London and Waterloo tie 22 (Sept. 25)
London over Waterloo 6-3 (Jan. 11)
Waterloo over London 4-2 (Jan. 23)
For the second straight season, the London Jr. Knights and the Waterloo Wolves will do battle with the title of Alliance Champion at stake. London will look to end the dreams of the Wolves as Waterloo is trying for their third consecutive championship. It is already difficult enough to win three championships in a row, but in order for Waterloo to achieve that goal, they will need to shut down a London offense that has been rolling all season long.
The beginning of the playdown session went about as perfect as it could for the Jr. Knights. They went in guns blazing and swept the Chatham-Kent Cyclones and then won the opening three games against a tough Windsor squad. But after going up 6-0 in points, it then took London four games to get the remaining two points to punch their ticket to the final. They were unable to stop Kory Silverio and Jacob Rosa and goalies Keaghan Brett and Jukka Schotter were not as strong as they had been the entire season. While they did eventually find their way into the final, London wasn’t able to bring plenty of momentum with them.
Waterloo played a tough seven game series against Kitchener, winning three of the final four games in the series. The Wolves relied heavily on defense and their goaltending to bring victories their way as the offense wasn’t able to click and beat the strong Kitchener defense. Both Nathan Torchia and Alex Metzger saw time in net for the Wolves and while he did get pulled in Game 2, Torchia played maybe his best three game stretch of the season to clinch the win. Forward Alex Gritz continued to pile on the points and still leads the league in playoff scoring, averaging two points per game.
In their three meetings this season, both teams collected three points but in reality, it was London who was the better team most nights. Their first game, London’s first game of the season, was at the Alliance Showcase tournament in St. Mary’s and ended in a 2-2 tie in what I remember being a fairly back and forth game but really noticing Kyle Fisher and Joel Mazzilli having their way up front.
Their second meeting, which was highly anticipated, was a game where London came out firing on all cylinders, scoring six goals in the first 20 minutes of play, chasing Torchia from the net. The offense was once again led by Mazzilli, Fisher and Eric Guest emerged as he has all season long. While Waterloo battled late to put three of their own in, London was the superior team that evening.
The final meeting at RIM Park on the final weekend of the season saw London control play for the first two periods with Guest doing a fantastic job manning the point on the powerplay and leading the rushes up the ice. But the Wolves did what they’ve done all season and made some good adjustments during the intermissions and put in three third period goals, including two in a 14 second span to take the win 3-2.
One key for Waterloo going into this series is they need to make a conscience effort to stay out of the penalty box. London runs its powerplays with their best five players all on the ice. Fisher, Guest, Mazzilli, Blake McConnell-Barker and Brett Fisher will spread the puck around with Guest being the lone man on the blue line. That is as deadly a powerplay combination any team could produce and the Wolves will not want to play with fire too many times.
London will need their defense to step up and contain the balanced Waterloo offense. Whether it is the first line of Gritz, Mitch Hoelscher and Spencer Kersten or the 2nd line with Chris Playfair and Mason McMahon, London will to be on their toes to not get burned. Waterloo has shown throughout the year that once they get a lead, they rarely relinquish it.
When it comes to predicting this series, it is a tough thing to do. Last year these teams went five games to find a winner and I see that once again being the case this season. Unlike last year though, I do think London will have the upper hand and end the streak of the Waterloo Wolves. I think London’s offense is so lethal that it’s hard to imagine Waterloo, with their fantastic combination of defense and goaltending, being able to contain them over the span of this series.
Alliance Scout Players to Watch:
London Jr. Knights – Eric Guest
Waterloo Wolves – Spencer Kersten