GOJHL semifinal preview and predictions
The second round of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Golden Horseshoe Conference playoffs begins Thursday in Hamilton where the Fort Erie Meteors visit for Game 1 of their best-of-seven semifinal series.
The St. Catharines Falcons host the Caledonia Corvairs Friday in Game 1 of their set.
Following is a look at each series followed by a fearless prediction.
Speaking of predictions, let’s see how Betting Bill did in the opening round.
BB: St. Catharines over Pelham in 4.
Final: St. Catharines in 4.
BB: Hamilton over Welland in 4.
Final: Hamilton in 5.
BB: Fort Erie over Niagara Falls in 5.
Final: Fort Erie in 6.
BB: Caledonia over Thorold in 7.
Final: Caledonia in 5.
St. Catharines (1) vs. Caledonia (4)
Season series: 6-1 St. Catharines.
The Falcons dominated the season series, outscoring the Corvairs 28-15. The Corvairs’ lone victory over St. Catharines was a 5-4 triumph in January.
The Falcons will have had nine days off when they hit the ice Friday night after disposing of Pelham in four games in the quarter-finals.
“I think it’s allowed us to regroup and get as healthy as we can for the next series,” St. Catharines coach Tyler Bielby said of the extended layoff. “We’ve made sure to keep the compete (level) up at practice. You can tell the guys are champing at the bit to get started and that’s a good sign right now.”
Bielby feels having a veteran squad — he cited wingers Kyle Glenney and Nate Robertson in particular — will come in handy as the competition ramps up and the challenges become more difficult.
“These aren’t two guys who are complacent,” Bielby said. “They’re hungry to win and show up to the rink the right way and put in the work every time so it’s very important. You just have to look around at the older guys who were there last year who are showing now what it takes to be successful.”
The Corvairs, who topped the Thorold Blackhawks in five games in their quarter-final series, were led by Steven Laforme (2-7-9), defenceman Zachary Naherne (1-6-7), Calvin Crombie (3-3-6), Dominic Mufarreh (3-3-6), Markus Dempewolf (4-1-5), Nathan Duplessis (2–35) and Ryan O’Donnell (2-2-4).
“Caledonia likes to play a heavy, physical style, an in-your-face kind of game and so we have to be ready when that puck drops,” Bielby said. “There’s been a good rivalry for the better part of a decade between these two teams always find a way to get up for each other.”
Bielby expects his players to play with discipline.
“It’s a physical game and it’s legal within the rules for a reason. You have to play on the right side of the line for a reason, control our emotions and play between the whistles and get out after the whistles.
Betting Bill says: St. Catharines in 6.
Game 1: Friday, March 17 at St. Catharines, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, March 18 at Caledonia, 7:30 p.m.
Game 3: Monday, March 20 at St. Catharines, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday, March 22 at Caledonia, 7:30 p.m.
*Game 5: Friday, March 23 at St. Catharines, 7 p.m.
*Game 6: Saturday, March 24 at Caledonia, 7:30 p.m.
*Game 7: Monday, March 27 at St. Catharines, 7 p.m.
Hamilton (2) vs. Fort Erie (3)
Season series: 7-0 Hamilton.
The Kilty B’s swept the season series 7-0 although three games were decided by one goal and three others by two goals. The only lopsided score was a 6-0 Hamilton win early in the season.
“Our challenge is they have our number; I think it’s just mental,” Fort Erie coach/general manager Nik Passero said. “I don’t think there’s anything they do overly dominant. They’re good in all areas. They’re pretty skilled up front and their D core in solid. They do everything pretty well.”
The Meteors also struggled versus the Kilty B’s last season before taking them to Game 7 in the semifinals where they were eliminated.
“We just have to look to last season,” Passero said. “We only beat them once last season and everyone knows how the series went last year. We lost a couple of games in overtime, one game with 20 seconds left. We always kept it tight.
“We just have to find a way to beat them.”
The Mets are coming off a tough, six-game set versus a stubborn Niagara Falls Canucks squad.
Passero feels that level of competition could be a plus for his charges.
“That’s the silver lining in that series going six games. We played some key minutes and OT games and a lot of tight games and got that out of the way,” he said. “After we lost Game 2 we played really well in Game 3 and then lost Game 5 at home and played really good in Game 6 so that’s really promising for the coaching staff. We’re a resilient group and that’s what happens when you have eight 20-year-olds. They’ve been though it before and we can lean on those guys.”
Passero is hopeful his club gets back to putting the puck in the net after being stifled by the Canucks.
“Hopefully we’re not snake bitten and Niagara Falls just did a good job of defending us. I’m hoping early in the series we get back to scoring goals like we always have,” he said.
The Meteors will be without leading scorer Joe Maccione (suspension) for the first three games of the series.
“He was out two games in opening series and we won both. We just have to be ready for it. It’s the next-man-up mentality,” Passero said.
The Kilty B’s were led by Matthew Duarte (3-3-6), Connor Haynes (3-3-6), Nathan Phillips (4-1-5), Justin Monteith (1-3-4), Matthew Downie (0-4-4), Nathan Omeri (0-4-4-) and Aaron Chiarot (3-0-3) versus Welland.
Betting Bill says: Hamilton in 7.
Game 1: Thursday, March 16 at Hamilton, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, March 18 at Fort Erie, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Monday, March 20 at Hamilton, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday, March 22 at Fort Erie, 7 p.m.
*Game 5: Thursday, March 23 at Hamilton, 7 p.m.
*Game 6: Saturday, March 25 at Fort Erie, 7 p.m.
*Game 7: Monday, March 27 at Hamilton, 7 p.m.
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