198 regular season games have passed and we have finally made it to playdown season.
Lots has happened over the past four months from teams going on extended losing streaks to teams heating up to increase their positioning near the end of the season. We have seen upsets, blowouts and some increased testosterone and it all comes down to this.
Over the next six weeks or so, we will see who the premier team is in the Alliance and whether the Alliance can duplicate or even surpass their result last year of having a team make the semi-finals of the OHL Cup.
This will be the final rankings of the year and we have seen movements every which way. From now on, we will let the players on the ice determine who should be ranked #1.
- London Jr. Knights (1) – Despite the loss to Waterloo on Saturday night, I felt like London outplayed the Wolves for the first two periods before falling apart in the final 15 minutes or so. A team with as many offensive threats as London can win with any combination of goal scorers. London will try and avoid a total collapse when they meet Chatham-Kent in the first round.
- Waterloo Wolves (2) – The Wolves showed they can beat the Jr. Knights and that win must give them a world of confidence heading into the playdowns. The new Wolves line of Gritz, Hoelscher and Kersten will be a terror for any defense to take care of. They get started Friday when they host Hamilton.
- Kitchener Jr. Rangers (3) – Despite their loss to Waterloo on Wednesday, Kitchener is arguably still the hottest team heading into the post season. At one point, Kitchener was sitting in 10th spot in the standings, now their hosting a playdown series against a banged up Huron-Perth squad.
- Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs (4) – The Chiefs were able to conclude the season in 3rd spot and their reward is possibly the most difficult test in the first round against Windsor. The Chiefs will rely heavily on Alliance scoring champion Jake Murray to get through the tough Spitfires defense in hopes of another final four spot.
- Windsor Jr. Spitfires (6) – Windsor ended the season will a good stretch of victories and while some would point to a favourable schedule, it also has to do with Windsor gelling later than most squads. Windsor finished the year on a 6-1-1 stretch and could be the favourite to pull off an upset, should one happen.
- Huron-Perth Lakers (5) – It has been a rough season for the Lakers. The season started so promising with Huron-Perth coming out of the gate strong. But key injuries have slowed them down with the latest being another injury to star forward Owen Gilhula. Gilhula, who was in Waterloo in a sling on Sunday, presumably won’t be back for a while so the pressure is on Brady Hinz and Kaleb Pearson to help this team extend their season past the first round.
- Hamilton Huskies (7) – The Huskies have had a wild ride this season with some serious positives and some serious negatives throughout the way. They come into the playdowns with much better defensive play over their past five games. Going against a tough Waterloo squad, their defense will need to be on point for a long stretch of games.
- Chatham-Kent Cyclones (8) – The Cyclones were finally able to clinch the 8th spot on the last weekend of the season. It has been a wild ride for the Cyclones, but the boys must be very proud to rebound after the Minor Midgets last season won just a single game. Their reward for their hard work is a date with London. Not an impossible task, but definitely not an easy one either.
- Lambton Jr. Sting (9) – The Sting were poised to take a serious run at the final playdown spot, but a tough schedule down the stretch proved to be their downfall. Still plenty of hockey for Lambton to play with playoffs beginning soon. Despite finishing 9th, Lambton can still boast one of the best defenses in the league.
- Sun County Panthers (10) – The Panthers began the year near the bottom of the standings and at one point, was just a few points ahead of Cambridge in the standings and on the verge of falling to 12th. The turnaround this team made has been great to see. The Panthers finished just six points behind the Cyclones for 8th place, something that seemed impossible at the end of October.
- Brantford 99ers (11) – Brantford certainly can classify this season as a disappointment. Defense definitely wasn’t the issue for the 99ers this season, it was the fact that they were missing that explosive player up front. Still with some time for the players to develop, Brantford can turn many heads with a big run during the playoffs.
- Cambridge Hawks (12) – 33 games later and Cambridge was unable to come away with a victory during any regular season game. That’s a tough pill for any player or coach to swallow and I’m sure weighed on their minds down the stretch. I think the biggest thing for Cambridge at this point is to go as hard as they can and try and bring home their first W of the season in the playoffs.