Second Round of Playoffs – by C. Scott Holland
The first round of GOJHL playoffs went pretty much where as suspected, although the Sarnia vs LaSalle series did surprise a few people and go the entire seven-game limit. The only real upset was in the Mid-West. The sixth seed Waterloo Siskins upended third place Listowel’s bid to move on. All three conferences will feature some great series but the most hard-fought ones will likely be in the West where it is always a dog-fight to advance.
GOLDEN HORSESHOE CONFERENCE
Niagara Falls vs Caledonia
This is going to be an intense series. The Corvairs and Canucks have engaged in a couple of lengthy battles which went to OT in regular season and most of their meetings were fairly close. Both teams managed an OT win and while Caledonia may have taken the regular season series, the NFC has proven they will be one tough opponent. Suspensions are also starting to have an effect on some teams and the Corvairs and Canucks may run into this problem before the series is decided. No matter how these two are analyzed, the Corvairs do have the goaltending and offensive edge but Niagara Falls has shown they are a good, competitive match-up. It’s going to be a much tougher round for Caledonia. Look for Caledonia to emerge in 6 games.
Ancaster vs St. Catharines
The Ancaster Avalanche will have their work cut out for them playing the St. Catharines Falcons. The Falcons took five of the six regular season meetings, three of which were close; their only loss came in a Feb. 6 contest at Ancaster. The Falcons have had their ups and downs throughout the season and as long as their goaltending stays consistent will have a chance to take the Avalanche, who have returned to the style of hockey which got them rolling in September and October after the tragic loss of their captain. The Avalanche are getting good goaltending and some timely scoring. They will need both to conquer the Falcons. The offenses on both sides haven’t been firing on all cylinders but if either team manages to score more than three goals a game they will have the upper hand. The Falcons have a slight edge in playoff experience and goaltending – Falcons in 6.
Waterloo vs Kitchener
Waterloo made a stunning upset of the third-ranked Listowel Cyclones and now face the number one Kitchener Dutchmen. The powerful Dutchmen have been strong in the scoring department yet still give up enough goals for an opposing team to win on any given night. Adam Kawalec has been the Dutchmen’s big set-up guy with 9 assists while Luke Richardson has only allowed 2 goals against. For Waterloo they have had contributions from many players, most notably Nate Schnarr and former St. Thomas Star Josh Slegers. Unless Waterloo continues with their playoff magic, it appears that the end of the line is ahead. Kitchener is far too strong in all aspects of the game and had no problems with them in the regular season. Look for Kitchener to win in 5 and get plenty of rest before the conference final.
Elmira vs Stratford
This series is going to feature two of the Mid-West’s best goaltenders: Alexander Brooks-Potts (Stratford) and Jonathan Reinhart (Elmira). Both netminders have been playing exceptionally well in the post-season, but Brooks-Potts has been on fire. He’s played in four games, allowed just 2 goals against while earning two shutouts and has a .5 gaa. Both teams’ defenses have been playing solidly but Stratford’s offense did have an easy time demolishing Brampton while Elmira faced a tougher Guelph team. Stratford is not going to be slowed down too much by Elmira. However the Sugar Kings are already seasoned for a harder battle. The Cullitons should prevail in six.
Chatham vs Leamington
This series almost didn’t occur and it is one which months ago many pundits were anticipating. Sure the Leamington Flyers have had an easier route if the Sarnia Legionnaires had beaten the LaSalle Vipers and met the Flyers. But this series is going to see tremendously large crowds at both the Highbury Canco and Chatham Memorial arenas. The rivalry between these two clubs dates back over two decades and has provided for some interesting playoff games during that span. This one will be no different. The Flyers have had problems winning in Chatham all season and the Maroons have had trouble winning in Leamington. The difference in size of their ice surfaces will be a major factor as will home ice advantage which the Flyers hold. Both teams features good young players and a core of veterans who provide leadership. Leamington has the goaltending edge in Tyler Wall but otherwise it’s a high-scoring offensive team (Chatham) vs one which relies heavily on solid defense and goaltending (Leamington). Penalties and suspensions will be important in this match-up so any officials assigned to these games had better come fully awake and ready. These two teams may offer one of the best second round series in the GOJHL. Leamington in six very heated contests.
LaSalle vs London
Another interesting series which pits two rivalries. The brewing intensity between these two clubs showed in the regular season game when second-place was on the line. LaSalle won handily but lost on a tie-breaker rule. You can bet they are still bitter about that. London has been well-rested after sweeping Strathroy aside in 5 games while LaSalle has maintained their groove by ejecting the feisty Sarnia Legionnaires in 7 games, two of which went to OT. While the Vipers may be a bit battle weary, they have also become more adjusted to playing games in short spans of time. London has a more veteran team and will need to strike first while the Vipers might be hoping that Paolo Battisti stays hot. Only problem for the Vipers is that Battisti has been sucking opposing players in to taking stupid penalties and kicking his net off far too many times. Those tricks may be washed up since London and the officials have most likely noted the ploys and will crack down on such things. Nevertheless both clubs offer good goaltending, tough defenses and offenses which can explode at any time. London in 7 gruelling games.
Enjoy the action and may all the teams continue on the road to further success.
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 the 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 winner. He resides in Leamington.