Sutherland Cup Finals Set – by C. Scott Holland
After playing several exhibition games, then a 50 game regular season and another seven weeks of playoff hockey, the finalists for the 2016 Sutherland Cup are set.
No-one had any doubts that one of them would be the Caledonia Pro-Fit Corvairs. The other finalist however was often only a guess.
But now we know that the Corvairs will face the London Nationals, a team that showed plenty of early season promise but finished second to the Leamington Flyers in regular season before rolling along in playoff disposing of several tough opponents like LaSalle, Leamington and Stratford.
Ironically when the Kick-Off tournament was held back in early September in London, the Nats first two games were against the two teams they would eventually meet on the road to competing for the Cup. In their opening contest London nipped Stratford but in the second game, it was Caledonia easily handling the Nationals 6-0.
Things have changed greatly since that match. Both teams have added players, had some leave and saw few sidelined due to injuries. Each team has had players step up their game, too.
It will be battle of Titans, but unlike that one early September match, the Corvairs may not see any sign of goalie Zach Weir since Connor Hughes has become the main netminder down the stretch.
Caledonia will be well-rested but London will have had less time off between games. The Corvairs’ snipers will be out in full fore gunning for a third straight Sutherland Cup while the Nats’ will have to find some high-powered offense of their own just to stay with the Corvairs. As for defenses and goaltenders, both clubs have players who can handle the job.
Caledonia will rely heavily on the experience of veteran Mark Sinclair while London rookie netminder Connor Hughes must continue with his solid play. London’s Tyler Sehovic has witnessed the Corvairs’ game and may help the coaching and scouting staff with some tips. But London’s defense is going to have to work extra hard just to keep Caledonia off the scoreboard.
Special teams may play an important role as well. The Nats and Corvairs can both play rugged, penalty-filled games and taking needless penalties could affect the scores.
The biggest challenge for London will be to hand the Corvairs their first playoff loss. Thus far, the Corvairs have had a fairly easy time. The Nats may indeed break that Caledonia goose egg, but can they win more than one? Only way they can do that is to stop the entire Caledonia team and that appears to be an extremely difficult job. Caledonia has five of the top playoff scorers – Corey Pawley, Matthew Hore, Mitchell Fitzmorris, Blake Luscombe and Tyler Hill. Together they have amassed 180 points, scored 17 powerplay goals and tabbed 10 game winners. London’s best has been Kyle Robinson who has 26 points with Brendan Trottier not far behind.
By the third contest this series will definitely heat up and may start looking more like a battlefield where players are out to hit anything in sight. Unless Superman suddenly appears on London’s roster, Caledonia will emerge in five games.
(photo – Captain James T. Sutherland, “The Father 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.