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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Alliance Quarter-Finals Roundup

It took a little over a week, but the quarter-finals have finally been settled and the final four teams have been decided. London, Waterloo, Kitchener and Windsor will battle it out for the chance to be crowned the Alliance champion. While no series went to a deciding 5th game, the series were close for the most part. The lone series that saw a large discrepancy was London’s win over Chatham, which was a #1 seed against a #8.

With the semi-finals now set, we will see top seeded London take on the lone upset winner of the first round Windsor. While Waterloo will battle with their highway 8 rivals the Kitchener Jr. Rangers. Each series brings different questions will some key factors that could determine who comes out on top. Previews for those series should be released this week.

London explodes offensively to take down Cyclones

The Jr. Knights were able to find the back of the net 18 times in three games as they completed the sweep of Chatham-Kent. The names you would expect to see on the game sheet were there, but there was one prominent name that was missing from this series.

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Series Preview: (3) Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs vs. (6) Windsor Jr. Spitfires

Season Series:

Elgin-Middlesex over Windsor 6-3 (Nov. 21)

Elgin-Middlesex over Windsor 4-3 (Dec. 19)

Windsor over Elgin-Middlesex 5-0 (Dec. 20)

Out of all the series that will be taking place in the first round of playdowns, the closest one in my opinion will be between Windsor and Elgin-Middlesex.

In their three meetings this season, both teams had chances to take the victory and change the final results. Their first meeting in November saw the two teams tied after two periods before the Chiefs exploded for three in the final 20 minutes to take the win. Move on to December and the teams were once again tied late, with the Chiefs grabbing a 3rd period goal with just a couple of minutes remaining to take yet another victory. Their finally meeting is the anomaly of the three with Windsor and James Walker completely shutting down the Chiefs offense and grabbing a 5-0 shutout.

The Chiefs, since probably early October, have consistently been one of the top teams in the Alliance. They have solid goaltending that is helped out by safe defensive play and a balanced offense that can grab goals any any time from any line. The big line consists of Aidan Reid, Wes Dobbin and Alliance scoring champion Jake Murray. Considering they were shut out in the final matchup, the three combined for 16 points in the first two games. Should they continue to produce at that level, the Chiefs should experience plenty of success.

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Series Preview: (1) London Jr. Knights vs. (8) Chatham-Kent Cyclones

Season Series:

London over Chatham-Kent 5-0 (Oct. 5)

London over Chatham-Kent 5-3 (Nov. 30)

London over Chatham-Kent 4-3 (Dec. 20)

It’s very hard to say that a team with the record London had would have preferred to not play the Chatham-Kent Cyclones, but it would be hard to say the Knights didn’t have their fair share of troubles with the Cyclones despite sweeping the season series.

Their first meeting is exactly as shown in the score with London getting ahead early and really shutting down the Cyclones offense. But their second and third meetings actually had Chatham-Kent leading in both those contests. Back in November, Chatham-Kent took a 3-0 lead into the 3rd period and had still had that same lead midway through before the floodgates opened and London scored five unanswered, led by a natural hat trick by Joel Mazzilli.

December saw the same story as the Cyclones held another 3-0 lead 30 seconds into the 2nd period before London scored four unanswered once again to claim victory. Some people would say this could be a case of London not taking Chatham-Kent seriously, but if that is the case then those feelings better be long gone before Game One Saturday.

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

Season Series:

Waterloo over Hamilton 6-1 (Oct. 5)

Waterloo and Hamilton tie 2-2 (Dec. 17)

Waterloo over Hamilton 3-2 (Jan. 9)

When you look at the four playdown series, probably the series that featured the closest games throughout the regular season is the one between Waterloo and Hamilton. Despite the early 6-1 loss, all three of their regular season games featured fairly even play with just some swings in momentum playing the difference in Waterloo winning two of the three meetings.

Waterloo is heading into the playdowns with a lot of momentum and confidence after downing top seeded London in the final weekend of the season. While Hamilton fell to Kitchener in their final regular season game, the Huskies have played significantly better over the past few weeks than they did in December. The turning point for Hamilton could be the Marlies tournament, where they were able to secure a spot in the final 16.

The Wolves have gone through the season playing with a stellar combination of offense, defense and goaltending. Nathan Torchia, a consensus top five goalie in this years OHL Draft has been strong in net and Alex Metzger has statistically been a top goalie in the Alliance this year as well. Waterloo also plays with big defenseman and have more than a handful of options up front to put the puck in the net.

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What’s At Stake In The Final Week

Sometimes it is actually quite rare to have so many teams playing for different things comes the final week of the season.

A lot of the time, almost everything has already been decided and teams are playing games to get some action in and just avoid injury before heading to the post season. This year in the Alliance, that would be a different story.

Not only are we still trying to pin down who the eight teams advancing will be, but nobody has technically clinched a specific seeding with just seven days remaining in the season. Sure, there are a few things that are all but decided, but plenty still to play for which makes this week as big as they come.

Let’s first look at the battle for the final spot in the Alliance play downs. Seven of the positions have already been clinched and those have been clinched by teams that have shown flash of brilliance throughout the season. The battle for eighth comes down to the Chatham-Kent Cyclones, winners of just one game last season and the Lambton Jr. Sting, a team that has come up just short on many occasions whether that be losing by a single goal or tying a game they could or should have won.

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