This is my preview for the Western Conference first round of play-offs. As I stated in the Midwest preview, this is the only play-off coverage I’m doing this year. I will write a preview for each round, but that’s it. I’m not going to write a preview for each game in each series.
So here’s how I thought the West would work out:
Leamington – Top 3
London – Top 4
LaSalle – Top 4
Chatham – Middle of the pack, 4-6
St. Thomas – Middle of the pack, 6-8
Sarnia – Middle of the pack, 4-6
Strathroy – Bottom half, 6-8
St. Marys – Wouldn’t make the play-offs
Lambton Shores – 8th
The only ones I was wrong about was St. Marys and Lambton Shores.
Now to the first round series.
Leamington Flyers (1) vs. St. Marys Lincolns (8)
It was projected in the off-season that Leamington would be the top team again, and they did not disappoint. They have ended the regular season with a 41-8-1 record and 83 points.
The Flyers made a few moves during the course of the season, but have pretty much kept with the same team since the start.
The biggest pick up for the Flyers this season was 17 year old goalie Tyler Wall. He was the Conference top goalie for September, December and January, this season and he’s earned 4 shut outs over the course of the season. He saw more action than returning goalie Michael Barrett. Here are their stats:
The Flyers have pretty consistent scoring from their team. Mitchell Amante leads with 24 goals and 31 assists for 55 points.
St. Marys wasn’t expected to make the play-offs this year. They’re still in the rebuilding phase. At the beginning of November, they let go of head coach Merlin Malinowski and hired Jason Glover. They have finished the season with a record of 9-36-1-4 and 23 points. They made it in the play-offs by 3 points.
For a while, the Lincolns were rotating between 3 goalies for a while this season. For the most part, they have used Emanuel Vella and Paul Town.
Leading the Lincolns on the score sheet is co-Captain Brent House. He has 27 goals and 35 assists for 62 points. Behind him is Nolan King with 11 goals and 43 assists for 54 points.
10/09/15 Leamington 5 at St. Marys 1
11/12/15 St. Marys 1 at Leamington 2
12/11/15 Leamington 6 at St. Marys 1
01/07/16 St. Marys 1 at Leamington 3
02/21/16 St. Marys 3 at Leamington 7
02/26/16 Leamington 3 at St. Marys 2 OT
This is their play-off schedule
|Thurs. Mar. 3||St. Marys||Leamington||0-4||Highbury Canco|
|Sat. Mar. 5||Leamington||St. Marys||8-2||Pyramid Rec Centre|
|Sun. Mar. 6||St. Marys||Leamington||2-10||Highbury Canco|
|Wed. Mar. 9||Leamington||St. Marys||11-2||Pyramid Rec Centre|
Leamington wins the series 4-0
Prediction: I’d like to give St. Marys a game here, but I don’t think it will happen. I’m going with a 4 game sweep by Leamington.
London Nationals (2) vs. Strathroy Rockets (7)
Before the season began, London was expected to be a top team. Just weeks before training camp began, coach Kelly Thomson announced that he was stepping down and was replaced with Pat Powers. With the last minute coaching change, it was up in the air how the team was going to perform, but under Powers, they’ve been in the mix at the top all season. Their play-off position came down to the very last game. They ended up tied with LaSalle and it came down to the last tie breaker of goal differential. They finished with a 31-14-4-1 record and 67 points.
Over the course of the season, the Nats added a few players here and there. They picked up Tyler Sehovic from Thorold Blackhawks in the Golden Horseshoe who has 6 PP goals this season.
In net, they’ve had Connor Hughes and Zack Weir. Hughes has seen a bit more action, but I notice he’s been absent the last couple games.
Brenden Trottier is at the top of London’s stats, but he started the season in Lambton Shores. London’s scoring leading is Captain Austin Kemp. He has 20 goals and 41 assists for 61 points. Behind Kemp is John Warren, but as pointed out in last week’s London Free Press, he’s been sidelined since January 20 with his 2nd concussion of the season and they’re not sure when he’s going to be back.
Strathroy has struggled this season, I’d say more so than in the past couple. They entered the season with 7 returning players from last year. They had 15 players that had never played Jr. B hockey before, 13 of which who had never played Jr. hockey period. They went through a 13 game losing skid from the beginning of October to mid-November, which plummeted them in the standings. They have finished the regular season with a record of 12-24-4-10 and 38 points.
They’ve made a few changes to the roster over the course of the season, but have pretty much stuck with who they signed from training camp.
Goalies this season were Dane Gubbels and Dan Davies. Davies joined the team at the beginning of December after Mat Ouellet left the Rockets to go to Jr. C. Here are the goalie stats:
Rookie Shane Bulitka has led the Rockets on the score board. He has 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points.
10/17/15 London 3 at Strathroy 2
11/07/15 London 6 at Strathroy 4
11/18/15 Strathroy 4 at London 0
12/02/15 Strathroy 1 at London 3
01/20/16 Strathroy 1 at London 7
01/30/16 London 6 at Strathroy 4
This is their play-off schedule
|Wed. Mar. 2||Strathroy||London||2-7||Western Fair|
|Sat. Mar. 5||London||Strathroy||5-4 OT||West Middlesex|
|Sun. Mar. 6||Strathroy||London||3-4||Western Fair|
|Tues. Mar. 8||London||Strathroy||0-5||West Middlesex|
|Wed. Mar. 9||Strathroy||London||2-6||Western Fair|
London wins the series 4-1
Prediction: I say this every year when it comes to the play-offs, but I believe in my boys 100%. If they play a full 60 minutes, they can win hockey games. But with that said, I’m realistic with how this season has gone. Strathroy will manage to pull out 1 win, maybe 2, but London will take the series.
LaSalle Vipers (3) vs. Sarnia Legionnaires (6)
LaSalle started the season slow and spent the majority in 5th place. In the last month, they managed to climb in the standings and were in a fight with London over 2nd place. It came down to the very last game, with London in LaSalle, and although the Vipers won, they lost out on 2nd place due to goal differential. They final record is 31-14-3-2 for 67 points.
The Vipers have the same goalies as last year, Paolo Battisti and Eli Billing. Usually LaSalle rotates the goalies, but Battisti saw more playing time until the end of the season. Battisti was suspended for 7 games. He’s not available until Game 2 of the play-offs. Here are their season stats:
Rookie Liam MacDougall has led the Vipers in scoring this season. He has 27 goals and 34 assists for 61 points. Close behind him is Manny Silverio with 59 points, 28 goals and 31 assists.
The Legionnaires have been in 6th place for most of the season. At various points this year, they’ve been within 5th place by 4 points, and just haven’t been able to catch up and take it. They ended the season with a record of 23-22-2-3 and 51 points.
In net, they’ve had Aidan Hughes and Shayne Battler this season. Both are Sarnia Sting draft picks, with Hughes having played a few games for them this year. Here are their stats with the Legionnaires:
No surprise, Ryan Vendramin in on top of Sarnia’s scoring leaders. He missed 10 games at the start of the season, but since he’s been back, he’s lit it up. He has 24 goals and 43 assists for 67 points. Behind him is Brandon Layman with 52 points, 24 goals and 28 assists.
10/07/15 Sarnia 1 at LaSalle 1 OT
10/14/15 Sarnia 1 at LaSalle 4
11/12/15 LaSalle 3 at Sarnia 2 OT
12/09/15 Sarnia 5 at LaSalle 1
02/04/16 LaSalle 3 at Sarnia 1
02/18/16 LaSalle 3 at Sarnia 2
This is their play-off schedule
|Wed. Mar. 2||Sarnia||LaSalle||1-6||Vollmer Rec Centre|
|Sat. Mar. 5||LaSalle||Sarnia||3-4||Sarnia Arena|
|Sun. Mar. 6||Sarnia||LaSalle||2-6||Vollmer Rec Centre|
|Tues. Mar. 8||LaSalle||Sarnia||5-8||Sarnia Arena|
|Wed. Mar. 9||Sarnia||LaSalle||4-3 OT||Vollmer Rec Centre|
|Sat. Mar. 12||LaSalle||Sarnia||5-4 OT||Sarnia Arena|
|Sun. Mar. 13||Sarnia||LaSalle||2-5||Vollmer Rec Centre|
LaSalle wins the series 4-3
Prediction: I’m having issues with this series. I feel like Mark Davis hasn’t been getting the all out of his players, but he is an experienced coach and has a lot of success in the play-offs. LaSalle has been tearing it up and has 6 straight wins going into the play-offs. It could take all 7, but I’m going with LaSalle.
Chatham Maroons (4) vs. St. Thomas Stars (5)
Chatham spent the majority of the season in 3rd. A lot of it, they spent chasing St. Thomas for 2nd. Coming down the home stretch, the Maroons were in a fight with London and LaSalle for 2nd or 3rd, and lost out by 1 point. They have finished the season with a 32-16-1-1 record and 66 points.
The goalies for the Maroons this season have been Parker Butler and Brendan Johnston. They started the season without Johnston, who was with the Windsor Spitfires. The Spits sent him back, and then traded him to Flint Firebirds. At the OHL trade deadline, Flint sent him back to Chatham.
Chatham’s leading scorer has been Captain Ian Faubert. He took over the C when Brayden Hopkins left the team to go to Jr. C. Faubert has ended the season with 23 goals and 54 assists for 77 points, 1 point off of the Western Conference scoring title.
The Stars have been a confusing team this season. Just 2 weeks before the season began, their head coach and co-owner Ron Horvat stepped down and left the reins to Darren Kelly, Adam Nemeth and Pat Ouellet. At various points, they were in the hunt for the top spot, then they would lose a few games and drop down a few spots. They were in a fight for 2nd with London and Chatham in January, and again, they lost a few games, dropped some spots and have finished in 5th with 58 points and a record of 27-19-2-2.
In net, the Stars have gone with Nik Dampier and Dan Black. They’ve split the games pretty evenly and here are their stats:
As expected, Carson Brookshaw and Matt McJannet have led the Stars on the score board. Brookshaw has 35 goals and 37 assists for 72 points and McJannet has 24 goals and 45 assists for 69 points.
09/25/15 Chatham 5 at St. Thomas 4 OT
10/15/15 Chatham 3 at St. Thomas 6
11/01/15 St. Thomas 4 at Chatham 5
11/27/15 Chatham 6 at St. Thomas 2
12/20/15 St. Thomas 6 at Chatham 2
01/10/16 St. Thomas 1 at Chatham 6
This is their play-off schedule
|Wed. Mar. 3||St. Thomas||Chatham||3-4||Chatham Memorial|
|Fri. Mar. 4||Chatham||St. Thomas||5-2||Timken Centre|
|Sun. Mar. 6||St. Thomas||Chatham||7-2||Chatham Memorial|
|Tues. Mar. 8||Chatham||St. Thomas||4-5||Timken Centre|
|Thurs. Mar. 10||St. Thomas||Chatham||1-6||Chatham Memorial|
Chatham wins the series 4-1
Prediction: I love this matchup. I think it’s going to be a good series. I’m going to give it 7 games and the edge to Chatham.
Lambton Shores Predators (9)
Lambton Shores was expected to make the play-offs, and they were very close to it. They spent the majority of the season in 8th place. In November, St. Marys caught up to them and they began jockeying positions. They finished the season 3 points behind the Lincolns with a record of 8-38-1-3 and 20 points.
Anthony Hurtubise was the consistent goalie for the Predators this season. He had a few different partners between the pipes. Their active goalies are Hurtubise and Keegan Paulette, but I think Paulette is injured because he hasn’t dressed for the entire month of February.
Ethan Sarfati leads the team with 30 goals and 48 assists for 78 points. He also won the Western Conference scoring title by 1 point over Ian Faubert from Chatham.
That’s my West preview. We’ll see how I did with my predictions in a couple weeks. Take care, enjoy this first round, and I’ll see you again before the second round begins.