The Mid-West In December – by C. Scott Holland
It wasn’t a good month for the first-place Kitchener Rangers but for the five teams trailing them a bit of separation did occur.
At the Christmas break, it appears that things are starting to heat up in this conference. From the top spot right to the very basement, every position is being contested. While there is enough of a gap between first, second, and third anything can happen and the bottom three could change easily within days or weeks.
The December records:
Stratford 5-1 10 pts
Guelph 5-2 10 pts.
Brampton 4-3-0-1 9 pts.
Elmira 4-2 8 pts.
Listowel 4-3 8 pts.
Kitchener 3-3 6 pts.
Cambridge 1-4-0-1 3 pts.
Waterloo 1-5-1 3 pts.
Brantford 1-5 2 pts.
It is going to be one of the most interesting home stretches in years for the Mid-West.
One of the reason for the current state of the standings is Kitchener’s .500 month of December. After winning their first two contests by comfortable margins they have struggled. Whether it was due to injures, exams, or the fact the opposition has caught them off guard, doesn’t matter. They still have the best ga in the conference (89) and the most gf (166) but they have suddenly shown signs of struggling to gain victories. Yes, this team could be better defensively but they didn’t get to the top without team work and while a player or two could help they may be fine standing pat. Perhaps they shall regain the form they had early in season as January starts. If not, they may have to hold off a challenge by Stratford.
The Stratford Cullitons had an excellent December going 5-1 and allowing only 18 ga. That one loss was a close one to Guelph. Stratford is not dominating the opposition and with the firepower they have it may be enough to close the gap. Whether the make any changes or not, this team has been playing well and sits only 7 points behind Kitchener so it’s doubtful much tweaking will be done.
The Guelph Hurricane fared well to keep up with the pack but lost some ground with losses to Elmira and Listowel. They are within range of catching Stratford but also have Listowel on their heels. All games except for one victory were close scores and while they did well defensively, their offense has not been very consistent. They may need some offensive help but it may not be an imperative move as long as they can win and be competitive.
The Listowel Cyclones are in a precarious position. They aren’t far out of third but should they falter in January they could drop as low as 6th. In most games they are getting an adequate number of goals scored and even topped Kitchener 4-2. Both the offense and defense is reasonably sound but adding an offensive or defensive player to this team could improve their stretch run and playoff hopes. They will have to go on a hot streak to surpass Guelph and maintain third but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
The Elmira Sugar Kings have fine-tuned their lineup already but need to start scoring a few more goals in order to keep winning. Of their 6 December games only a 6-2 win (over Listowel) was an easy decision. The others were all close affairs. A consistent goal scorer could improve this team and if they can get their December goals against average down to below 3 per game, they’ll be fine. No matter how the Sugar Kings look at it, they are competitive, but perhaps not quite ready to conquer the top teams.
The Brampton Battalion held a 4-2-0-1 record in December and were competitive but did have the benefit of playing several weaker teams, although a 5-4 loss to Stratford showed just how well they can play a top team. Like Elmira, they are in the hunt for fourth and could easily obtain it if they can continue with their offense and perhaps sharpen their defense. Either another defensive body or an offensive player could aid this franchise.
The Brantford 99ers could move upward or fall into the cellar. Their primary need after a 1-5-2 month is offense. Can’t win many games scoring two goals a game. The good news for the 99ers is that their ga in December was only 19 and by allowing the opposition three goals per contest it should give them a chance to win. However the only way to do that is to generate more goals and that signifies a big need for some offense. They have a nucleus of players which could lay the foundation for the future but any further success this season will depend on what if any trades or deals they make and whether the offensive output can improve.
The Cambridge Winterhawks are rebuilding and need plenty of help both offensively and defensively. Yet they find themselves fighting for a playoff spot while simultaneously trying to avoid the basement. Like Brantford they do not score many goals, but their defense and goaltending are huge concerns. Allowing 29 goals in six games does not give many teams a chance to win and their 1-4-0-1 record does not reflect how well they actually played against teams like Kitchener (L 4-3) and Elmira (L 3-2). This squad can be competitive but they will have to win more than a game or two down the stretch to grab a playoff berth. A trade or deal could bring them a player to help them jump a bit higher but they may be better off just staying with the group they’ve got and looking ahead to next season.
The Waterloo Siskins are in a rebuilding season. But that hasn’t meant they aren’t improving. This team’s main area of downfall is its defense and goaltending. Too many games where the opposition is scoring five or six goals while the Siskins tab two or three. A defensive overhaul is needed despite the fact they are in the hunt for a playoff spot. While they aren’t far out of 7th, with a few changes it’s quite possible they could finish 8th. But do they want to tamper with a group that could conceivably be better next season? This team could deal or trade for immediate help or they could hold onto what they’ve got and hope for a coupe of victories to propel them into the playoffs. No matter how one looks at it, even a marginal player could change the destiny of any of the bottom three teams.
The Mid-West stretch run is going to be fun watching the scoreboard, and upsets may figure prominently into the final positions.
Good luck to all nine teams in their remaining games.
C.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 reached at: email@example.com