For the third consecutive year, Waterloo and London will meet with the Alliance championship up for grabs. With Waterloo having won both of those meetings, and the past three Alliance titles, the Jr. Knights will look to conquer the reigning champion with arguably the best team currently in the province and possibly the best team to wear the Jr. Knights jerseys.
London has cruised their way to the championship series. London powered their way past Sun County in the opening round and then had very little trouble sweeping away an incredibly talented Cambridge team in the second round. London has been led by some familiar faces through their seven postseason games with top OHL Draft prospect Ryan Suzuki leading the way with 18 points while talented winger Aidan Prueter has eight goals and 16 points.
Waterloo quickly and easily got through their first round series with the Hamilton Huskies, but weren’t as fortunate in the second round. The Wolves took a commanding 7-3 point lead over the Kitchener Jr. Rangers, but Kitchener battled back hard and Waterloo was forced to go eight games before winning the final do-or-die game 3-2. Keean Washkurak played a big role in their series win over Kitchener as Nathan Allensen was practically eliminated on the offensive end by the Kitchener coaching staff. Washkurak has 12 points through 11 contests this postseason while Jake Code has quietly been a PPG player so far.
During the season, both teams picked up a victory and the two teams also played to a tie. No team was able to match up with London this evenly through the regular season and the last loss for the Jr. Knights was at the hands of Waterloo back in January. Owen Say started all three games during the season and I would expect him to continue that trend during this series. Waterloo used both goaltenders but it has appeared that Riley McCabe has begun to assert himself as the defacto number one goaltender ahead of Cy Martin.
As with any team, the Wolves will need to clamp down on multiple London forwards. Brett Budgell tallied three goals against Waterloo this season while Jeffrey Burridge added two more. One thing Waterloo will want to avoid is getting into penalty trouble. The puck movement and multiple threats both London powerplay lines have is not something Waterloo will want to flirt with too often.
London did a good job during the regular season of shutting down both Washkurak and Allensen. The two combined for just one goal and one assist in the three meetings. While the two stars were managed, the Jr. Knights will still need to watch out for the likes of Brayden Krieger and Tyson Hillier, who combined for seven points in the three games. London could take a page out of Kitchener’s playbook when it comes to eliminating the defense on the offensive end.
One thing to look at in this series will be fatigue. Waterloo just got finished a gruelling eight games series on Tuesday night while London will have had two weeks off from game action when the puck drops for game one. The rest can either work in favour of London being fresh or against them being rusty. We have seen instances of both in the past.
While Waterloo will be looking for an incredible fourth straight Alliance championship, I do feel that London finally has the team to breakthrough and capture the title. This is the final series I believe most were hoping for during and after the season completed and fans should be in for an entertaining affair.
London Jr. Knights over Waterloo Wolves in 4 Games
Players to Watch:
London Jr. Knights – Ryan Suzuki
Waterloo Wolves – Nathan Allensen