In sports history, the playoff battle between the fourth and fifth seeds has always been a tight one. When it comes to the Alliance this season, I full expect that trend to continue.
The Cambridge Hawks and Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs are two fairly similar clubs. They have forwards who can light up the scoresheet on occasion, a defense that is led by an offensively minded player and solid goaltending on the back end. The Chiefs and Hawks played three games this season, but two of those were within the first month of the season. In those two games, each team came away with a victory. In their latest meeting, the Hawks sprung out to a quick lead but Elgin battled back and the two ended with a tie in a very physical contest.
If you like physical hockey, I expect this series to deliver that for you and more. Both teams like the big hits and there seems to be some antimosity between the two clubs. This series will also feature some of the biggest hitters in the Alliance with the likes of Mark Woolley, Jagger O’Toole and Navrin Mutter on the ice.
The key for Cambridge to have success will be to ensure their secondary scoring options provide them with offense. Ryan Campbell and David Anderson will always be threat with Anderson have three goals and five points in the team’s three matchups this season. The Hawks are at their best when players like Kyle Yetman, Nathan Yeck and Tyler Kress are lighting the lamp.
Another bonus for the Hawks will be the return of dangerous forward Steven Grant. Grant has been out of action since the beginning of December with an injury but is expected to be back for game one on Saturday. Grant’s return gives the Hawks offense a big boost and also gives them more combinations to use up front.
The Chiefs play their strongest hockey when they are able to move the puck around the ice effectively. Elgin doesn’t have that superior scorer this year like Jake Murray last season, but they do have a large group of forwards who can put the puck in the net. Hunter Monkhouse, Mutter and Jakob Marche are the notables but Russell Oldham and now forward Jake Weston can be dangerous when the Chiefs team game is followed.
One thing both teams will want to avoid is being caught on the fast break. Both teams have defense that like to rush the puck. While it is advantagous to have, both teams have been caught on numerous occasions, giving the other team a solid scoring chance.
Goaltending is fairly even in the series. Jet Greaves started all three games in the season series and was spectacular in the final few regular season games. I do expect AJ Scala to get some games in this series though as he has been strong for the Hawks this season as well. Elgin could go for a straight split in the series between Liam McCarthy and Brant Galbraith with both goaltenders starting big games throughout the season.
I have a feeling this series goes five games and there is a small part of my mind that thinks we could go a full six games between these two teams. I give the slight edge to Cambridge in this one. I expect lots of close contests with the physical play at a high level. Look for the Chiefs to shut down one of the Hawks big scoring threats.
Cambridge Hawks over Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs in 5 Games
Players to Watch:
Cambridge Hawks – Kyle Yetman
Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs – Navrin Mutter