Kitchener over Waterloo 3-2 (Oct. 4)
Waterloo over Kitchener 3-2 (Oct. 24)
Waterloo over Kitchener 4-2 (Dec. 13 Gold Puck Semi-Final)
Waterloo over Kitchener 5-2 (Jan. 20)
The rivalry will be renewed as the Waterloo Wolves and the Kitchener Jr. Rangers will each travel down Highway 85 with a spot in the Alliance Championships and a guaranteed spot in the OHL Cup on the line.
The first round didn’t go exactly as Waterloo planned, although they did eventually come out on top. The Wolves dropped their first playdown game against the Hamilton Huskies and then needed strong 3rd periods in order to take a couple more games. It was the dynamic and skilled forwards that the Wolves possess that helped them to victory in four games, along with some more strong play from Nathan Torchia in goal.
Kitchener seemingly cruised their way past a hobbled Huron-Perth Lakers squad with a combination of stingy defense and a consistent offensive attack. The offense was led by captain Luke Bignell and Eric and Rhett Kimmel was solid in net playing all three games. The Jr. Rangers got into penalty trouble, but that wasn’t much of a concern for them as they scored three shorthanded goals in their three game series.
The two rivals actually played four games this season as they also met in the semi-finals of the Gold Puck Tournament in December. All four games were close with only their last meeting a few weeks ago resulting in a difference of more than two goals. In their Gold Puck matchup, Kitchener was outplaying Waterloo in that game until Kimmel left with an injury and the Wolves took control. Tyler McBay and Mitch Hoelscher were the big guns in their meetings this year with McBay tallying four points through the first two games.
For Waterloo to find success, they will need to duplicate many of the things they did well in their series with Hamilton. A balanced scoring attack is still a priority. The line of Alex Gritz, Spencer Kersten and Hoelscher will be the go-to line, but strong play from Mason McMahon and Chris Playfair puts threats on the ice at all times. Not to mention the offensive mind of Tristan De Jong, McBay and Justin Zuber on defense.
Nathan Torchia will once again see the majority of the action in this series, but I would think Alex Metzger also sees some action. Metzger got the start in January and was very good in net. The one thing the Wolves can’t rely on is making the third period comeback. That was a theme against the Huskies and with the way that Kitchener’s defense has played the past couple of months, that could prove a difficult task.
Nobody can debate that Kitchener has been the hottest team in the Alliance over the past couple of months and have even made their way into an Honorable Mention slot in the OHL Cup rankings. The Jr. Rangers have continually gotten great play from Kimmel in net and the defense has done a fantastic job beating the offense to the puck. Up front, Kitchener has had a balanced offensive attack with three lines consisting of guys who can score.
One key for Kitchener heading into this series will be staying out of the box. Things get emotional in a series, especially against guys they probably know off the ice, but giving Waterloo numerous chances on the PP is a recipe for a long night. Kimmel will play this series as people close to the team have told me it’s his series to win or lose in goal. Another factor is the fact that head coach Dean DeSilva will not be with the team for this series as he is coaching at the Youth Olympics in Norway. They will still have a wealth of knowledge behind the bench, but not having DeSilva could still be a factor.
This series will be answered with one question and that is whether the Kitchener defense can continue their stellar play against one of the most potent offenses in the league. Kitchener can score on both Torchia and Metzger and that confidence can take them a long way. I see a back and forth series, but ultimately the Wolves will put out ahead by using their speed advantage. Kitchener will put a scare in Waterloo, but I’ve got Wolves in 6 with a rematch against London looming in the Alliance Championships.
Alliance Scout Players to Watch:
Waterloo Wolves: Mason McMahon
Kitchener Jr. Rangers: Jacob Schnittke