Golden Horseshoe mid-term report card
The Hamilton Kilty B’s have won 24 of 26 games and were given an A+ in BPSN’s annual Golden Horseshoe mid-term report card rankings. Photo by: BILL POTRECZ
After a year on the sidelines thanks to the COVID pandemic which wiped out the 2020/21 Golden Horseshoe season, it’s time for the always highly anticipated mid-term report card.
Teams will be graded in the old fashioned letter system with an A being the best and an F being the worst.
The grades will be given out based on a combination of the record of the team over the first half in conjunction with the expectations of the team.
Teams who take umbrage with their ranking still have plenty of time to buckle down and get their marks up before final exams, or in this case, playoffs.
Hamilton Kilty B’s
It is hard to find fault with the first half of the Kilty B’s who have won 24 of 26 games, losing only to the Caledonia Corvairs and Fort Erie Meteors. With a little luck, the Kilty B’s could be undefeated so far.
Hamilton lead the Golden Horseshoe in goals scored by a wide margin and have permitted only 47, second only to the St. Catharines Falcons.
The Kilty B’s boast a deep lineup led by leading scorer Justin Monteith and former Falcon and Meteor Dylan Abbamont, who has come into his own this season.
Gage Stewart has won all 16 of his starts in goal to go along with a 1.50 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.
The Kilty B’s are also well coached and the most disciplined club in the conference.
St. Catharines Falcons
Save for the odd hiccup, the Falcons have had an outstanding first half.
St. Catharines live and die with their back end led by goaltenders Andrew MacLean (1.63 goals-against average) and back up Josh Johnson, who has a 1.17 GAA and two shutouts in six games. Johnson would be a starter on most other teams.
The Falcons lead all of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League in goals against, no small feat.
The defence is strong and deep led by captain Joe Colasurdo and mobile Jonah Boria while newcomers Mason Howard and Olivier Desroches bring experience and leadership from the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior League, respectively.
The Falcons are also rounding into shape up front with the addition of former Thorold Blackhawks captain Nicholas Rubino and Blake Yetman.
One more big time forward up front might put the Falcons over the top in their quest for a Sutherland Cup title.
Niagara Falls Canucks
The Canucks have had a solid enough start with 14 wins in 27 games, but a couple of warning signs jump out.
Niagara Falls have permitted more goals than they have scored and also lead the league in penalty minutes. Both those stats don’t bode well come playoff time and the Canucks will have to take care of them in order to be considered legitimate contenders for a title.
Matthew Riva (21-22-43) is first in the Golden Horseshoe in scoring and third overall in the GOJHL. Tanner McEachern (9-28-37) is also off to a fine start while Ben Felicetti, Adrian Misaljevic and Zach Mambelle provide depth.
The Canucks need to clean things up in their own end and stay out of the box in the second half.
These are not your father’s Corvairs, who regularly dominated the regular season and won three straight Ontario titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and advanced to the Sutherland Cup round-robin playoffs in 2017 and 2018.
The Corvairs got off on the wrong foot when they were forced to forfeit their first two games when they could not ice a team after a handful of players were not double vaccinated.
The team recovered and is still a force to be reckoned with but are far from the powerhouse they were in past seasons as evidenced by losses to both Welland and Fort Erie.
The Corvairs do possess some impressive firepower up front led by Ethan Doyle, Mason Mantzavrakos and Jacob Macdonald, but lack the big-name depth they have iced in the past, but are also the most undisciplined team in the Golden Horseshoe, leading the conference in penalty minutes.
The Corvairs don’t appear as though they have quite enough to compete for a title. The only question is will they bring in some big names at the trade deadline as they have in the past or stand pat?
Fort Erie Meteors
In the past, nine wins at the mid-way point of the season would be cause for celebration in Fort Erie, but that’s not the case anymore.
Coach/general manager Nik Passero has made it clear simply competing and not getting blown out is no longer acceptable.
“I’m definitely happy with our effort, but no moral victories in that room,” Passero said after a recent loss in St. Catharines. “I don’t care if we’re playing the L.A. Kings, we’re here to win every night.”
The Meteors are among the most disciplined teams in the league but have a negative goal-differential.
Fort Erie boasts Antonino Pugliese, one of the most dynamic players in the league who has 32 points in 20 games and also has a pair of goals and four points in nine games at the OHL level with the Kitchener Rangers.
Joseph Macchione, who is still only 15, has had a standout season with 23 points in 23 games while Marcus Regina and Jayden Baldinelli have also been consistent producers.
Duncan Nichols-Delay and Joshua Smith have been solid in the nets for the most part, but often see too much rubber.
The Meteors have more than reached respectability. Now, it’s time to take the next step and become a legitimate contender.
Welland Junior Canadians
Coach Dave Burkholder’s charges got off to a slow start with only one win in their first six games and continued to struggle until recently.
The Junior Canadians have played better of late with two wins in a row and four victories in their last seven games, including upsets over the Niagara Falls Canucks and St. Catharines Falcons to climb out of the basement of the standings.
The Junior Canadians feature top-notch goaltender Keegan Jackson, who has played in 21 of the club’s 24 games and recorded six of their eight wins.
Forward Zach Kent (7-12-19) and defenceman Connor Thomson-Dick (4-13-17) lead the team in scoring but the Junior Canadians don’t have the offensive depth to outscore teams.
Credit to Burkholder and his staff for slowly turning things around. With some time and a little more talent, the Junior Canadians could be a .500 team.
Perhaps the most disappointing team in the first half, the Blackhawks had high aspirations of a good season but a combination of injuries, suspensions and other things failing to fall into place have made for a frustrating campaign to date for coach Scott Barnes’ crew.
The Blackhawks simply give up far too many goals — their 108 goals against and -44 goal differential are last in the conference.
Noah Fortuna is a solid junior B goaltender but has seen too many pucks and left out to dry far too often this season.
The Hawks shook things up recently, dealing captain Nicholas Rubino to the Falcons and defenceman Declan Fogarty to Welland.
The Hawks do feature some good, young talent led by forwards Nathan Kelly and Sam Tonelli while Aiden Cupelli and Wyatt Gibson, obtained from the Falcons, will have a chance to prove themselves.
Owen Caldwell is a promising defenceman who should only continue to improve.
The Hawks, who this week ended an eight-game winning streak, need to tighten up in their own end in the second half in order to turn things around.
The Panthers are the only team to switch coaches, parting ways with Chris Lukey in favour of owner Tim Toffolo, who has taken over behind the bench.
The Panthers, who have scored the fewest goals in the conference, could feature a better record with a little more luck. They have dropped six one-goal games thus far and have been in contention in many others.
Florian Xhekaj (5-11-16) leads the team in scoring followed by Cody Miskolczi (7-7-14) and Steve Katsis (5-9-14).
Goaltender Brayden Kelso has been a rock in net and generally gives the Panthers a chance to win.
It will be interesting to see if some of the one-goal losses start going Pelham’s way in the second half.
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