Date:  Source: Ontario Junior A Hockey League

Brandon Sudeyko and Peter Kneulman of will continue their coverage, providing previews and review for the 2014 OJHL South-West Conference Playoffs on the road to the OHA's Frank L. Buckland Trophy.

#1 Toronto Lakeshore Patriots vs #8 Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Much like Kingston in the North East, Toronto Lakeshore is pegged to have a long playoff run and many have predicted the squad to appear in the Buckland Cup finals. The Patriots made a few acquisitions near the deadline that has really helped their cause. The addition of Evan Buitenhuis, Robert Powers and Alex Grose has taken the team to a new level. Already possessing one of the the hardest working forward lineups in the league, their defencemen are arguably the best puck movers as well. From top to bottom, there are not superstars on this team but some talented pieces that mix well together and promote success. Whether it is the strength between the pipes, the ‘stop everything’ mentality of the defenceman or the ‘lets make it happen’ approach to the forwards, it is tough to stop the Patriots when they are on a role. If you are going to beat them, you will have to do it early before you consistently lose puck battles that will eventually turn into goals. 

Players To Watch: Andreas Tosgkas, Marcus Rose, Jacob Hayhurst, Mike Prapavessis, Robert Powers, Evan Buitenhuis
Goaltender who (will) be starting: Evan Buitenhuis (8W - 1L- 3 SOL, 0 SO, 1.85GAA, .943SV%)

If you wanted to line match against the Jr. Canadiens, often you would lose those one on one battles as TJC has a unique lineup. A solid mix of skill, grit, speed and strength. The problem that Toronto has at the moment is health, and the fact that the team as struggled down the stretch as a result. In the past few weeks, Toronto has had to fill the holes of Jake Walman, Daniel Volpe and Nathan Colitto to name a few. A healthy lineup though has the ability to compete with anyone in the league. The key for the Jr. Canadiens is to get Anthony Repaci rolling, it is hard to deny how talented the goal scorer is and in a tough 7 game series, you look to him to score a goal every game. The defence takes a hit as long as Jake Walman is out of the lineup as Aaron Thow can hold down the blueline defensively, but not many can match the overall skill Jake brought to the ice. The question mark is in goal as it is unknown if Nathan Colitto will be healthy enough to play after playing in one game since January 26th. The length of the series will depend on how well TJC can play as a team, even with all of their missing parts.

Players to Watch: Anthony Repaci, Daniel Harquail, Aaron Spivak, Aaron Thow, Jake Walman (if healthy)
Goaltender who will be starting: Daniel Lopapa (11W - 9L – 2 OTL – 1 SOL, 4.05GAA, .884SV%)

#2 Buffalo Jr. Sabres vs #7 Mississauga Chargers

Buffalo has one of the most balanced attacks in the OJHL as they led the league with 253 goals. The main reason is depth from top to bottom which helped overcome injuries to various players throughout the year including captain Ryan Schmelzer and Daniel Lafontiane. One of the reasons Buffalo has done such a great job at outshooting their opponents is the fact that they spend so much less time in the penalty box. The more often their opponents are there and they are not will only lead to more success. It will be key for Joseph Pianta to provide solid goaltending for the Jr Sabres. It is something he is fully capable of doing as he helped lead the Lakeshore Patriots to the conference final in 2012 and has a career .906 playoff save percentage.

Players To Watch: Michael Ederer, Max Mikowski, Pat Egan, Nolan Sheeran, Ryan Schmelzer
Goaltender who will start: Joseph Pianta (21W - 10L, 2OTL, 2SOL, 3.34GAA, .892S%)

Mississauga relies on their top line and all 6 of their defenceman to be able to control the play and win the game. The biggest key to a Chargers victory is for them to stay out of the box. Buffalo has depth and goal scoring ability throughout their lineup so it will be imperative to stay out of the box. Not only do you not want to give them the extra opportunities but you do not want to gas your top defensive players in the process. The Chargers have had a rough time finding consistency from forwards 4-12 as far as scoring goes. Buffalo has 11 players who hit double digits in goals while Mississauga only had 6. Clearly Mississauga does not want to get into a high scoring series but even if they grind it out they will need some unsung heroes. The biggest factor for the Chargers to succeed is their captain, Trevor Warnaar. The Chargers were 20-11-1 when their captain was in the lineup which if maintained over a whole year would have given them the 2nd highest point percentage in the Conference. Trevor is a clear contender for league MVP and with him leading the charge this isn’t your typical #7 seed.

Players to Watch: Trevor Warnaar, Lucas Venuto, Aaryton Valente, Tyler Cooper, Stefano Alonzi
Goaltender who will start: Austin Washkurak (20W - 14L, 1SOL, 1SO, 3.74GAA, .911SV%)

#3 Georgetown Raiders vs #6 Milton Icehawks

Georgetown plays a hard physical game which you can hear from the bench when Coach Greg Walters is engaged in the game and letting his team know it. When Georgetown is on their game they can generate a lot of shots, and have done so in the past against Milton. What causes them trouble is getting bodies to the net. Many times the shots are from distance and they are not able to capitalize on any type of rebound. The Raiders are one of the least penalized teams in the conference and are able to capitalize on their chances and to make this a short series, they will need to get the most penalized team in the conference, Milton, to keep parading to the box. The big battle for the two teams comes in the pipes with both having rookie netminders with no experience. Michael McNiven has had some success against Milton, despite the W-L record but he doesn’t have to be as good as Ben Blacker, that is where the team will help him as they hope for 4 wins as quick as possible. 

Players To Watch: Steve Hladin, John Adams, John Marra, Steve Midensky, Michael McNiven
Goaltender who will start: Michael McNiven (21W - 10L, 5SO, 2.60GAA, .916SV%)

As much as Georgetown likes to stay out of the box, Milton will have to share the Raiders passion. Being the most penalized team in the league may look like a bad thing, but Milton has the second best PK% and have a solid goaltender between the pipes who likes the workload and can really calm the game down for the Icehawks. Ben Blacker may be the big difference maker for the Icehawks but you have to look past the rookie goalie and recognize a problem that the Icehawks have, they give up too many shot. The 16 year old rookie ended the year with a .911SV% which is great, but he also got that facing on average of 38+ shots a game. The defence lead by Tyler Burns, TJ Fergus and Daniel Poutsoungas will have to really box out the opponents and keep the shots to the outside so Blacker can take it easy for most of the game. The big 3 of Kane Elliot, Shane Bennett and Jeremy Gottzman are the offensive leaders for the Icehawks. It will be imperative that they are clicking early and often in this series and to capitalize on their chances.

Players to Watch: Kane Elliot, Shane Bennett, Jeremy Gottzman, TJ Fergus, Ben Blacker
Goaltender who will start: Ben Blacker (16W – 13L, 1SOL, 3.43GAA, .911SV%)

#4 North York Rangers vs #5 St. Michael’s Buzzers

Of all the teams in the Southwest Conference the North York Rangers may have the best overall forward corps. From 1-12, it is hard to find a hole, great scoring ability near the top, great hardworking and offensive generating players in the middle, with real gritty players who have won their fair share of games at the bottom. The big forward to watch is Liam Kerins who many teams tried and failed to stop. Liam finished the season with 37 goals, two short of the league lead and ended the season in the top 5 in scoring. Around him are notable names that you can’t sleep on: Corey Kalk, John Carpino and Adam Valadao. There is that depth I was referring to. The blueline of the Rangers is a bit suspect as it is a small group, a small group that aren’t easily pushed around, but as the playoffs move along, they may wear down that much faster. Patrick Piacentini and Alex Leader are arguably their best defenceman and they have added some great support in Kyle Thacker (acquired from Orangeville), Corey Helliwell (acquired from Pickering) and Chrisitan Zanetti (rookie) to help fill the holes needed to make a playoff run. Jason Pucciarelli hasn’t been the best goaltender, but has improved from last year to be a difference maker and has been able to steal a game or two, and against a tough St. Mike’s team, he may have to steal those games. 

Players To Watch: Liam Kerins, Corey Kalk, Alex Leader, John Carpino, Adam Valadao
Goaltender who will start: Jason Pucciarelli (16W – 13L – 1OTL – 4SOL, 2SO, 2.92GAA, .906SV%)

Much like a team or two in the Northeast Conference, when you look at the St. Mikes Buzzers lineup on paper, you would suspect they are fighting for the division and conference title. Well that wasn’t the case this year. Some time in the season, the Buzzers became an average team while their talent decided to be complacent. However when looking at their last ten games, maybe they were just resting for the playoffs. Lead by numerous leaders: David italiano, CJ Shugart, Jake Evans & Ian Edmondson, there is enough talent to be able to get the team motivated to play. The series will break down in to three phases, North York controls, St. Mike Controls, and may the best team win. The buzzers will need to be as consistent as possible to make short work of this series. The longer it goes the more it will favour North York. The Buzzers forwards know how to both dish the puck, and put the puck in the back of the net, as evidenced by David italiano’s league leading 39 goals. Matt Alvaro and Thomas Beretta provide support as well as timely goals to help, ‘spread the wealth’ when it comes to scoring. The Buzzers D has had their challenges this year but overall match up strongly to the Rangers defenceman with some strong veteran presence in Ian Edmondson,  Jake Clements and Mike Lansdowne. The goalie ‘duel’ between Victor Adamo and George Argiropoulos has shown the Buzzers that they can switch to the other if one is having an off night and still have a strong chance at walking away with two points. If the Buzzers want to take the series from a heated division rival, they will need one goaltender, tight defensive play, and for all their offensive horses to be firing. If it comes down to wagon fire hockey, they may hold the advantage with their edge in foot speed.

Players to Watch: David Italiano, CJ Shugart, Jake Evans, Ian Edmonson, Matt Alvaro
Goaltender who should start: George Argiropoulos (15W – 11L – 2OTL , 2SO 2.70GAA, .920SV%)