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Road to the OHL Cup: Alliance down to final four

OHL Cup

 

The ALLIANCE Hockey Minor Midget Semi-Finals get underway tonight in Waterloo and Brantford as the final four teams remaining in the circuit battle it out for three available spots at the 2019 OHL Cup Powered by Under Armour.

The province’s 7th-ranked Kitchener Jr. Rangers took a first round sweep of the Cambridge Hawks and square off with their age old rival the Waterloo Wolves on one side while the Windsor Jr. Spitfires look to carry their momentum over from a first round upset against the London Jr. Knights, taking on the league’s first place Brantford 99ers on the other.

Brantford features a pair of OHL Cup returnees after the 99ers were ALLIANCE Minor Midget Champions last spring, getting back into the big dance for the first time since 2009. Maddox Callens scored the ALLIANCE Championship game winner and joins standout blueliner Cole Hipkin in trying to take Brantford to back-to-back titles.

The 99ers played to a 21-8-4 mark during the regular season and eliminated the Chatham-Kent Cyclones in first round play. Forwards Landon McCallum, Steven LaForme and Brenden Anderson have been reliable producers throughout the season as Brantford has hung around the weekly Top 10 Rankings.

“They’re an exciting team and a lot of fun to watch,” noted OHL Central Scouting ALLIANCE Regional Scout James Kennedy. “I mean a really good team from top to bottom. It’s tough to not have success when you control the puck 60% of the game. If they can get the saves they have as good a chance as anyone to come out on top of the ALLIANCE.”

In Windsor, Brantford squares off against an up-tempo, fast paced team that will compete from the start of the game to the final buzzer. The Jr. Spitfires stunned ALLIANCE scoring leader Brett Harrison and the London Jr. Knights, winning their first round series in five games.

“Full credit to Windsor,” said Kennedy. “They tied Game 1 on the road, won Game 2 in Windsor and responded really well after a 7-1 loss in London in Game 3.

“The Jr. Knights sort of struggled to put things together all season. After being at the OHL Cup four years in a row it’s a little bit different seeing London go out in the first round.”

Windsor has been led offensively by Raymond Hamlin, Cayden Faust and Nicholas Beneteau while goaltender Max Donoso has been steady throughout the playoffs.

A K-W rivalry is being reignited in the league’s other Semi-Final as the second place Waterloo Wolves take on the third place Kitchener Jr. Rangers. Head coaches Shawn Dietrich and Dean DeSilva will be mixing and matching as the two traditionally competitive teams battle it out for a trip to the ALLIANCE Championship Series.

Kitchener won the first meeting between the two clubs by a score of 6-2 back in early November before the clubs skated to a pair of 2-2 ties on Nov. 19th and Jan. 20th.

The Jr. Rangers are led offensively by forwards Marko Sikic and Matthew Sop. They’re undefeated in 16 straight games.

“If you’re looking for a dark horse, this might be it,” affirmed Kennedy. “They’ve had a tremendous second half, a really good start to the playoffs and everything seems to be clicking for them right now. Kitchener could surprise some people if they can find a way past Waterloo.”

The Wolves are never an easy out. After eliminating the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs in an intense six game series, captain Cooper Way leads the Wolves into the second round. Jaxson Murray has led Waterloo on the scoresheet with eight points (3-5–8) over six contests while Lucas Gaiger (6-1–7) scored six goals in as many outings. Waterloo has relied on goaltender Marshall Nichols to carry the load of late.

“I don’t know that Waterloo played its best hockey against Elgin-Middlesex,” said Kennedy as he reflected on the series. “I think we’ll see a good back-and-forth series against Kitchener though. Regardless of where these two teams are in the standings you know you’re always going to see a good matchup.”

Here’s an updated look at how the playoffs are unfolding across the province.

 

GTHL:

***The four teams that reach the GTHL semi-finals earn a 2019 OHL Cup berth. (Don Mills Flyers, Toronto Marlboros, Toronto Nationals, Toronto Red Wings)

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES A
(1) Don Mills Flyers vs. (4) Toronto Red Wings
Don Mills leads series 2-0 (pts.)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Don Mills: Brennan Othmann (LW)
Red Wings: Josh Rosenzweig (G)

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES B
(2) Toronto Nationals vs. (3) Toronto Marlboros
Nationals lead series 4-2 (pts.)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Nationals: Josh Bloom (LW)
Marlboros: Danny Zhilkin (C)

GTHL WILD CARD PLAY-IN SERIES A
(5) Mississauga Rebels) vs. (8) North York Rangers
Series tied 1-1 (pts.)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Rebels: Jesse Fishman (C)
North York: Logan Dittenhafer (D)

GTHL WILD CARD PLAY-IN SERIES B
(6) Mississauga Senators vs. Vaughan Kings (7)
Series tied 1-1 (pts.)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Senators: James Norton (G)
Vaughan: Spencer Borg (C)

 

ALLIANCE:

*** The champion, finalist and third place team qualify for the 2019 OHL Cup

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES A
(1) Brantford 99ers vs. (8) Windsor Jr. Spitfires
Series begins Friday

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Brantford: Maddox Callens (LW) – 33 GP, 25 G, 27 A, 52 PTS.
Windsor: Ryan Clark (D) – 32 GP, 1 G, 8 A, 9 PTS.

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES B
(2) Waterloo Wolves vs. (3) Kitchener Jr. Rangers
Series begins Friday

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Waterloo: Owen Parsons (C) – 33 GP, 28 G, 20 A, 48 PTS.
Kitchener: Matthew Sop (C) – 33 GP, 20 G, 20 A, 40 PTS.

 

OMHA – ETA:

***The champion and finalist in the ETA Championship, along with the host Whitby Wildcats and champion and finalist from the SCTA will compete in the 2019 OMHA Championship at the Iroquois Sports Complex in Whitby from March 2-3. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams at the OMHA Championship will qualify for the 2019 OHL Cup.

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES A
(1W) North Central Predators vs. (2E) Quinte Red Devils
Quinte leads series 4-2 (pts.)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
North Central – Ethan Larmand (C) – 8 GP, 4 G, 3A, 7 PTS.
Quinte – Daniel Michaud (C) – 7 GP, 7 G, 7 A, 14 PTS.

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES B
(1E) Whitby Wildcats vs. (2W) York-Simcoe Express
York-Simcoe leads series 4-2 (pts.)

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
York-Simcoe – Kaleb Nelson (C) – 6 GP, 5 G, 3 A, 8 PTS.
Whitby – Brenden Sirizzotti (C) – 6 GP, 6 G, 5 A, 11 PTS.

 

OMHA – SCTA:

***Rather than a qualifier weekend as has been part of the SCTA’s process in years past,  the league’s 10 teams have been assigned to two groups where they will take part in a double round-robin. The top two teams from each group (Halton, Niagara North, Guelph, Southern Tier) will compete in a semi-final series to determine which two clubs will advance to the OMHA Championships set for March 2-3 in Whitby, Ont. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams at the OMHA Championships will qualify for the 2019 OHL Cup.

The Halton Hurricanes finished atop the SCTA regular season standings with a 23-6-3 regular season record. They were followed by the second place Niagara North Stars who went 20-6-6 while the third place Guelph Gryphons finished 20-9-3.

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES A:
(1) Halton Hurricanes vs. (6) Southern Tier Admirals
Halton leads series 2-0

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Halton – Ethan Burroughs (RW) – 9 GP, 13 G, 3 A, 16 PTS.
Southern Tier – Blake Hall (C) – 8 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 PTS.

SEMI-FINAL – SERIES B:
(2) Niagara North Stars vs. (3) Guelph Gryphons
Series begins Sunday

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Niagara North – Parker Hendsbee (RW) – 6 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 PTS.
Guelph – Ty Anselmini (C) – 8 GP, 5 G, 9 A, 14 PTS.

For more information on the 2019 OHL Cup Showcase Tournament Powered by Under Armour, visit ohlcup.ca.

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