The Mid-West: A Look After 10 – by C.Scott Holland

This is the third part of a three part series in which the author analyzes each  GOJHL conference after their first 10 games.

Of the three conferences, the Mid-West has shown some fierce competition. Only eight points separates first from seventh and even the ninth place team is still close enough to move up dramatically with a couple of wins.

The Brantford 99ers have plenty of talent with six 20-year-olds mixed in with younger players. Among the vets are defenseman Harlen Van Wynsberrghe who has bounced around the GOJHL having made stops with five teams in five seasons. Christian Polillo played last season with Caledonia but has not shown any signs of offensive prowess. Rookie head coach Wes Consorti has goalie Connor Gratton as the main netminder and Gratton is 3-4 with a 3.23 gaa. The 99eers’ offense needs some spark and with a bit tighter defense they could make up some ground. Otherwise the 99ers look to finish low in the pack.

The Kitchener Dutchmen are struggling at the outset yet have shown signs that they can be a tough contender. A vital pick-up for the Dutchmen has been former Chatham Maroon Blair Derynck. Austin Gaboury is a fourth year 20-year-old who is providing some key playmaking and Ben Morris is putting up some serious points that may vault him above last season’s totals. Goalie Riley Daniels, an 18-year-old who is in his fourth season, has a .500 record (3-3) but with some improvement could aid Kitchener in getting a higher spot. The Dutchmen sit eighth currently but could finish as high as fifth or sixth.

The Waterloo Siskins under head coach Todd Hoffman are depending more upon 19 and 18-year-olds to provide the experience and leadership. They have only two 20-year-olds on the roster. Despite being seventh, their goals against are reasonably low (30) but their offense relies mostly on vet Sam Cherry who has 8 goals which accounts for about one quarter of their output. Vet defenseman Alex Cimino doesn’t earn many points but his leadership is a key. Between the pipes Brett Miller has been a surprise with a 2.92 gaa and a 3-2 record. Miller joined the Siskins after playing Midget AA with Streetsville last season. Hoffman has some young talent to work with and if this squad starts to gel, they might rise to a mid-level spot. This club is more about the future rather than the current campaign.

The Brampton Bombers are usually mired towards the very bottom, but they are playing remarkably for head coach Nic Martins. Offensively Patrick Del Vecchio has notched nine goals, five of which have come on the powerplay, and has 16 points while vet Dan Heelis has set up nine tallies. Ivan Brewer has aided the cause as well with 12 points. Goalies Travis Smith and Joshua Eisfield have been adequately good enough to keep them in the thick of things. Smith has a 3.80 gaa and Eisfield a 3.00. Some slight tweaking of both the offense and defense on this club will make a difference but they are not going to be any higher than fifth in the end. Good to see positive signs from the franchise though.

The reigning GOJHL champions Elmira Sugar Kings have undergone some startling change under new head coach Trent Brown. The team has had as rough a start any one can get. They came out of the gate and lost five of their first six before gaining some ground – they are now one game below .500. This is pretty well an entirely new squad but they have retained vets Ty Biles and the high-scoring Ethan Skinner. Goalie Tyler Mazzocato has faced plenty of shots (234) while Rhett Kimmel hasn’t seen much action but is 2-1. The high goals against averages of both indicate some improvement is needed on defense. Even with six 20-year-olds this team is in a rebuilding stage but it has been that heir offense which has managed to lift them. With some adjustments all-around this team is going to be on the edge of the top four – most likely finishing fourth or fifth.

The Stratford Warriors have a new logo and head coach Dave Williams has the team playing well. They have only two 20-year-olds but those two are key elements of this team. Graham Brulotte who came over from the St. Marys Lincolns has been an integral playmaker having amassed 9 helpers while vet Jack Scanlan looks to have  a banner season with nine goals and 20 points so far. Another former Lincs player is Curtis Abbott who has chalked up nine goals and has 17 points. Stratford has been known for plucking players from other teams and transforming them into top caliber ones. The recent addition of Sean Ross (a former Lambton Shores and Cambridge player) should greatly add to Stratford’s quest. Both offensively and defensively the Warriors have the right combination and they aren’t far off the mark. They should finish in the top three and have an excellent shot at another playoff championship.

The Guelph Hurricanes are the biggest surprise in the GOJHL. New head coach and former Jr. B and OHL player Adam Wallace (Leamington Flyers, Windsor Spitfires) has the top goalie in the entire league. Jet Greaves, a 16-year-old who is a Barrie Colts draft pick and has a 5-3 record with a sparkling 1.72 gaa. He has three shutouts too. But to further strengthen the netminding, the ‘Canes have added Trenton McGrail who played for the London Nationals in ’16/17 and has a 2.43 gaa this year. The team is being led by vet Anthony Mota who has potted 10 goals while Ryan Sparkes came from Waterloo, Tyler Harrison who came from Cambridge plus fourth year player Camerron Stokes. The ‘Canes have a good mixture of youth and vets and with the strong goaltending are going to be a top three team but to remain there means their offense is going to have to start producing.

Few would hav expected the Listowel Cyclones to hold down first-place at this juncture but head coach Jason Brooks has lots of offense and a defense that is stingy. Goalies Justin Hergott (4-1, 2.14) and Max Wright (5-1, 2.18) have been primary reasons why the Cyclones are in first. Cullen Mercer is leading the team offensively with 15 pts while fourth year vet Chayse Herrfort has nine goals and 19-year-old Holdyn Lansink has 13 points. Overall this is an experienced older club with eight 20-year-olds and they are showing the Mid-West and GOJHL that they are going to be one of the league’s top clubs. Few clubs can challenge this team and playoffs may be a different story, but at the moment this team has to be one of the top two favourites to vie for the title.

Only time will tell now just how much improvement all GOJHL teams can absorb and how they will fare by the season’s end and playoffs. Good luck to each and every player and team as you work to promote all players to a higher level of competition or level of education.

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 writes occasional articles for the Southpoint Sun and the Strathroy Age Dispatch. 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, Mid-West and Golden Horseshoe Conference and GOJHL Record Books and Playoff Record Books  He has been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 28 years and has served many years as a board member, statistician, in the press box as an 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.

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