The Golden Horseshoe In December – by C. Scott Holland
Despite the fact that the eight GHS teams did not play nearly the same number of games, there were some surprises and like the West Conference there is a logjam of teams from second to seventh. The two teams which improved the most were Niagara Falls and Fort Erie.
Here’s how the GHS teams fared in the month:
Niagara Falls 7-1-0-1 15 pts
Fort Erie 6-1 12 pts
Caledonia 5-0-1 11 pts
St. Catharines 3-3-1-1 8 pts
Ancaster 3-3-0-2 8 pts
Thorold 1-4-1 3 pts
Welland 0-3-1-2 3 pts
Pelham 1-6 2 pts
While not playing nearly as many contests as other teams, the Caledonia Corvairs have retained their overall strength although they did go to two OT games – one which they won and then lost one. Their heavy-duty firepower was evident in two contests and showed its superiority in a 9-2 win over St. Catharines. With only 12 ga in 6 games the Corvairs’ defensive units are showing that they are among the GOJHL’s best. The Corvairs have already fine-tuned the lineup and will most likely stick with the lineup they have in order to make a run at a third straight Sutherland Cup.
The Ancaster Avalanche have made great strides this season and have been clinging to second-place but a mediocre (.500) December hasn’t aided them. They sit only a single point ahead of St. Catharines. Their goal production has dropped slightly but their goals against remains low with 22 in 8 contests. Things could be better and they do have talent to trade should they decide they need more offense. Also they will have to find ways to conquer St. Catharines and Caledonia if they are to have a good playoff run.
While the St. Catharines Falcons boast one of the GOJHL’s top goals against averages, it is their offense which has been plagued with problems (17 goals in 8 games). They, like Ancaster, have had problems with Caledonia and Niagara Falls, and occasionally teams below them in the standings. Their biggest offensive output during the month was four goals, but in most games they tabbed only two. This team should be looking for some offensive guns because if they don’t acquire any their chance of maintaining a top three spot and having post-season success will be very limited.
The Niagara Falls Canucks are one of the GOJHL’s hottest teams. Suddenly all aspects of their game are going good. A huge morale booster was a hard-fought 4-3 OT victory over Caledonia. Add to that wins over St. Catharines and Ancaster and you have a recipe for a team which knows it is highly competitive and is on the move. They scored 41 goals in December and allowed only 16. If this team stays healthy and keeps playing like they have been, they will certainly be a top playoff team. Nothing really needs to be addressed as long as they keep rolling like in December.
The Fort Erie Meteors had a remarkable month going 6-1 but that record is deceiving because they mostly played the teams below them in the standings. But even a 5-3 loss to Ancaster shows that the Meteors are heading in the right direction. They racked up 44 goals and allowed 20. They could add a player or two both defensively and offensively because this lineup may not fare as well against those top squads. If they stand pat they will have to work extra hard in order to extend their playoff season.
The Welland Canadians are one point ahead of Thorold and did not win any games in the month, but did manage to knot a pair, plus gain a point in an OT loss. Their offense needs plenty of help since they were shutout out three times in six games. Their defense is showing signs that it is adequate, but still could use a body or two for improvement. No matter who they face come playoffs it will be a mercifully short series.
The Thorold Blackhawks are lucky to be where they are. This team is averaging about two goals per game (in December) and both the offense and defense are high priorities. During the month they scored 13 goals and permitted 28. Despite the fact they played competitively vs Niagara Falls and lost in OT, this is the team which also lost 2-1 to Pelham. Lots of fixing needs to be done and even with trades, this club isn’t going anywhere. It will be a quick first playoff round exit for them.
The Pelham Panthers actually won their first game of the season this past month. On most nights the top teams simply trounce them. Like Thorold, there are far too many holes for any number of trades to fill or fix. The Panthers did show some life in two contests, but outside of that, even numerous changes can’t overcome a franchise which allows 53 goals and scores 14. They have easily wrapped up the cellar position and will be swept aside by Caledonia come playoffs. This team should try to figure out which few players should be kept for next season and start recruiting.
The GOJHL and the Golden Horseshoe Conference wish all the best to these teams in their stretch run and subsequent playoffs.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org