Sometimes it is actually quite rare to have so many teams playing for different things comes the final week of the season.
A lot of the time, almost everything has already been decided and teams are playing games to get some action in and just avoid injury before heading to the post season. This year in the Alliance, that would be a different story.
Not only are we still trying to pin down who the eight teams advancing will be, but nobody has technically clinched a specific seeding with just seven days remaining in the season. Sure, there are a few things that are all but decided, but plenty still to play for which makes this week as big as they come.
Let’s first look at the battle for the final spot in the Alliance play downs. Seven of the positions have already been clinched and those have been clinched by teams that have shown flash of brilliance throughout the season. The battle for eighth comes down to the Chatham-Kent Cyclones, winners of just one game last season and the Lambton Jr. Sting, a team that has come up just short on many occasions whether that be losing by a single goal or tying a game they could or should have won.
For Chatham, they’ve been a team that has won on offense and has had a knack for getting into a shootout with other teams. The Cyclones have given up a league high 122 goals through their first 31 games. In addition to that, they have scored 91 goals this year, putting them right near the likes of Waterloo and Huron-Perth in the goal scoring department.
The battle is really Chatham-Kent’s to lose. They hold a one point lead with two games remaining while the Jr. Sting have just one left, a visit to Komoka to take on the Chiefs. It would be a disappointing end to the Jr. Sting’s season if they were to come up just short of a top eight spot, but a great story considering where Chatham-Kent was last season.
The other intriguing story heading into the final week is who grabs home ice for the first round of playdowns. It has already been determined that London and Waterloo will each have home ice with Elgin-Middlesex, Huron-Perth, Kitchener and Windsor battling it out for the last two spots. The Chiefs have almost locked down the 3rd seed, but if they struggle the final week, Kitchener and even Huron-Perth could catch and surpass them.
While home ice isn’t the biggest thing in the world, it does make a huge impact when you’re talking about teams travelling. It’s the difference between Windsor players playing at home on a Tuesday or having to travel two or three hours one way.
Based on schedule and where they stand currently, I’d say the favourites are the Chiefs and Jr. Rangers to claim those three and four spots.
When it comes down to the actual playdown matchups, it isn’t hard to make these predictions but let’s just say a week out this appears where we are headed:
(1) London Jr. Knights vs. (8) Chatham-Kent Cyclones
(2) Waterloo Wolves vs. (7) Hamilton Huskies
(3) Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs vs. (6) Windsor Jr. Spitfires
(4) Kitchener Jr. Rangers vs. (5) Huron-Perth Lakers
Only time will tell but things are getting very exciting for those who enjoy Alliance hockey.