The first rankings of 2016 and it would only be fitting that I’m a bit late on things.
The first ranking of every year is sure to have a few changes mainly because the majority of the Alliance attended the Toronto Marlies Holiday Tournament, with teams achieving varying degrees of success. Not only did we have plenty to see at the Marlies, but in two days of regular season games there were plenty of outcomes that gave some teams a boost while others began skating on thinner ice.
There aren’t many weeks left in the rankings with just two and a half weeks remaining in the season. But let’s be serious, rankings get thrown out the window when playdowns begin and it’s been proven throughout the season that most teams have vulnerable games and can be beaten or given quite the scare any given night.
Here we go with the first rankings of 2016.
- London Jr. Knights (1) – The Knights continue to hold the top spot by the narrowest of margins. They took the weekend off from league play, but did have a nice showing at the Marlies, making quarter-finals after a disappointing run at the Silver Stick Tournament. London has a tough weekend with games against Windsor and Kitchener and with just a two point lead over Waterloo, every win is crucial.
- Waterloo Wolves (2) – The Wolves are trailing by the thinnest of margins despite moving on to the semi-finals at the Marlies last weekend. They followed that up with a close win over Lambton and a last second win over the Lakers. The Wolves host Hamilton on Saturday with first place in their grasp.
- Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs (3) – I was very tempted to bump the Chiefs down to 4th after their loss to Kitchener Saturday and then a tie Sunday with the Jr. Sting. Only problem is the Chiefs have consistently been a top team and a two game slide isn’t enough to drop them. With just Chatham on the schedule this week, the Chiefs are in need of an impressive showing.
- Kitchener Jr. Rangers (4) – Kitchener had a big weekend, downing Elgin and then dominating Brantford. They’ve had a remarkable turnaround after their season started on a rough note. Kitchener draws London Saturday in a game Kitchener hopes will show them as contenders for the top of the Alliance.
- Huron-Perth Lakers (5) – The team is back and healthy and it is showing. Owen Gilhula returned on Saturday as the Lakers shut out Chatham-Kent. He wasn’t able to fend off the Wolves, but the Lakers lone matchup this week is Friday where they host the 99ers. The Lakers and Chiefs are currently in a neck and neck battle for 3rd spot in the league.
- Windsor Jr. Spitfires (6) – One of the lone teams not to go to the Marlies tournament, the Jr. Spitfires came back roaring, putting up 12 goals in two games this weekend while allowing just one in the dying seconds Sunday against Cambridge. The big win was a 9-0 drubbing of Hamilton. Windsor has London and Lambton this weekend. Windsor will need to go on a big run to try and catch up to Kitchener in 5th spot.
- Lambton Jr. Sting (8) – The Jr. Sting played a couple tough games this weekend and was able to draw up a point against a tough Chiefs squad. A 1-0 loss to Waterloo was heartbreaking, especially considering how tough Lambton has played Waterloo this year. Lambton is in a tough battle for that final playdown spot. They currently sit one point back with one game in hand. Jr. Sting get Cambridge and Windsor this weekend and actually play Windsor three times between now and the end of the season.
- Hamilton Huskies (7) – The Huskies are a team that confuses me so much. They ended December in season play struggling mightily on the defensive end, then went to the Marlies tournament and nearly won their division. First game back, defensive struggles are back allowing nine goals to Windsor. Something has to click for Hamilton as they are sliding to a playdown spot where a match up against London or Waterloo looms. Hamilton will take on Waterloo along with Cambridge this week with defense on their mind.
- Chatham-Kent Cyclones (9) – After a disappointing season last year, the Cyclones turned it around and are fighting for the final playdown spot. The schedule plays into the Cyclones hands as they avoid the top of the league with the exception of Elgin the rest of the way out. It would be a nice story to see Chatham-Kent advance. The ball is in their court now.
- Sun County Panthers (10) – The Panthers continued to rack up points this past weekend, playing the Cyclones to a 5-5 tie. Sun County is now 3-1-1 in their past five games and is now just four points behind Chatham-Kent for the final playdown spot. Unfortunately, it may be a little late for the Panthers with just three games remaining in their season. Despite that, the heart shown by this team is something to commend the players and coaching staff on.
- Brantford 99ers (11) – The 99ers were unable to get anything going against Kitchener on Sunday, registering less than 10 shots against Jackson Dewar. They’ve fallen on hard times and things don’t get any easier for them as their lone contest this week is a trip to the Rotary Complex to the meet the now healthy Lakers.
- Cambridge Hawks (12) – The Hawks have eight games remaining on their schedule which gives them eight more chances to secure their first win of the season. On Sunday against Windsor, the Hawks played a decent game for the second and third periods, but their shortfalls in the first cost them quickly. The Hawks take on Hamilton, Lambton and Chatham-Kent this weekend. Is this the weekend where the 0 goes?