well but a lack of consistent offense, they will have to manufacture some more goals because an average of three per game isn’t going to win many contests. Unlike October when they won six games of nine which were decided by less than two goals in November they won three of five contests by one or more goals. This means they have been competitive but improvement in close games could mean a huge difference in the end.
The Listowel Cyclones aren’t too far behind Guelph and likewise have much the same consistency. In October hey went 6-4 with 41 goals scored and allowed 34. Two of their losses that month came at the hands of weaker teams. In November they went 6-2 but lost to teams above them. November’s biggest disappointment for them was in the number of goals scored. A drop of almost 50% as they plunged from 41 to 22. Simultaneously their defense aided them by cutting their goals against from 34 to 25 and while they played two games less, it means the defense is playing much the same – steady enough to win games if the offense comes through. Most of their contests were low-scoring and two of their victories came in overtime.
The Elmira Sugar Kings have made minor improvements and are in the midst of a heated battle from fifth to ninth. They had a dreadful month in October going 1-7-2 but went 3-5-2 in November. Every game the Sugar Kings played this past month was decided by two goals or less which indicates that Elmira is highly competitive. While they scored a comparable amount (34 vs 36) they have trimmed down their goals allowed from 45 to 33. With an offense that is generally scoring three or four goals per game, Elmira needs to raise that margin just a bit in order to stay ahead of the teams on their heels.
The Brampton Bombers have maintained a .500 pace during both October (5-5-1) and November (4-4). They have made some minor strides both offensively and defensively. They’ve raised their goals scored from 28 in October to 34 in November while cutting the goals allowed from 42 to 33. The stronger defense is a good sign for Brampton, but like Elmira, they will have to gain more offense to get victories and move up in the standings.
The Brantford 99ers find themselves right in the thick of things and are only four points out of fifth but currently sit in seventh. They had a horrible October not winning any games and having one overtime loss and a tied game for two points. During that month they were blanked twice and scored 23 goals while permitting 39 to get past their goalies. They began November with a three-game winning streak but then lost six straight and a seventh in overtime. One good sign for the 99ers in November was a increase in their offense. They hit the target 31 times but allowed 38. Eight of the 10 contests were close while five of their losses were games which they could have won. While the defense could cut the goals against down slightly, it is the offense which must find a spark if they are to gain valuable ground.
The Cambridge Winterhawks fared much better in October than in November. In October they compiled a .500 record of 5-5, but in November they have floundered to a winless mark of 0-8-1. Both offensively and defensively they have slipped greatly. Offensively they have went from scoring 31 goals to 21. Even with playing one less game that’s a huge minus figure. While they were competitive in eight of the games, their lack of overall offense has hurt their chances to gain points and while they sit only a single point ahead of the last place Waterloo Siskins, they will have to address the offensive problem if they want to avoid the basement. On the other hand the Winterhawks’ defense has allowed nine more goals – and that is not good news either. By making offensive and defensive improvements, Cambridge could have a shot at catching or passing Brantford. The sooner these two issues are improved the better off Cambridge will be.
The Waterloo Siskins are in a rebuilding season and it has shown. In October they were 2-7 while in November they finished 3-5. Their best performance actually came at the very beginning of October when they lost a wild-west type of shootout 12-9 to Stratford and then a close 2-1 game in the second half of a home and home series. Their best defensive effort began the month of November when they blanked Listowel 2-0 and followed it up with a 4-3 OT win over Guelph. They ended the month on a positive note taking a 4-3 OT decision over Stratford. Cutting their ga down from 43 to 29 is a modest start but in the process their goals scored also dropped from 29 to 21. They’ve proven they can win and be competitive. The only problem is playing well every night. They have not been blown out and have come up with some timely wins. With progress being made and some better offense this team could move upward into the final playoff spot or perhaps even seventh by season’s end.
Best of luck to all the teams in their December efforts and continued work in aiding these young men in improving their brand of hockey.
C. Scott Holland is an accomplished author, a former Western Jr. B Hockey League statistician and is recognized as the West Conference’s and GOJHL’s historian. A lifelong resident of Leamington Scott was a journalist for the now defunct Leamington Post for 26 years and currently writes for the Southpoint Sun. Among the books he has authored are: 75 Years: A History of the Leamington and Erie Shores Golf Course; A Century In The Making – History of Heinz Canada 1909-2009; Leamington Flyers 1992/93-2011/12 Platinum Anniversary Special Program; the Western Jr. B Record Book 2003/04 and 2005/05 editions; as well as updates of both the West Conference and GOJHL Record Books. He was been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 27 years and served many years as a board member, statistician, press box announcer, and scorekeeper among other duties. He has been named the West Conference Volunteer of Year and a Windsor-Essex Sportsperson of Year award. He resides in Leamington with his wife Susan. He can be contacted at: email@example.com