Golden Horseshoe playoff predictions
The St. Catharines Falcons take on the Ancaster Avalanche Friday at home in Game 1 of their Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Golden Horseshoe Conference playoffs series. Photo: Special to BPSN.
The St. Catharines Falcons did pretty much what they wanted in sweeping the Pelham Panthers in four straight to begin the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Golden Horseshoe Conference playoffs.
“I was very pleased,” Falcons general manager/coach Frank Girhiny said. “We stuck to our game plan. We were quite disciplined considering what we were being given. We won that four straight and now that gives us time to concentrate and give some guys who were banged up from that series time and they’ll be ready to go Friday night.”
The Falcons take on the Ancaster Avalanche beginning Friday at home in a best-of-seven semifinal series and are well aware the Avs will be a much tougher test.
The Avs, who swept the Welland Junior Canadians in their quarter-final matchup, feature a lethal 1-2 punch up front with Liam Van Loon and Benjamin Woodhouse while Dirk Stadig anchors a mobile blueline.
“Their team is dynamic. They have some real high-end forwards and some defence that can fly,” Girhiny said.
Ryan Dugas, a Kingston Frontenacs draft pick, gives the Avalanche a solid netminder.
“He played extremely well. He’s a big goalie and we have to make him move to get pucks by him and create a lot of traffic,” Girhiny said.
The Avs had a solid regular season and finished just two points behind the Falcons for second place under new coach Ken Peroff, who was an assistant coach last season with Milton of Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“They are well coached,” Girhiny said. “From a coaching perspective (it will be interesting) to see what he’s going to be bringing to us. We’re going to have to counter.”
Girhiny likes how the Falcons are meshing together as a team after several key pieces were brought in at the trade deadline.
“It takes awhile,” he said. “From a team perspective and gelling as a group, I think that’s there. We know what guys can do what and what roles they play, and more importantly, they have a better understanding of we want from a system perspective and we’re starting to see that.
“We’re gelling at the right time as a unit.”
Girhiny expects a tight-checking series. The Avs took the regular season series with three wins and a tie in six matchups.
“It’s playoff hockey, a lot closer to the vest for sure,” he said. “I don’t expect them to be running and gunning and I know we won’t be. I would expect it to be a chess match and once again special teams will be the difference.
“If we capitalize on the power play and stay out of the box, I think we’ll be in a good situation.”
The Falcons will be without defenceman/forward Andrew Somerville, who is out with a lower body injury. Girhiny expects Somerville back at some point in the series.
Game 2 is Saturday in Ancaster with Game 3 back in St. Catharines Tuesday, April 20.
Prediction: Falcons in 6.
Caledonia vs. Niagara Falls
The Corvairs demolished the Fort Erie Meteors while the Canucks swept the Thorold Blackhawks 4-0 in their quarter-final matchups.
“We played really well,” Niagara Falls coach Frank Pietrangelo said of the first series. “We’ve been struck by the injury bug in the second half of the season. Thorold was the first game all year where we had a full lineup.
“We’re still not where we need to be. They still need time to get back into the rhythm of things, but we were in much better shape than we were.”
The Canucks offence finally came alive versus the Blackhawks.
“The guys were rewarded,” Pietrangelo said. “The power play was really good and so was the production from all of our lines. Moving forward you can’t rely on just one or two guys. It doesn’t work that way in the playoffs.”
The Canucks will need to be at their best to be able to compete with the powerful Corvairs, who lost only four games in regulation in the regular season, all to the Falcons. The Canucks managed to grab a point in an overtime loss to the Corvairs who won the other five matchups.
“Everybody who plays Caledonia is going to be the underdog,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s not a surprise to anybody when you go into a series with them that you’re going to be the underdog.
“We have to take it one game at a time and try and win every game. After that game we’ll regroup and go after the next one. It’s a monumental task, no doubt about it. They’re the top team in Ontario. We’re going to have to be at our best in order to compete.”
Pietrangelo says the Corvairs can beat you in so many ways.
“We do have a game plan in place. They are the highest scoring team in Ontario and have let in the least amount of goals. Pick your poison. We’re going to put all that stuff aside and simply things. We’ll concentrate on Game 1 and then go into Game 2 one step at a time.”
Game 1 goes Wednesday at Caledonia with Game 2 in Niagara Falls Friday and Game 3 back in Caledonia Saturday.
Prediction: Corvairs in four.
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