SOUTH-WEST PLAYOFF PREVIEW
Buffalo Jr. Sabres (1) vs. Burlington Cougars (8)
Season Series: Buffalo wins season series 3-1-1
09/12/12 Burlington 5 at Buffalo 6
St. Michael’s Buzzers (2) vs. Toronto Jr. Canadiens (7)
Season Series: St. Michael’s wins season series 5-0
09/07/12 Toronto 1 at St. Michaels 4
Although St. Mike’s swept the season series, the Jr. Canadiens did not roll over, dropping their last three decisions by just a single goal. That trend continued Tuesday night as the Buzzers opened the series with a thrilling OT victory on home ice. From top to bottom the Buzzers seem to have more scoring depth but the Jr. Canadiens have surprised many late in the season with some solid victories against teams above them in the standings. That trend will have to continue if the Canadiens want to pick up some W’s when it counts.
STM G Adrian Ignagni didn’t have the best start to the 2012-2013 OJHL season but turned it on at the right time, registering a 1.99 GAA in his final 10 appearances of the season.
STM F David Italiano has registered 5 points in his last 5 games and 9 over his last 10. Italiano is often overshadowed by his line-mate Matt Buckles, but Italiano has a nose for the net and can give opposing teams fits in the hard to play areas of the ice.
TOR F Anthony Repaci has 10 points in his last 10 and has been a pleasant surprise all season. 56 points in his rookie campaign puts him behind only Tyler Gjurich in rookie scoring, pretty heady company for the Canadiens sniper.
The Jr. Canadiens have the ability to beat any team on any given night. The addition of Denny Dubblestyne in goal has given Toronto a chance to win every game they’ve played. However, Toronto has had a tough time throwing long stretches of strong play together, and against a St. Mike’s team considered a contender for the Buckland Cup, the Canadiens may not be able to last through a whole seven games.
Georgetown Raiders (3) vs. Toronto Lakeshore Patriots (6)
Season Series: Lakeshore wins season series 3-2
09/14/12 Georgetown 3 at Toronto Lakeshore 4
The Patriots gave the Raiders fits all season long and it started in goal with Joseph Pianta who registered a .901 SV% that could be higher if not for being pulled after allowing 5 goals in the last meeting between these two teams. If the Raiders have found a way to solve Pianta on the regular, than it will be a short series for the Patriots. Lakeshore was bumped into the 6th seed on the last day of the regular season and it matches them against the 2nd best team in the Southwest as far as points are concerned.
GEO F Brendan Woods has been a consummate leader all season and led the Raiders with 6 points in 5 games versus the Patriots this season, twice as many as any other Raider.
GEO F Alex Botten trounced some non-playoff competition to finish off the regular season to the tune of 13 points in 5 games. Along with 12 points over the same period from wingers Jacob Bauchman and Anthony Marra, Botten pivots the hottest line in the OJHL right now.
TLP F Kelby Lorenz has 6 points in his last 5 games and has done a good job taking attention away from the likes of Daniel Tedesco, allowing Tedesco to register 4 goals in that same period.
The Patriots will be riding Pianta hard in goal, as he will be crucial to any post-season success. If he can play against the Raiders the way he did all season, the Patriots can come out on top with a big upset in Round 1. The Raiders boast two top lines and a 3rd line that compares to most team’s second unit so the Patriots could be on their heels all series long.
North York Rangers (4) vs. Oakville Blades (5)
Season Series: Oakville wins season series 4-1
09/19/12 Oakville 4 at North York 3
Perhaps no team was more relieved entering the playoffs than the Oakville Blades. The Blades picked up 7 of a possible 8 points in the final week of the regular season to overtake Lakeshore for the fifth playoff seed. That avoided a first round match versus the Raiders who have beaten Oakville handily as of late. Now they square off against the Rangers, a team that perhaps suits their style of play better than any other in the Southwest.
OAK F Nathan Renouf, along with brother Jonah, have recorded nine points in their last 5 games. Jonah came close but could not catch OJHL leading scorer Tyler Gjurich in the final days of the season.
OAK F Patrick Chore is the trigger man for the Blades and has 5 goals in as many games.
NY F Franco Loparco has been an excellent addition to the Rangers squad and led the team in scoring down the stretch, notching 8 points in his final 5 games.
NY F Liam Kerins has started using his size a lot more in the important final games of the season. He has been rewarded for his work with 13 points in his final 10 games and has made his linemates that much better around him.
The last time these two teams met it was quite a heated affair with no love lost between the two clubs. It will be interesting to see if that hostility carries over, and if so, which team may find themselves down and out due to a lack of discipline. Both of these teams are built to score and special teams will be a big part of who comes out on top.
Ian Cunningham covers the Ontario Junior Hockey League for TVCogeco. He calls play-by-play for the Georgetown Raiders broadcasts of OJHL Tonight as well as hosting TVCogeco’s flagship highlight show, OJHL Rinkside, alongside Al Galloway. You can also find Ian Between the Benches for OJHL Tonight broadcasts of Oakville Blades home games. Ian began his broadcasting career five years ago as Director of Broadcasting for the Oakville Blades. Since that time Ian has become one of the most recognized members of the OJHL media and a go-to source for expert knowledge and opinion throughout the league.