Golden Horseshoe report card
With the Golden Horseshoe season at about the halfway mark, 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, well, you know, 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. In other words, a .500 season for some would be considered a success while for other teams losing as many as they are winning would be a disaster.
So, without further ado, here are the mid-term marks for all eight teams.
The Corvairs, winners of three of the last four Sutherland Cup championships, have served notice they are once again in the mix for a provincial title.
The Corvairs have lost only three games in regulation so far — all to the St. Catharines Falcons — and have the top winning percentage (.854) in the entire Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The Corvairs feature three of the top offensive players in the league in Sean O’Brien and former Ontario Hockey League players Jesse Barwell and Adam Craievich, while former London Knight and Sarnia Sting Joshua DeFarias anchors the defence. The Corvairs recently picked up former Niagara IceDog forward Cal Davis, who has three goals and eight points in his first four games.
The Corvairs have never been shy about adding anything they need so look for them to load up after Christmas should they feel the need.
So far, so good.
St. Catharines Falcons
The Falcons, under new coach Dan Fitzgerald, have the fourth-best winning percentage in the GOJHL at .760 and shown they can play with anyone winning three of four from the Corvairs.
The other side of the coin has been a pair of losses to the Pelham Panthers, where the club simply thought it could show up and win.
That resulted in Fitzgerald stripping captain Michael Davies and assistants Lucas Smilsky, Tanner Ferreira and Dante Copps of their letters. It was a bold move, but one that seems to have worked.
The Falcons regrouped and have won six of their last seven. They have also excelled on special teams with the No. 2 power play and No. 2 penalty kill units.
Smilsky is second in the league in scoring while Davies is fourth. The Falcons are also third overall in the league in goals-per-game at 5.16.
Owen Savory has been the best goalie in the league so far and should be considered for league most valuable player if he continues to play as well.
The Falcons seem back on track and could seriously challenge for a league and provincial title again if they continue on their current path.
Niagara Falls Canucks
The Canucks got off to a rough start losing four of their first six before settling down and quickly showing they are a force to be reckoned with.
Thanks to a strong defence led by Andrew Barbeau, Matt Thorpe and Ryan Mooney, along with solid netminding from Zach Moore, the Canucks are ranked third in the GOJHL in goals against at 2.42. That keeps coach Frank Pietrangelo’s squad in pretty much every game.
The Canucks feature a solid core of forwards led by Frank Pucci, former Falcon Hayden Broomhead, Matthew Caruso and Garrett Downie, although the team ranks 10th overall in goals scored.
The Canucks have had a solid first half and should be tough to play come playoff time. Another sniper or two could put them over the top.
The Avs have been perhaps the surprise of the first half with 17 wins in their 24 games.
Liam Van Loon, Benjamin Woodhouse and Matthew Bridgwater have supplied most of the offence up front while Dirk Stadig has been an offensive threat from the blueline.
Ryan Dugas and Tanner Sheppard have split the goaltending duties down the middle with Dugas (2.57) showing a bit better than Sheppard (3.12).
Overall, the Avs are eighth in goals for and eighth in goals against. There special teams could use work — the power play is 14th and the penalty kill 12th.
The Avs work hard, are well coached by Ken Peroff and his staff, and could be a sleeper come the post season.
Welland Junior Canadians
The Junior Canadians have had a up and down season, looking vulnerable at times — a 12-2 loss in St. Catharines perhaps being the low point — while also showing flashes of consistency. The club has played better of late and is closing in on the .500 mark.
Coach Keith Osborne demands his players work hard and play within a system. The Junior Canadians may not have the most talent, but when they stick to their systems, they can be difficult to play against.
The overall numbers are not kind: 15th in goals for and 16th in goals against. They have also struggled on the power play ranking 16th.
Matthew Giannini, Tanner McEachern, Daelyn Minovski and Noah Blakely have led the offence.
Charles Grimard (3.86) has handled the bulk of the goaltending. The Niagara IceDogs recently sent Welland goaltender Jukka Schotter who has won two of his three starts.
The Junior Canadians need to develop more consistency to be able to make a move into the first division.
The Blackhawks have been competitive most nights, although their efforts have tended to be uneven within the 60 minutes of a game.
The Hawks have been led offensively by defenceman James Guest, Matt Maidens, captain Brendan Charlton and Griffen Fox.
Overall, the Hawks haven’t scored with enough consistency, ranking 16th overall at just 3.33 goals per game while permitting 4.08. Those numbers don’t add up to a winning formula.
Local product Anthony Tremonte has handled the majority of the work between the pipes and generally gives his club a chance to win, but needs more support.
Considering where they came from last year — not even being able to finish the season due to a lack of players — the Hawks have been more than respectable most nights which is a credit to coach/owner Scott Barnes.
Fort Erie Meteors
The Meteors are the Meteors. Year in and year out, owner Tony Passero’s charges work hard with limited resources and do the best with what they have.
The Meteors have no interest in playing ball with the top tier teams instead preferring to concentrate on developing younger players.
Drew Passero leads the team in scoring while Marco Lariccia, Fonthill’s Mike Masotti and former Falcon Brady Lee have also been consistent contributors.
Former IceDog Andrew Somerville, now property of the Guelph Storm, has 18 points in 12 games while IceDogs draft pick Daniel Nardi has also showed well.
Tyler Szczepaniak has put up decent numbers in goal but overall the club gives up too many goals (4.38 per game) while scoring less than three a game.
The Panthers, under the direction of veteran coach Mark Barrick, have shown flashes of consistency and even approached the .500 mark at one point before dropping their last five games.
The Panthers work hard and can catch a team off guard as they have with the Falcons twice this season.
Matt Ruigrok, Noah Caperchione and Jared Hill have led the offence while captain Thomas Young is the heart and soul of the team.
The Panthers rank in the bottom third of goals for, goals against and special teams.
Considering how far the club has come from just two seasons ago when they won only one game, the first half of the season has to be considered satisfactory.
After an embarrassing season last year that saw the Regals often show up to games with less than a full compliment of players, at least the Regals have been able ice a full squad this season.
Buffalo, despite its poor record, works hard and can give most teams a somewhat competitive game for at least a portion of the 60 minutes.
It doesn’t sound like much, but at least it’s a small step in the right direction.
The Regals are 26th and last in goals for (1.76), goals against (6.26) and both penalty killing and power play.