Series Preview: (1) London Jr. Knights vs. (2) Waterloo Wolves

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.

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Series Preview: (1) London Jr. Knights vs. (4) Cambridge Hawks

The London Jr. Knights cruised into the semi-finals by further cementing their offensive prowess against the leagues best goaltender. Cambridge also swept their way into the final four in a physical affair that featured a home away from home game. The obvious question heading into this 8 point series is whether the Hawks defense and stellar goaltending can last a full 50 minutes against London’s powerhouse forwards.

London, who still own top spot in the OHL Cup rankings, made a definite statement in their first round series with the Sun County Panthers, outscoring them 17-3 through the three game series. The Jr. Knights were lead by a few familiar faces as Ryan Suzuki (4G, 5A), Aidan Preuter (2G, 6A) and Brett Budgell (2G, 5A) led the way offensively. The offense was spread out though with London having the top five scorers during the postseason thus far.

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Series Preview: (2) Waterloo Wolves vs. (7) Hamilton Huskies

A rematch of last year’s first round series, the Waterloo Wolves quest for yet another Alliance championship will need to go through a Hamilton team that has been playing tight, defensive hockey over the past month.

The Waterloo Wolves are on an incredibly impressive run heading into the postseason. The Wolves have won 16 straight games which includes a huge win over the London Jr. Knights just a couple weeks ago. While Waterloo has not dominated throughout their win streak, they have found a way to pull out games when they needed to and get timely scoring along the way.
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Series Preview: (1) London Jr. Knights vs. (8) Sun County Panthers

The London Jr. Knights are currently the number one team in the province according to the OHL Cup rankings and have been nearly untouchable for the Alliance season. Sun County recently clinched a playoff spot and a some recent tough games led them to falling into the 8th seed.

London only lost two season games all year and dominated the majority of the teams. The one team they did not totally dominate was the Sun County Panthers. In three league games this year, London went 2-0-1 but their largest victory was just two goals. Only Waterloo and Kitchener played the Jr. Knights tougher than the Panthers did this season.
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Series Preview: (3) Kitchener Jr. Rangers vs. (6) Windsor Jr. Spitfires

Last season, the Windsor Jr. Spitfires took on the Kitchener Jr. Rangers in a preliminary round series at Major Bantam. Windsor was a six seed, Kitchener was last at 11. Kitchener pulled off the upset in three games. These two teams meet again this year, but this time Kitchener is the top seed and Windsor is looking for the upset.

These two teams are not strangers to each other. Both squads met up four times this year with a quarter-final date at the Dale Parker tournament joining their three league games. Kitchener took the season series 3-1, winning the final three meetings which included that quarter-final game.
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Series Preview: (4) Cambridge Hawks vs. (5) Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs

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.
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Waterloo completes Three-Peat; takes out London is 6 games

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Image courtesy of Twitter.com/Alliance_Hockey

When the dust settled after an incredible winner take all game at RIM Park Sunday night, the Waterloo Wolves claimed the 2015/16 Minor Midget Alliance Championship, their third straight title at the age group.

There were many questions heading into the final game of the series. London had looked dominant in game 5 behind stellar play from Jukka Schotter in goal. The Wolves were the walking wounded. Mitch Hoelscher, Mason McMahon, Liam Hartman and Evan Kula were all banged up and the Wolves were unaware whether some or any of them would suit up. In the end, Hoelscher and Kula would play and Waterloo would bring up Bantam players Keean Washkurak and Callan Christner.

The physical tone of the series reached a peak in game 6 with many players getting into heated battles. Some of the standout ones were Mason Hardy and Joel Mazzilli going back and forth along with Eric Guest and Alex Gritz having some moments along the boards. Early on in this one, the goaltenders were stealing the show. Both Schotter and Nathan Torchia was tasked with making some big saves in order to keep the game scoreless. The save that stands out the most was Schotter absolutely robbing Chris Playfair on a shorthanded breakaway with his right pad.

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Alliance Championship Preview: London Jr. Knights vs. Waterloo Wolves

Season Series:

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.

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Series Preview: (2) Waterloo Wolves vs. (4) Kitchener Jr. Rangers

Season Series:

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.

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Series Preview: (1) London Jr. Knights vs. (6) Windsor Jr. Spitfires

Season Series:

London over Windsor 5-2 (Nov. 8)

London over Windsor 4-2 (Dec. 13)

London over Windsor 2-1 (Jan. 4)

The top seed in the Alliance this year, the London Jr. Knights, will do battle with the only team to score an upset based on the standings in the Windsor Jr. Spitfires.

In their first round series, London relied on an unstoppable offense to blast their way past Chatham-Kent while Windsor used their tight defense and some surprising offense to get by Elgin-Middlesex in four games. You could consider this series as London’s offensive power against Windsor’s defensive prowess and that is one reason I absolutely love this series.

When you look at the season series, it’s easy to look at the fact that London went 3-0 and think that this series would be no different. In those three games though, Windsor was never actually out of a game and were always just a goal away from changing the game. Their first meeting in November had Windsor battle back from being down 3-0 early to close the gap to 3-2 at the flood. Same results in December with the exact same score at the flood. The one thing you can look at is the fact that Windsor was never out shot by London, which you would expect to happen at least once with the multiple weapons the Jr. Knights have.

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