It took a little over a week, but the quarter-finals have finally been settled and the final four teams have been decided. London, Waterloo, Kitchener and Windsor will battle it out for the chance to be crowned the Alliance champion. While no series went to a deciding 5th game, the series were close for the most part. The lone series that saw a large discrepancy was London’s win over Chatham, which was a #1 seed against a #8.
With the semi-finals now set, we will see top seeded London take on the lone upset winner of the first round Windsor. While Waterloo will battle with their highway 8 rivals the Kitchener Jr. Rangers. Each series brings different questions will some key factors that could determine who comes out on top. Previews for those series should be released this week.
London explodes offensively to take down Cyclones
The Jr. Knights were able to find the back of the net 18 times in three games as they completed the sweep of Chatham-Kent. The names you would expect to see on the game sheet were there, but there was one prominent name that was missing from this series.
Top prospect Eric Guest missed all three games against Chatham-Kent as Brendan Ross noted was a “minor injury”. Despite the fact that Guest was missing, the other London forwards more than picked up the extra slack. Both Brett and Kyle Fisher finished the series with seven points and sniper Joel Mazzilli had five. In a somewhat surprising move, Jukka Schotter played in all three games while Keaghan Brett didn’t see any game action in the series. Schotter was solid, allowing just four goals in the three games with a game two shutout.
The Junior Knights are without top forward Eric Guest as he nurses a minor injury. Knights sporting new buckets too
— Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood) February 2, 2016
Chatham-Kent was able to put up a strong effort in the first game, but London just proved to be a bit too much. Grant Spence and Eric Carter were strong up front for the Cyclones. Missing Garrett McCarthur for the first two games of the series wasn’t an ideal situation for Chatham-Kent either. Both teams played a very physical style in the series and that may have been Chatham’s downfall. London scored a whopping seven PP goals which is equal to about 39% of their goals in the series. Giving a potent offense like that so many chances on the man advantage.
London will now move on to face a tough test in defensive Windsor while Chatham-Kent awaits the 4th seed from the opening playoff round.
Waterloo avoids early scare to down Hamilton
Despite losing the first game and falling behind 1-0 in both games three and four, the Waterloo Wolves were able to overcome some slow starts to take down the Hamilton Huskies in four games.
In my preview for this series, I noted that the Hamilton goaltending would determine the success of the Huskies. Andrew Barwinski in game one set the tone for the series with some stellar play. He and fellow goalie Carson Owen continued that trend throughout the games and played very well, despite the losing outcomes. In a somewhat surprising move, Nathan Torchia played all four games for Waterloo with Alex Metzger not seeing any ice time. I was surprising because near the end of the season, Metzger was having strong showings against tough teams that I thought would garner him some playdown action.
The Wolves saw heavy production from their top line of Mitch Hoelscher, Alex Gritz and Spencer Kersten. The three of them combined for 20 points in the four games with Gritz leading the way with nine. In addition to those three, Mason McMahon had a very solid series playing alongside captain Chris Playfair. Hamilton’s offense was led through sniper Derek Seguin and saw players like Andrew Hanaka and Connor Gibson also contribute solid games.
As stated earlier, Waterloo had slow starts in nearly every game with the exception of the quick goal in game one. In fact, that first period goal in game one was the only one that Waterloo scored in all four games combined. On the contrary, the Wolves scored eight goals in the 3rd period, which accounted for more than half of their goals in the entire series. Slow starts followed by torrid finishes worked in this series, but one would have to wonder if that is sustainable going forward with Waterloo taking on cross town rival Kitchener in the semi-finals.
Windsor pulls of upset of Elgin-Middlesex
There was one upset predicted in the first round and that was Windsor over Elgin-Middlesex and they were able to do that in four games. Windsor continues to roll and have been on a hot streak since near the end of December.
With Windsor really being known as a team that plays a heavy defensive style, they did live up to that moniker through the first two games of the series. A shutout in game two followed up a loss in which they allowed the Chiefs only 17 shots on goal. The final two games of the season resembled more of a shootout as the Jr. Spitfires were trying to blitz the Chiefs with goal after goal.
The player of the series for Windsor has to go to Jake Rosa who was outstanding for the team offensively, out performing top names like Silverio and Ferguson. Rosa was the leading force offensively when Windsor was winning. Windsor was able to open up on the offensive side as Elgin-Middlesex was missing one of their top weapons for most of the series.
Skilled forward Jake Murray missed games one and two before returning in game three and providing a much needed offensive spark for the Chiefs. Murray scored twice in game three although the defense wasn’t able to hold up for a win. Murray then once again missed game four and thus the Chiefs were eliminated. I don’t want to say that the outcome would be different, but to say Murray wouldn’t change this series is just plain false. Aidan Reid continued strong play up front for the Chiefs and continue to impress in his standing in the rankings.
Windsor now takes on London in an incredibly intriguing series that will pit the defense of Windsor against the high powered offense of London. This will be one to watch going forward.
Kitchener Jr. Rangers sweep shorthanded Huron-Perth Lakers
It wasn’t an easy series and they never were able to run away with a game, but Kitchener was able to do just enough to get past the Huron-Perth Lakers in three games, ending their series in just four days.
The tempo of the series changed as soon as Lakers forward Owen Gilhula was deemed unable to play due to injury. With the Lakers missing a huge weapon up front, it was up to the likes of Brady Hinz, Kaleb Pearson and Evan Dowd to pick up the slack. Despite all the extra attention paid to him, Hinz was still able to play his game and ended up with five points in the three games.
For Kitchener, they were lead offensively by captain Luke Bignell who had a nice tendency of putting in the rebounds on his way to four goals and eight points through the first three games. Eric Uba was also strong up front with five points to his name. Rhett Kimmel made all three starts for the Jr. Rangers and I would expect that trend to continue heading into the next series with Waterloo.
The series ultimately came down the Kitchener playing strong defense with the Lakers unable to beat them off the puck nor get around them on the rush. Kitchener also showed that they have multiple threats on offense with the likes of Commissio, McCombs, Demoe and Kawalec all chipping in on the score sheet.
Kitchener will now take on rival Waterloo with their confidence riding high as one of the hottest teams in the league. Add in the fact the two teams played fairly evenly over the course of the year and this could be a long one.