After all, the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League didn’t have any games on Saturday or Sunday after the Windsor Spitfires swept the Barrie Colts out of the playoffs and the Calgary Hitmen took out the Tri-City Americans in five games.
The Spitfires wrapped up their series last Tuesday with a decisive 6-2 victory over a rattled Barrie. Calgary finished off the Americans on Friday with an equally strong 6-1 showing.
This leaves just the Moncton Wildcats and the Saint John Sea Dogs to settle the outcome of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s President’s Cup.
Moncton has a 3-2 edge on the series, but it would be foolhardy to count the Sea Dogs out just yet. After all, Saint John skated to the regular season championship with a 53-12-3 record, five points ahead of the second place Drummondville Voltigeurs and seven points beyond the Wildcats.
Their regular season match-ups were very close, with a 4-3-1 record tilting in favour of the Sea Dogs. That said, five of those games went to extra time, so this is a decidedly close pairing.
For one of these teams to prevail and face the Brandon Wheat Kings, Hitmen or Windsor in the Memorial Cup tournament they’ll need their defence to step up.
In their five games, the lowest shot count was Saint John’s 26 in Game 1. Since then, totals have routinely been above 30, with some games seeing as many as 44 shots on net.
Both teams from New Brunswick need to bear down and slow down the game’s pace if they want to survive.
For Moncton to achieve this they’ll need defencemen Mark Barberio, David Savard and Brandon Gormley to continue to lock down the Sea Dogs’ best forwards.
Saint John will look to winger Nicholas Petersen as well as rearguards Nathan Beaulieu and Yann Sauve to be lights out in their own end.
In any playoff final there is the expectation that the teams will be pretty evenly matched. After all, they’ve survived the regular season and the first few rounds of the post-season.
This year though, the Canadian Hockey League finals across the nation are all well in hand. In fact, they could all end up as four-game sweeps.
Here in Ontario, the focus has been on the Windsor Spitfires’ dominance of the Barrie Colts.
The defending Memorial Cup champions looked to be dead in the water after falling behind the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 3-0 in their Ontario Hockey League semifinal match-up. But the Spitfires rallied to win that series 4-3 and now they are up on the Colts 3-0.
I covered the second game of that series for the Canadian Press and it was clear from the action what the problem is: Windsor absolutely owns the neutral zone. Several of their goals came from turnovers between the blue-lines and Barrie could barely get the puck over half.
Out in New Brunswick, the Moncton Wildcats have also quickly established a 2-0 lead over the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final, including a 9-3 thumping in Game 2.
Things are even more lopsided in the Western Hockey League, as the Calgary Hitmen opened their series against the Tri-City Americans with a resounding 7-0 victory. They followed that up with a 4-1 victory to take a two-game lead in the series.
As a fan, I’m disappointed that these series are going by so quickly. Ideally, all series would be close with lots of back-and-forth between the two teams.
That said, good for the Moncton Wildcats, Windsor Spitfires and Calgary Hitmen. They should be proud of themselves for coming out so strong in the crucial step to the Memorial Cup. It's too bad that it comes at the expense of some high drama.
Don’t call it a comeback, the Windsor Spitfires have been here for years.
The Spitfires reeled off four-straight wins to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and dump the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday afternoon and move on to the Ontario Hockey League championship.
They’ll be meeting the Barrie Colts for the John Ross Robertson Cup and the chance to repeat as the Memorial Cup champions.
There is a blend of confidence and desperation surrounding the Spitfires, as they have one of the most loaded rosters in junior hockey, but most of their key personnel like Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler are going to graduate to the National Hockey League.
Windsor was also supposed to easily dispose of Kitchener but struggled mightily against the surprising Rangers. This combination of hope and fear will make them a determined squad when they meet Barrie on Friday.
The Western Hockey League also followed the script, with the top-seeded Tri-City Americans besting the Vancouver Giants in six games and the Calgary Hitmen topping the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games.
It’s worth noting that Wheat Kings fans shouldn’t despair – as Brandon is hosting the Canadian Hockey League’s top tournament they’ll still get a shot at the Memorial Cup.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the only CHL division that hasn’t sorted out its final, with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Victoriaville Tigres still engaged in their semifinal series.
Whoever wins that team will go on to face the Moncton Wildcats for the QMJHL’s President’s Cup.
Moncton should be fresh after dealing with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in just five games.
Longtime readers will know that this is something of a disappointment to me. I had a great deal of faith in Drummondville and their goaltender Jake Allen, picking them to advance to the Memorial Cup.
Aside from that hiccup, everything else is playing out correctly in my early predictions. I’m pleased to say that the remaining teams really are the cream of the CHL crop. When action picks up again on Friday it should make for some exciting hockey.
Now things get interesting.
I made some predictions in this space last Wednesday, and, well, as far as prognostication goes I guess I shouldn’t quit my day job.
The biggest shock is that the Windsor Spitfires, favoured by me to win the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference, looks dead on arrival, already trailing the Kitchener Rangers 3-0 in their semifinal match-up.
Most shocking of all is that the third loss came on a heartbreaking goal when Kitchener’s Gabriel Landeskog dumped the puck into Windsor’s end where it bounced past Troy Passingham to stand as the winner.
(Check out of 3:54 of this video to see for yourself.)
It’s shocking to see last year’s Memorial Cup Champions, featuring a host of all-star talent including Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler, struggling like this. They're a stocked roster that most liked to win the John Ross Robertson cup.
If anything, this just opens the door for an easy Barrie Colts victory in the final, as they will surely finish off the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
Similarly, the Drummondville Voltigeurs, my favourites to win the Quebec Major Junior hockey League, are down 2-0 in their series with the Moncton Wildcats.
It gets worse for Drummondville too: the next two games of the season will be in New Brunswick, with Moncton having home ice advantage.
I thought that the stellar play of goaltender Jake Allen would be enough to sustain the Voltigeurs, but it looks like an all-New Brunswick final is the QMJHL’s destiny, with both Moncton and the Saint John Sea Dogs looking strong.
Meanwhile, both series in the Western Hockey League are all tied up at 1-1. The Calgary Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings will meet again on Tuesday night in Manitoba, while the Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants will hook up in British Columbia the same night.
I should note that I have some good news and some bad news. The Good: I have been moved to the pagination department for the duration of the summer and will return to the junior hockey beat in September. The Bad: This means that I will not be writing or editing Canadian Hockey League copy for the rest of the playoffs.
Fear not dear reader! I will still write about the goings-on in Canadian junior hockey every Monday. It's a drug; I'm addicted.
After admonishing Tri-City last week, the Americans stepped up and reeled off three wins to take their series against the Kelowna Rockets 4-1.
I doubt my post made it on to their locker room’s bulletin board, so you can save your thanks for some other day, residents of Kennewick, Wash.
The victory also helped fans of the Canadian Hockey League by moving them closer to the official semifinal pairings for all three leagues.
Out east, the Saint John Sea Dogs will be facing the Victoriaville Tigres and the Moncton Wildcats will tangle with the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
As I’ve said previously, I really like the Voltigeurs, and I expect that they’ll tame the Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League finals.
Here in Ontario, the Barrie Colts will play the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors starting tonight, and the Windsor Spitfires will lock up with the Kitchener Rangers on Thursday night.
No bold predictions here – just obvious ones. Barrie and Windsor will definitely handle their opponents, making for a classic pairing for the John Ross Robertson Cup and the Ontario Hockey League Championship. At the end of it all, I think it will be the Colts that go on to the Memorial Cup.
The Western Hockey League semifinals will be the most hotly contested across the nation, with the Calgary Hitmen staring down the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Eastern Conference final and the aforementioned Americans tangling with the Vancouver Giants.
It’s a shame that the Hitmen and Wheat Kings can’t meet in the league final. They are the two best teams remaining in these brackets, and it would’ve made it a more pure championship.
That said, I still like Calgary’s chances to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup when they meet with Tri-City.
Friday, April 9th 2010
QMJHL – Cornet scores in second OT as Rouyn-Noranda edges Moncton
It took nearly five full periods of play, but Philippe Cornet kept the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies' playoff hopes alive on Friday night.
Cornet scored 14:28 into double overtime as the Huskies eked out a 5-4 win over the Moncton Wildcats in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League post-season action. (See more...)
WHL – Tri-City wins series with OT victory over Kelowna
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Kruise Reddick scored at 5:37 of overtime to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets and a series win in Western Hockey League playoff action on Friday night.
Tri-City wins the series 4-1 and will play the winner of the Vancouver Giants-Spokane Chiefs pairing in the Western Conference final. (See more...)
Saturday, April 10th 2010
QMJHL – Bourque has winner as Moncton wins game, series vs. Huskies
MONCTON, N.B. - Gabriel Bourque and the Moncton Wildcats weren't too tired to finish their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League series on Saturday night.
Bourque had the eventual winner 14 seconds into the final period as Moncton finished off the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-1, taking their quarter-final series. (See more...)
OHL – Knights drop Rangers to force Game 7
KITCHENER, Ont. -- Jared Knight scored twice as the London Knights forced a seventh game in their series against the Kitchener Rangers with a 5-3 win in Ontario Hockey League playoff action on Saturday night.
The decisive Game 7 will be in London on Monday night. The winners of the Western Conference semifinal will face the Windsor Spitfires. (See more...)
Niederreiter’s two goals keeps Portland alive in WHL semis
VANCOUVER -- Nino Niederreiter scored twice and added an assist as the Portland Winterhawks avoided elimination from the Western Hockey League playoffs with a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Giants on Saturday night.
Portland will host Game 6 on Tuesday. If necessary, Game 7 will also be held there on Thursday. (See more...)
Sunday, April 11th 2010
WHL – Foucault nets OT winner as Hitmen down Tigers, claim series
MEDICINE HAT, Alta. - Kris Foucault scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Calgary Hitmen edged the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-2 to end their Western Hockey League playoff series on Sunday night.
Calgary won the series 4-2 and will face the winner of the Brandon Wheat Kings-Saskatoon Blades pairing in the Eastern Conference final. (See more...)
By and large, the favourites are dominating. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is a perfect example of this: the Victoriaville Tigres are out to a 3-0 lead in their series with the Quebec Remparts, while the Saint John Sea Dogs, Moncton Wildcats and Drummondville Voltigeurs are all up 2-0.
Not surprisingly, the Windsor Spitfires and Barrie Colts are continuing their dominance in the Ontario Hockey League, quickly establishing 3-0 leads in their match-ups. The Ottawa 67’s are up on the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 2-1. The London Knights have a similar lead over the Kitchener Rangers.
The Western Hockey League is no different: the Vancouver Giants, Brandon Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen all have solid 2-0 leads.
No, there is only one team that has been a disappointment this post-season: the Tri-City Americans.
Although Tri-City finished the regular season at the top of the Western Conference’s standings, they really stumbled to the end of the year, going 5-5 in their final 10 games.
If it wasn’t for the Spokane Chiefs beating the Everett Silvertips 3-2 in literally the last game of the WHL season, the Americans would have finished in third in their conference and had a much tougher pairing in the opening round of the playoffs.
Surprisingly, Tri-City struggled in that opening pairing against the Chilliwack Bruins, eking out a 4-2 series win.
The Americans game, at its height, is marked by a balanced approach with and without the puck. Although they had the third-best offence in the league their best scorer, Brendan Shinnimin, was only 14th overall.
Similarly, Tri-City had the least number of penalty minutes (986) in the entire league. A real accomplishment, considering the rough-and-tumble style of the WHL.
That kind of discipline has disappeared in the past month of Americans’ play, and it is hurting their chances of contending for a WHL championship.
Friday, April 2nd 2010
QMJHL – Couturier helps Voltigeurs slip by Rimouski in overtime
Sean Couturier made sure his Drummondville Voltigeurs started their second-round Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff match-up on the right foot.
Couturier forced overtime with two minutes left in regulation and then scored the winner 24 seconds into the extra period as the Voltigeurs eked out a 5-4 win over the Rimouski Oceanic on Friday night. (See more...)
OHL- 67's cruise to win over Majors to tie series
Anthony Nigro and the Ottawa 67's made a statement in the second game of their Ontario Hockey League playoff match-up Friday night.
Nigro had two goals and two assists as the 67's crushed the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 7-2. (See more...)
WHL – Hitmen gain playoff momentum, down Medicine Hat Tigers
Kris Foucault kept the Calgary Hitmen's post-season roll going on Friday night.
Foucault scored twice to lead Calgary to a 5-2 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers in their Western Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal opener. (See more...)
Saturday, April 3rd 2010
QMJHL – Huberdeau scores twice as Sea Dogs beat Gatineau
The Saint John Sea Dogs are rolling through the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs and don't seem ready to let up.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored twice as Saint John routed the Gatineau Olympiques 7-2 in the QMJHL quarter-finals Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Giants beat out Winterhawks in physical playoff game
The Vancouver Giants and Portland Winterhawks opened their Western Hockey League playoff series with a bang on Saturday night.
Brendan Gallagher had four goals and an assist as the Giants out-paced the Winterhawks 9-6 in an unruly opening to their second round match-up. (See more...)
Sunday, April 4th 2010
OHL – Colts slip by Battalion in OT; take 2-0 series lead
Luke Pither's impeccable sense of timing has the Barrie Colts in control of their Ontario Hockey League Eastern Conference semifinal.
Pither was the overtime hero as the Colts eked out a 3-2 win over the Brampton Battalion in OHL playoff action Sunday afternoon. (See more...)
The Western Hockey League is the very picture of dichotomy. Its Eastern Conference is locked in a struggle for dominance, while the West’s playoff picture is quickly coming into focus.
In the Prairies the Saskatoon Blades and Brandon Wheat Kings both have 84 points, with Saskatoon given the advantage with two games in hand.
The Blades edge might be short lived as Brandon is rolling, earning points in the last 11 games.
The Calgary Hitmen are in charge of the Central Division with 82 points and are white hot with eight straight wins.
The Hitmen and Wheat Kings are hitting their stride at the right time of year, climbing the standings and taking momentum into hockey’s second season. They will decide who is the hottest team in the league Monday night as Brandon will visit Calgary.
The Wheat Kings will have to keep a close eye on Brandon Kozun, whose 29 goals and 54 assists has the most points in the WHL. Brandon will also have to watch out for Tyler Fiddler who had two goals Friday night against the Prince Albert Raiders.
Despite the success of the Blades, Hitmen and Wheat Kings, no team in the East has booked tickets to hockey’s second season just yet.
Compare that knot to the WHL’s Western Conference where the playoff picture is almost completely sorted out.
The Tri-City Americans, Vancouver Giants, Portland Winterhawks, Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs have all clinched postseason spots.
Further, on Saturday night Portland beat Prince George 3-1, eliminating the Cougars from contention. This means that of the 12 teams in the West, half already know how they’ll be spending the playoffs.
The Seattle Thunderbirds will probably join Prince George soon, as they haven’t won a game since Jan. 9 when they, of course, earned a 3-1win over the Cougars. Since then it’s been 10 regulation losses and three in overtime.
That leaves it up to the Kelowna Rockets, Kamloops Blazers and Chilliwack Bruins to claim the final three postseason berths.
Friday, Feb. 12 2010
QMJHL – Quesnel leads Val-d’Or to win over Montreal
Alexandre Quesnel put the Val-d'Or Foreurs on his shoulders Friday night.
He scored back-to-back goals to lift the Foreurs to a 3-2 win over the Montreal Junior in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. (See more...)
OHL – Generals get pounded by Majors as Brace scores twice
Riley Brace and the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors were happy to take advantage of the slumping Oshawa Generals.
Brace scored a pair of goals and added an assist to lift Mississauga to a 6-0 win over Oshawa in the Ontario Hockey League Friday night. (See more...)
WHL – Hitmen run streak to seven straight with win over Raiders
Tyler Fiddler and the Calgary Hitmen continue to roll.
Fiddler scored twice, including the winner, to lead Calgary to a 3-1 win over the Prince Albert Raiders in Western Hockey League action on Friday night. (See more...)
Lefrancois scored four times and had two assists to lead the Rimouski Oceanic to a 9-6 win over the Halifax Mooseheads in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
OHL – Whalers’ Seguin scores OT winner to beat Sting
When the Plymouth Whalers are in a tight game they know they can rely on Tyler Seguin.
Seguin scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Plymouth Whalers topped the Sarnia Sting 5-4 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Cougars eliminated from playoffs with loss to Winterhawks
It's no surprise to Western Hockey League fans: the Prince George Cougars won't be making the playoffs.
With a 3-1 effort the Portland Winterhawks officially knocked Prince George out of the WHL post-season Saturday night. (See more...)
QMJHL – Tigres drop Chicoutimi as Pulin earns 75th careers win
Kevin Poulin made history as the Victoriaville Tigres rolled to a win Sunday afternoon.
Poulin made 17 saves as Victoriaville dumped the Chicoutimi Sagueneens 7-1 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. (See more...)
OHL – Hodgson scores first two if season as Battalion down Petes
Cody Hodgson is getting back into the swing of things.
The Vancouver Canucks draft pick scored his first two goals of the season as the Brampton Battalion shut down the Peterborough Petes 4-0 on Sunday afternoon in Ontario Hockey League play. (See more...)
Friday Jan. 29, 2010
QMJHL – Retooled Wildcats win 12th game in a row
“The Moncton Wildcats continue to thrive after they retooled at the trade deadline.
Daniel Pettersson had back-to-back power-play goals as Moncton doubled the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 6-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.” (Read more...)
OHL – Cameron has hat trick as Colts blank Majors
“Bryan Cameron and the Barrie Colts continue to dominate Ontario Hockey League's Central Division.
Bryan Cameron scored three goals and Mavric Parks posted his second shutout of the season as the Barrie Colts triumphed over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 4-0 Friday night.” (Read more...)
WHL – Silvertips down Winterhawks for 13th straight win
“Simply put, the Everett Silvertips haven't lost since 2009.
Zack Dailey scored twice, including the game-winner midway through the third period, as the Everett Silvertips downed the Portland Winterhawks 4-3 in Western Hockey League action Friday night." (Read more...)
Saturday, Jan. 30 2010
QMJHL – Huberdeau has career night, Saint John pounds Val-d’Or
“Jonathan Huberdeau had the biggest game of his junior career Saturday night.
The 16-year-old forward scored three goals and set up two as the Saint John Sea Dogs crushed the Val-d'Or Foreurs 11-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.” (Read more...)
OHL – Jenks and McRae lead way as Whalers down Knights
“Captain AJ Jenks and Phil McRae were instrumental Saturday as the Plymouth Whalers continue to roll.
Jenks' goal and two assists led the Whalers to a convincing 6-1 win over the London Knights in Ontario Hockey League play.” (Read more...)
WHL: Hulak has three points as Blades down Broncos
“The Saskatoon Blades and Derek Hulak made it look easy Saturday night.
The Saskatoon Blades, led by a three-point outing from Hulak, skated to a 7-4 win over the Swift Current Broncos in Western Hockey League action.” (Read more...)
Sunday, Jan. 31 2010
QMJHL – Acadie-Bathurst edges Val-d’Or in shootout
“Julien Tremblay and Bryce Milson wanted to see the Acadie-Bathurst Titan's slide come to an end.
Tremblay and Milson scored in the shootout as Acadie-Bathurst edged the Val-d'Or Foreurs 6-5 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Sunday afternoon.” (Read more...)
OHL – Shugg scores twice as Windsor Spitfires down Sarnia
“Justin Shugg helped push the Windsor Spitfires into the post-season Sunday afternoon.
Shugg scored twice as the Windsor Spitfires defeated the Sarnia Sting 4-1 in Ontario Hockey League play.” (Read more...)
The playoff pictures in the Canadian Hockey League really started to take shape last week.
In the Ontario Hockey League the Barrie Colts and Windsor Spitfires both clinched spots. As last year’s Memorial Cup champions the Spitfires have been favourites all year, but they’ve been slowed by injuries and suspensions to key players like Adam Henrique and Zack Kassian. Of course, the fact that their top line played for Team Canada in the World Juniors briefly mellowed their offence as well.
Those aren’t the only teams in the OHL though. The Ottawa 67’s, Plymouth Whalers, London Knights and Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors have looked pretty strong recently and should play their way into the postseason.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is similarly set, with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Moncton Wildcats the early favourites to win the President’s Cup. After Saint John’s historic 22-game win streak, the Sea Dogs have settled into a competitive rhythm. Now it’s Moncton that’s on a tear, winning 12 in a row, trying to play catch up to their consistent Atlantic division rivals.
The Central Division is where the action happens in the QMJHL, with the Victoriaville Tigres and Drummondville Voltigeurs side-by-side at the top of the table. Both are solid teams who’ve won six of their last 10 games, but with Drummondville earning two consecutive wins and Victoriaville dropping three straight, the division might sort itself out soon.
Like the Moncton Wildcats, the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips have been clawing their way to the top of the standings in 2010. In fact, they haven’t lost since 2009 having strung together 14 consecutive wins. However, they’re still trailing the Vancouver Giants and league-best Tri-City Americans in the West Conference standings.
In the East, the Saskatoon Blades, Medicine Hat Tigers and Brandon Wheat Kings have all established themselves as the class of the Conference.
All three will have to keep up the pace though, as the Kootenay Ice have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 and the Calgary Hitmen shutout Tri-City 3-0 on Sunday.