PLAYOFF PREVIEWS: ST. MIKE'S NEEDS 'NEAR-PERFECT...
Date: Feb 24, 2018
Andrew Hughes celebrates a goal against the Markham Royals Friday night. His Pickering Panthers would qualify for the OJHL playoffs later in the evening. (Photo by Andy Corneau / OJHL Images)
By Ron Valentine
Weather conditions were not good this weekend but there were only two postponements across the Ontario Junior Hockey League, both where there was substantial travel involved.
• The Aurora Tigers with two wins and an overtime loss during the week strengthened their hold on first overall in the North/East.
• The Pickering Panthers wrapped up a playoff spot ending a post-season drought dating back to 2014 with five points in three games.
• The St. Michael's Buzzers, Burlington Cougars, Orangeville Flyers and Mississauga Chargers' post-season fates still have to be determined.
• The Oakville Blades made it 10 wins in a row at home and the North York Rangers extended their winning run to six games.
• The Toronto Patriots' Andrew Petrucci and the Tigers' Jake Bricknell continue to duke it out in the individual points race. Both are at the 90-point mark and their clubs have five games left to play.
1. AURORA TIGERS (71 points) - As expected, a close encounter in Newmarket with the Tigers getting a point in the 3-2 overtime loss. Zach Wilkie scored before the contest was a minute old and Jake Bricknell got his 30th while Jack Irvine was called upon to make 35 saves in the much-anticipated local derby. It looked like a home win on paper Friday and it did turn out that way as the overall conference leaders topped the Spirit of Stouffville 8-1. Bricknell recorded two goals (now up to 32) and an assist to bring his point total to 89. A big night for Elijah Gonsalves as he had two goals and four points. Joseph Mizzi scored once and added three helpers. A Sunday afternoon matinee on Bathurst Street against the Buzzers and this was a see-saw contest that ended with the Tigers getting the edge 5-4, with four coming in a frantic second period. Mizzi had two goals and an assist and Gonsalves added two more helpers. One assist for Bricknell bringing him up to the 90-point level. Five left for the Tigers who have now won 33 games. Team president Jim Thomson really wants that first overall position in the conference and he is confident that it can happen with four of his club's last five in the friendly close confines of the Aurora Community Centre. He notes that the Tigers, like several other teams, have had their injury problems of late but he looks forward to starting the post season with a full complement. They picked up a couple of free-agent, last-year players for depth, in goalkeeper Calder Stark, who had played for Everest Academy in Thornhill and the Comox Valley Glacier Kings in the VIJHL, and Chris Atanas, who has had stints across Ontario in the SIJHL, NOJHL and GOJHL.
2. WELLINGTON DUKES (66 points) - Just a singleton this week for the top team in the East who need seven points from their last five games to ensure themselves the Divisional crown. Monday night they went into Cobourg looking for their 30th win of the season but it was not to be as they went down 7-5 to the Cougars. They had leads of 2-0 and 3-2 in this one and would tie the game at 5-5 early in the third but that would be it for their scoring. Blueliner Dawson Ellis connected with just over a minute gone in the game with his second of the season. Mitchell Martan and Andrew Rinaldi both recorded their 22nd tallies and Ben Evans had two to bring him up to 14. Of the five they have left on their dance card, all but one is on the road.
3. NEWMARKET HURRICANES (64 points) - Three games were scheduled this week for the Hurricanes beginning with a neighbourhood match at their Ray Twinney arena against the Tigers. Alex Ierullo was the overtime hero netting No. 23 for the season in their 3-2 victory. Ierullo got his first in the middle of the second period to tie the game at ones. Claudio De Gasperis had their other marker. Owen Ramsay had an assist on all the goals. The last bus trip of the season for the club came Friday night to Lindsay where the game was scoreless over the opening two periods before Ierullo got them on the board 22 seconds into the third but they would be taken to overtime where Nicholas Cirone's marker gave them the extra point. Ramsay once again assisted on the goals and now has 60 points for the campaign. Trenton were to be the visitors Sunday afternoon but this meeting was postponed Saturday night, a victim of harsh weather conditions. Head Coach Thomas Milne pointed out that a lot of his players, especially co-captain Christian Dedonato, have been hit hard by the flu bug that has swept through the team. But pretty well everyone is back up to par now and ready to go with just half a dozen games left before the regular season winds up. He was quick to praise the efforts of Ramsay and Ierullo and expressed surprise that neither has been offered an NCAA scholarship yet. There is a calmness about his squad, he says and no one gets too high or low. He thinks the Hurricanes’ style of hockey this season is tailor-made for the post-season.
4. KINGSTON VOYAGEURS (60 points) - The Vees ran roughshod on home ice over Mississauga winning 8-0 with Trevor Withers having to make just 21 saves for the shutout. Josh Leblanc and Aidan McFarland each had a pair of goals and Brandon Nadeau had a big night in picking up five assists. The club became the second one this season to reach the 200-mark in goals scored. Friday evening in Trenton they had a power-play goal by Cole Edwards and a shorthanded tally from Danny Reidel but the 'Hawks got one with the extra attacker and won it in overtime by a 3-2 count. On Sunday, a road trip to Whitby was postponed due to the weather warnings.
5. MARKHAM ROYALS (55 points) - A quiet week for the Royals with just one game on tap and that was a Friday night date in Pickering where the Panthers took the contest 6-4. It took Rome N.Y. native J.T. Entelisano just 44 seconds to find the net. The 19-year old forward will line up with Utica College next season. Lucas Condotta, with his 31st of the campaign, made it 2-0 after one but they would only get two more- from ex-Burlington Cougars Nick Giunta and Bain Cunningham, both in the final stanza. For Cunningham, it was his 18th in a Markham uniform. It looks more likely now that the team will start the playoffs on the road. Next week they face the Hurricanes in a home-and-home series.
6. COBOURG COUGARS (54 points) - Two games, two wins for the Cougars starting with a 7-5 victory Monday at home to the Dukes. Rookie Brodie McDougall had the game's first goal and the winner in the third. Connor MacEachern had a strong game with a goal and three points. Sunday evening in Pickering, they needed an overtime score from former Lindsay Muskie Michael Cimini. They got power-play goals from Matthew Bumstead and MacEachern with No. 17 for the season in the team's 25th win. Elliot Gerth made 27 saves for victory No. 13.
7. PICKERING PANTHERS (52 points) - A Tuesday trip to Trenton gave them two points. Andrew Hughes scored twice in the 4-2 win. Andrew Poulias opened the scoring and Adam Wheaton finished it off with an empty-net goal. Another win at home on Friday ensured the Panthers will return to the playoffs. Six players had goals including affiliate 15-year-old Eli Pilosof. In a span of just 51 seconds in the second period they scored three goals (from Pilosof, Joshua Jones and Hughes) to eradicate a 2-0 deficit en route to a 6-4 win over Markham. At home Sunday night for the last time this season, they snared a point in the 3-2 overtime loss to Cobourg. Jones scored both goals and Hughes had an assist to reach the 50-point mark in a season split between Stouffville and the Panthers. Head Coach David DeMarinis was happy with the fact that they were able to nail down a post-season spot. But he notes there is still work to be done and they want to be in the best position possible when the playoffs start. Their goal was not just to finish in eighth spot. Compare this season's point output to just last year when they only managed 21 and in 2015-2016 when they had 37.
8. TRENTON GOLDEN HAWKS (50 points) - The team opened up the week in a rescheduled game at home to Pickering which the visitors won 4-2. Rex Moe and Caleb Boman were the scorers. Friday evening, the Vees were in and the 'Hawks were on the good end of the 3-2 overtime final score. This time Boman opened up the scoring with his 20th and Moe set up the extra time with a late third period marker. Stephen Elliott's assist on Moe's goal was point No. 100 for him in the OJHL. With four seconds left in the first overtime period, blueliner Shawn Guison netted the winner, the second of his 'Hawks campaign for the former Nanaimo Clipper who hails from Kelowna B.C. The trip to Newmarket scheduled for Sunday afternoon was postponed due to the inclement weather forecast. John McDonald says has been very pleased with the way Guison has fitted in and any offensive contribution is a bonus. He also singled out Max Ewart, who leads the team in goals with 22, who he referred to, a little jokingly, as “a runaway train,” noting that his speed and constant motion is a big plus with the Trenton fans. The director of operations notes that Chris Karabassis is averaging more than a point per game since joining the team at the trade deadline – 11 points in 9 games – and he has been a great presence in the dressing room. Now, he says, with just five games left, the club has to work on that consistency, from the goalies out, that has eluded them for most of the season.
9. WHITBY FURY (39 points) - Just one game for the Fury this week after being officially eliminated from post-season competition as they were to welcome the Vees but the Sunday afternoon contest was called off Saturday night citing the freezing rain warning issued for the area.
10. STOUFFVILLE SPIRIT (18 points) - A tough way to start the week for the Spirit with a visit to Aurora to try to tame the Tigers. It did not work and the under-manned team gave up an 8-1 loss with defenceman Jacob Breckles scoring the goal. Saturday, they hosted Lindsay with another short bench and were beaten 5-3. Gormley's Beau Binnie had two goals, one on the power play, and former Pickering Panther Anthony Stavrou also scored.
11. LINDSAY MUSKIES (17 points) - A super performance by Blake Curran as the Hurricanes blew into Lindsay Friday night. The Muskies' goalkeeper repelled 52 shots in the game which the 'Canes won 2-1 in the second session of overtime. Noah Dollo scored his 18th of the season in the third to force the extra time. A strong performance by the home side and they got the reward of the single point. Saturday a trip to Stouffville was on the calendar and they recorded win No. 7 on the season by a 5-3 count. Dollo reached the 20-goal mark with two, both in the second period, and both assisted by Erich Roeder and Ben Sellars had one shorthanded. Curran was busy again in this contest making 35 saves. The team is finishing a long season on a much more positive note.
1. TORONTO PATRIOTS (78 points) - Coming into their game in Georgetown, the Patriots had won two of their last five and it did not look too good after two periods at the Alcott as they were behind 3-0 but their resiliency showed as they scored three times in the final frame on goals by Lee Lapid, Andrew Petrucci (No. 45) and with 58 seconds remaining and 'keeper Tyler Fassl on the bench from Dante Spagnuolo (his 80th point of the season). Dante had just announced his NCAA commitment to Mercyhurst for next season. There was no scoring in the overtime periods and the spoils were shared in the 3-3 tie. The 'other' Toronto club, the Jr. Canadiens were the visitors on Saturday evening and this one was not close with Fassl having to make just 17 stops in the 7-0 win. Max Routledge and Adam Petric had two goals and an assist apiece. Routledge was acquired at the deadline from Mississauga and Petric was with the Stouffville Spirit. Nicholas Favaro had a shorthanded marker and Petrucci chipped in with two assists to put him on the 90-point mark. Win No. 37 for the Patriots.
2. GEORGETOWN RAIDERS (72 points) - On a snowy Wednesday night, the Raiders hooked up with a team they could face in the conference final – the Toronto Patriots – and they got themselves off to a fast start scoring three times in the second period after a scoreless first. Jonathan Hampton, Jordan Crocker and Brendan D'Agostino did the honours. The third did not go as well as the visitors scored three unanswered and the game then went through the extra time with no goals for the 3-3 final. Milton were the visitors Saturday night and ex-IceHawk Justin Paul did major early damage scoring the natural has trick, the first at even strength, the second shorthanded and the third with the man-advantage to put them up 3-0 and giving him an even dozen to date.
3. NORTH YORK RANGERS (76 points) - At the 'Herb' on Wednesday, the Rangers set the Icehawks back 8-2 keyed by a one-goal, four-assist performance from captain Kyle Clarke. Ex-IceHawk Nick Leshuk recorded two goals and an assist. Blueliner Harrison Rees chipped in with a goal and two helpers. With the victory, the club tied its best ever performance with 34 wins on the season. It was another home event on Sunday with the Junior Sabres providing the opposition and they notched No. 35 in doubling the visitors 6-3. The Rangers were up 4-0 in this one and Clarke's goal early in the second was the game winner. Noah Jordan had two goals and three points and Jesse Tucker contributed four assists. They are closing in on top spot in the division but are running out of games.
4. OAKVILLE BLADES (73 points) - Friday night, the Buzzers were back in Sixteen Mile following their 4-1 loss last week and once again the Blades would come out on top, this time by a 5-3 score. Eric Uba, who is proving to be a strong addition to the lineup, had two goals including the game winner and Thomas Maia celebrated his return from injury by scoring a goal. Andrew McIntyre opened the scoring and Jack Ricketts finished it off with an empty-netter. Uba now has five goals and nine points in seven games since coming from Wellington at the trade deadline. The club was searching for their tenth straight home ice victory the following night with the Buffalo Junior Sabres in town and they doubled up the visitors 4-2 led by two goals from Ricketts and No. 19 from Peyton Reeves. Five straight wins now for the Blades. Head Coach Mike Tarantino had this to say: "The next two weekends will be tough ones considering we playing the Toronto Patriots and Georgetown. The Georgetown game is our family day game and last year we had about 1,300 in attendance, so hoping to repeat that. The final weekend we play the Junior Canadiens who we could meet in the first round of the playoffs. Burlington might be playing for their season, so those games will be tough. Ultimately, we've played the last two weekends missing key players so the goal is to be healthy heading into playoffs".
5. TORONTO JUNIOR CANADIENS (65 points) - Looking to finish the season off strongly, the club had a big challenge Saturday as they lined up against the Patriots at the Westwood and they took this one on the chin 7-0. Sunday night at home, as usual, they had Orangeville in and must have been as mad as wet hens as they came out with a better result winning 4-3 in extra time. Jason Pineo's second of the night did the trick. Matthew Di Cesare and NHL prospect Jack McBain had the other goals.
6. BUFFALO JUNIOR SABRES (56 points) - Two on the docket this week for the Sabres with the high-flying Blades the opposition in Oakville Saturday. Adam Tretowicz scored his 26th and Trevor Peca had his 12th. Both players hit the 42-point mark in this game. Another road match on Sunday with a trip to North York to face the red-hot Rangers and another loss, this time 6-3. Anthony Hora, Nathan Berke and Peca had the goals. The closest the Juniors could get in this one was a 4-2 deficit in the second period.
7. ST. MICHAEL'S BUZZERS (48 points) - Ryan Madigan had the big overtime goal as they edged Burlington in a home game on Tuesday. In the 6-5 final Jonah Alexander had two goals and one assist and captain Cameron Searles a goal and two helpers. Looking to avenge their loss in Oakville last week they came closer but went down by a 5-3 count with the Blades scoring the last one into the empty-net. A highlight was the 29th goal of the campaign for super rookie Dylan Jackson. The North-East leading Tigers were in town Sunday and a rough patch late in the second period did not help as they fell 5-4. Tyler Busillo got them off to a bright start scoring with just thirty seconds gone. James Gibbins, Alexander and Colton Trumbla had the other markers. Two dozen this season for Trumbla. It's the fourth year as a Buzzer and by far his best for the Oakville native. Searles' two assists put him at the 60-point mark. Three games remain.
8. ORANGEVILLE FLYERS (45 points) - Though Head Coach Justin Teakle tried to play it down a little before the game by emphasizing that every one was important for his club, it was a large one on Alder Street Saturday night with fellow playoff aspirants the Burlington Cougars providing the opposition. Things did not go well for the Flyers who were without two suspended players – Nathan Gooch and Jacob Latham – and they fell 4-1. Rocco Andreacchi's powerplay goal got them ahead 1-0 in the first but the visitors got three in the second on the way to the win. Sunday night another tough one, a visit with the Junior Canadiens where they did get a single point in the 4-3 overtime defeat. Down three times in regulation they fought back each time and it was a goal in the last minute by Vincent Bonaiuto that got the contest into OT. Evan Stull and Andreacchi had the other goals. Bonaiuto and Andrecchi lead the way on the club with 17 goals each. Like the Buzzers, they have three games left: Markham away and Milton and Whitby at home.
9. BURLINGTON COUGARS (42 points) - While they did not get the win they were hoping for the Cougars did get a valuable point at the St. Michael's arena in their 6-5 overtime loss against the Buzzers. Rico Rossi had his first two goal game for the club with the second one sending the contest into extra time. Josiah Degazon highlighted a strong showing with three assists. A 'must win' game on Appleby Line on a snowy Friday with Milton in and they got it done, but just barely, with the 3-2 decision. The IceHawks came in with three wins, one being against the Cougars. Josh Leblanc, with his lucky 13th, Matt Galli, with No. 16 and Bair Gudenov did the scoring. All three came on the power play which brought them to over a 20-per-cent success rate this season. Noah Kalsner-Lowe missed their key contest Saturday night in Orangeville serving a one-game suspension but they came through with a large 4-1 victory. Marek Wazny, Michael Miele and Andrew Salt all had goals in their big second period and Gendunov had one more in the third. Justin Vertesi made 38 saves to record the win. The two points kept the Cougars in contention and they have five games left to be played. Their next four are at home where they have had limited success. They host the Chargers, the Buzzers and then two in a row against the Raiders before finishing off the regular season in Oakville.
10. MISSISSAUGA CHARGERS (39 points) - Their goal of being active in the post-season took a hit with an 8-0 loss in Kingston. It was their only game of the week and they now have four remaining- one in Burlington, at home to the Junior Canadiens, at the Toronto Patriots and at home to the Pickering Panthers.
11. MILTON ICEHAWKS (9 points) - They fell 9-2 in North York getting goals from Jeremy Marco, his first of the season and Matteo DiGiulio. A close call in Burlington but they came out on the low end of the 3-2 final with Zac McInall and Joe Kennedy (his first) getting the goals. Saturday night in Georgetown was a tough way to end the week and they lost 6-2 with Zac McInall getting both goals. Veteran Head Coach Mario Cicchillo is very impressed with the way his players have kept their enthusiasm. He noted that this team is very young with little experience at this level and it has taken a while to get used to the pace of Jr. A. They have developed good practice habits, they study the game and pay attention to what's going on, he says. Captain Sebastian Cirillo has become a strong voice in the dressing room, the coach pointed out and he has been able to keep the team upbeat. Though they have taken some big losses to veteran teams he pointed out that the club has lost fourteen contests by a one-goal margin. He pointed to a goalkeeper, two defencemen and two forwards as major contributors on the team. Noah Battaglia was selected to the Team Canada East squad at the World Junior A Challenge while blueliner rookies Clark Hiebert and Joe Kennedy have improved by leaps and bounds as they got adjusted to the league and up front Brandon Lucchesi (currently serving a one-game suspension) and Zach Sirota have both scored a club-leading 10 goals.