Alliance Series Preview: (4) Brantford 99ers vs. (5) Waterloo Wolves

Our next series looks at probably the closest one in the opening round. The Waterloo Wolves will look to reach their sixth consecutive Alliance championship, but their road will be much tougher than previous years. Brantford returns to the playdowns for the first time since their semi-final run with the 1998 born players. This years team has showcased speed and skill along with showcasing some players for the future.

Season Series:

Brantford defeated Waterloo 1-0 on October 2nd

Waterloo defeated Brantford 3-1 on January 9th

Waterloo defeated Brantford 4-0 on January 27th

Leading Scorers:

Brantford                                                                 Waterloo

Andrew Casasanta 13-25-38                                  Chase Broda 16-19-35

Maddox Callens 15-18-33                                       Nathan Dewar 15-18-33

Theo Hill 13-19-32                                                   Zac McCann 14-14-28
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2017/18 Alliance Player Rankings 16-25

The time has finally come. After nearly four months of watching these Alliance teams go head-to-head with each other and teams from other associations, the initial player rankings are upon us.

Unlike the past couple of years, this year seems to have been the hardest to compile. The 02 age group has a lot of players with such small differences that after compiling this list blindly four times, I got four different lists each time.

The initial list has representatives from 10 different teams. There is a good mix of forwards and defense and a goaltender also happened to make it onto the list. There were also a lot of players who just missed out and that leads me to believe that the second edition of this rankings will look significantly different.

25. Adrian Stubberfield (Chatham-Kent Cyclones)

The list begins with Stubberfield, a Cyclones forward who has under the radar for most of the season thus far. A leader up front, Stubberfield has deceptive speed on the wing and uses that speed to really create breakout opportunities and odd man rushes. When on those rushes, Stubberfield possesses a quick release that catches many goalies off guard. That has let Stubberfield stay at the top of the Cyclones scoring chat with 10 goals on the year.

24. Brendan Mairs (London Jr. Knights)

A player who has really grown over the course of the season, Mairs came over from the Waterloo Wolves and has been an offensive machine for the Jr. Knights. With 15 goals and 33 points, Mairs is tied for third in the Alliance in scoring. Mairs is a bigger forward who has shown the ability to cut in front of the net and wreck havoc. Mairs is also one of the options on London’s first powerplay unit.

23. Alexander Bikos (London Jr. Knights)

A name I thought should have been named to the Alliance All-Star game, Bikos is a very smart defender. His exceptional skating allows him to use his vision to create scoring chances. One thing you notice quickly about Bikos is his tendency to slow play down and seemingly have forever to weigh his options in the passing game. Along with his defensive play, Bikos has shown some ability to bring the puck up the ice himself and be an option from the point.

22. Cooper Walker (Cambridge Hawks)

One of the smartest players in the Alliance this year, Walker is one of those players who may not blow you away from a statistics standpoint. Walker is a great facilitator in the offensive zone and has such a calm demeanor when moving the puck around. There is no aspect of his game that I would consider “elite”, but I do feel that he is a very well rounded player. Learning the game from his father I’m sure has helped a lot and I don’t doubt that he will make an impact at the junior level.

21. Spencer Lecot (Chatham-Kent Cyclones)

Lecot is one of my personal favourites in the Alliance this season. A big defenseman who has a bullet for a shot, Lecot has taken over as the quarterback for a Cyclones team looking to land a top eight spot come seasons end. With size definitely on his size, Lecot will use it to play a more physical game but also has the skating to bring the puck up the ice and even take it down the wing for a scoring chance. With not much buzz, a definitely sleeper opportunity for a team at the next level.

20. Mason Mantzavrakos (Cambridge Hawks)

Another Hawk makes the list as offensive forward Mason Mantzavrakos has done a fantastic job coming over from the GTHL. Mantzavrakos in early games seemed to be more of a sniper and with his shot that is understandable. Throughout the season, Mantzavrakos has relied less on his shot and more on becoming a great facilitator on the ice.

19. Joey Studnicka (London Jr. Knights)

Studnicka missed some time earlier this season, but he has come back and been a big part in London’s offense along with linemates Quinton Pepper and George Diaco. Studnicka plays a power forward game but also has some great puck possession skills. His work down low and in the corners is strong and his goal scoring ability is better than shown.

18. Owen McGowan (Hamilton Huskies)

The lone representative from the Hamilton Huskies, McGowan is a defender who may not get the recognition he deserves based on the performance of his team this season. McGowan is a smooth skating defender who has a rocket for a shot. McGowan could use his size more often but does show flashes at times. McGowan could be a player who slides due to the struggles of Hamilton this year.

17. Dylan Robinson (Brantford 99ers)

Robinson continues the early trend of Alliance defenders in the rankings. Robinson is a different kind of player when compared to the likes of McGowan and Bikos in that he is more offensively gifted than others. A player who routinely carries the puck into the offensive zone, Robinson moves good for a bigger player and uses his long reach to protect the puck from opposing defenders. Robinson is 2nd in defense scoring in the Alliance, trailing only his 03 teammate Cole Hipkin.

16. Theo Hill (Brantford 99ers)

Speed is the name of the game when it comes to Theo Hill. The 99ers forward is one of, if not the fatest skater in the league this season and it’s his speed and finishing ability that has made him a dangerous threat. Consistency may be one aspect of his game that Hill could address, but there aren’t many holes in his play. When Hill is on his game, the 99ers become a much more dangerous squad.

Alliance Showcase Day One Recap

It was a long trek to get to the Central Park Athletic Centre in Windsor, Ontario. Windsor is playing host to the 2017 Alliance Minor Midget Showcase event after two years of the event taking place in St. Mary’s under the Huron-Perth Lakers banner.

The September showcase is a little bit different than years past. Due to the Alliance running a second showcase weekend in December around their All-Star weekend, all teams will play just three games this weekend as opposed to the four they had previously played.

Here is a brief recap of some of the action that I was able to catch.

Sun County’s Offensive Prowess Powers Past Brantford

In my first viewing of this season’s Sun County Panthers squad, it did not take long to see why the offense has been so successful in the early part of the season. The Panthers used their speed and puck movement to get out in front early and despite a strong third period from the 99ers, held on for the win.

Matthew Maggio, John Ulicny, Ryan Gagnier and Zane Dalpe were all stellar in the contest. Ulicny’s shot and Maggio’s speed were on display in full force as Sun County improved to 3-0. For Brantford, their best players in the game were probably their youngest in Cole Hipkin and Maddox Callens. Hipkin showed he belongs as one of the top defenders in the Alliance while Callens had some of the best chances for the 99ers all day.
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2017/18 Brantford 99ers Season Preview

Brantford LogoMinor Midget Record – 7-19-4 (10th Place)

Minor Midget Result – Did Not Qualify for Playdowns

Major Bantam Record – 16-10-6 (4th Place)

Major Bantam Result – Lost in 1st Round to Huron-Perth (6 Games)

After a disappointing season at the Minor Midget level and a very disappointing exit at bantam, the 99ers will look to some skilled younger players to bring them back to postseason play.

The 2001 age group for the 99ers was a tough year for many different reasons. The offense was never able to get into a consistent rhythm and the defense, despite having Aidan McLeod on the blue line, couldn’t shut down their opposing offense every single evening to help the low scoring offense.

At the bantam level, the 99ers were one of, if not the top team in the league for the majority of the season. It wasn’t until near the end of the year when Brantford began a slide that continued into the postseason, culminating in a huge upset loss to Huron-Perth in the first round.

Brantford comes into this season having lost their top player from a year ago. Peyton Adams-Matthews was a key piece to the 99ers defense last season, but he has moved on and so has Brantford. As of right now, only one member of the defense from last season will be returning this year. The 99ers have brought in solid names such as Ben Feijo from the Hamilton Huskies and Lucas Branch from the Jr. Bulldogs.

The new defense will join the returning Cole Hipkin, an 03 player who made the bantam all star team last season. Hipkin will be one of two 2003 born players to wear the 99ers jersey this season. Maddox Callens will join the team after player Minor Bantam last season. While there isn’t a whole lot to go off based on zero viewings of Minor Bantam, Callens was 2nd in total points at the Alliance Showcase last season.

In addition to Callens, the 99ers offense will still include Andrew Casasanta, who made an All-Star appearance for the 99ers last season. Brantford will also return both of the goaltenders from their bantam team with Ben Edwards taking the role as the clear number one in net.

While the loss of Adams-Matthews will sting for the 99ers, the team should still be able to find success this season. The 99ers haven’t made the postseason since the 2013/14 season, when they went all the way to the final four. A postseason berth is well within the teams grasp this season while also developing some key pieces for the 2018/19 season as well.