Hockey: 2011-12 OUA West season preview

With CIS hockey kicking into full gear this weekend when the AUS hits the ice, it's time to take a look at every team from coast-to-coast. Our CIS hockey preview continues with a look at the OUA West courtesy Daniel Da Silva.

Brock Badgers

2010-11 regular season record: 13-9-6 (5th)
Playoff result: Lost to Guelph 2-1

Powerplay: 17.4% (5)

Last season in 50 words: A team featuring nine rookies came out of the gate slowly. Yet they pulled it together midway through the season to finish 5th overall, a huge improvement on their dead-last finish the year before. Rookie sensation Matt Abercrombie did the heavy lifting, putting up 28 points for the Badgers.

Key departures: D Joey Pell, F Steve Mullin, F Adam Schwark

Key arrivals: F Sean Jones, F Dylan MacEachern, D Daniel Tanel, D Mitch Gaulton

Key player: As important as Abercrombie is to the team, their success will rely on the play of goaltender Kurt Jory. He was solid for them in net last year, carrying them through the second half and into the playoffs. If he can up his game, this team will be dangerous.

2011-12 outlook: Barring injuries, or a huge sophomore slump for key players like Abercrombie, Kaine Geldart and Jordan Gignac, this should still be a team on the rise. Having that first year of experience under their belt will be huge. In other words, they should have no problem putting the puck in the net.

Their problem last season was their defence. Aside from Joey Pell, they didn’t really lose anyone to crucial on the back line and they definitely recruited a few talented D-men from the OHL. If their newcomers on the blue line can make an immediate impact, this team will be one of the teams to beat this season.

Predicted conference finish: 4th

Results thus far (home team bolded): Brock 6-3 Carleton, Queen's 7-3 Brock

Guelph Gryphons

2010-11 regular season record: 15-10-3
Playoff result: Defeated Brock 2-1, Defeated Laurier 2-1, Lost to Western 2-0

Powerplay: 17.2% (6)

Last season in 50 words: For the first two-thirds of the season, a Guelph team that was expected to make noise in the West was a sub-500 team that didn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Something clicked in February and they made a shocking run to 4th place and the OUA West conference final, finally fulfilling their preseason promise.

Key departures: F Geoff Guimond, D Tim Priamo, F Thomas Kiriakou, F Alex Magera

Key arrivals: F Jamie MacIntyre, F Ben Holtom, D Cam Odom, G Cody St. Jacques

Key player: They lost their star defenceman Tim Priamo, so it is up to their senior defencemen to fill the void. I’m specifically looking at Nathan Martine and Patrick Campbell to shoulder the load and to chip in offensively, which they did reasonably well last year.

2011-12 outlook: It’s hard to tell whether or not this team will pick up where they left off or revert back to their early-season form. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt, despite their opening weekend. The team has more than enough depth up front in players like Kris Belan, Edward Gale and Justin Gvora and their recruiting class bodes well for their success.

But the key is their defence picking up their game to help St. Jacques adjust to the OUA game again. He was with the team for a short period last season, performing reasonably well. Goaltending was a weakness last year, so if St. Jacques can perform to his abilities, Guelph will be just fine throughout the season.

Predicted conference finish: 5th

Results thus far: Ottawa 5-2 Guelph, UQTR 7-3 Guelph

Lakehead Thunderwolves

2010-11 regular season record: 16-9-3 (3rd)
Playoff result: Lost 2-0 to Waterloo

Powerplay: 21.4% (2)

Last season in 50 words: Their offence was one of the best in the conference, putting up 118 goals. Their defence was nothing special and their goaltending was pretty gruesome at times. They limped into the playoffs and were literally shutout in their series against Waterloo. Kind of humiliating for the 2009 OUA West champion.

Key departures: F Brock McPherson, F Kris Hogg, D Jordan Smith, D Andy Zulyniak, D Pierre-Marc Guilbault

Key arrivals: F Mike Hammond, F Keith Grondin, D Mitch Fillman, D Danick Malouin, D Chris de la Lande

Key player: The Thunderwolves are losing a few big offensive stars, namely McPherson and Hogg. Both were point-a-game players for their OUA careers. So it is up to last year’s leading scorer Matt Caria to pick up the slack. The playmaking winger needs to have his best season yet for Lakehead to be successful because the offence will likely have to carry the team again this year.

2011-12 outlook: The team should bounce back from their poor (by their standards) 2010-2011 season. They still have some pretty solid firepower up front with Caria, Adam Sergerie and Ryan McDonald and their defence is getting some nice pieces in Fillman and Malouin, both from the CHL. They will need their goaltending, usually a strong point, to be better than it was last year. That will fall on the shoulders of Alex Dupuis and rookie Jeff Bosch. If they can perform to a high level, Lakehead is going to be a powerhouse once again. But if they can’t, this team may sink down the OUA West table, behind the likes of Brock and Guelph.

Predicted conference finish: 2nd

Results thus far: McGill 4-3 Lakehead, McGill 3-2 Lakehead

Laurier Golden Hawks

2010-11 regular season record: 15-7-6 (2nd)
Playoff result: Defeated UOIT 2-1, Lost 2-1 to Guelph

Powerplay: 24.0% (1)

Last season in 50 words: Last season for the Hawks can be described in two words: Ryan Daniels. The team couldn’t score and they weren’t great on defence. Yet they finished in second place solely because of the OUA West MVP performance in goal. He carried them in almost every single game.

Key departures: F Jean-Michel Rizk, F Ryan Bellows, D Ryan Bernardi

Key arrivals: F Mitch Lebar, D Chad Lowry

Key player: It goes without saying that Daniels will be critical in goal again for this team. They already couldn’t score last year and now lose two of their best forwards. Their recruitment class isn’t that inspiring either, so Daniels’ play will make or break the team.

2011-12 outlook: A few of the younger guys started to step it up last season and are continuing that success through two games this year. Benjamin Skinner has two of the team’s goals and Kain Allicock and James Marsden both have three points. Still, the fact that all of their top goal scorers from the last few seasons are pretty much gone will set this team way back.

They also lose their best defencemen in Ryan Bernardi. As I said before, they weren’t a very good defensive team last year, with Daniels getting peppered with shots each night. While Lebar and Lowry will make a difference immediately, it won’t be enough.

Daniels will make it hard to score on this team, but that’s all they have going for them. They will drop back considerably.

Predicted conference finish: 6th

Results thus far: Nipissing 5-4 Laurier, Ottawa 3-1 Laurier

UOIT Ridgebacks

2010-11 regular season record: 12-12-4 (7th)
Playoff result: Lost 2-1 to Laurier

Powerplay: 18.4% (4)

Last season in 50 words: They performed quite well toward the end of the season once their big guns in Scott Baker, Nathan Spaling and Josh Vatri got going. They even gave Laurier fits in the opening round, coming within an overtime goal of moving on. It was another year of slow and steady improvement for this relatively new team.

Key departures: F Scott Baker, F Nathan Spaling, D TJ Legge

Key arrivals: F Jesse Stoughton, F Kody Musselman, D Patrick Moran, D Andrew Randazzo

Key player: With two of the three best forwards on the team gone, it’s up to the remaining guy to lead this team. Vatri will be counted on for goals throughout the season. He can’t afford to struggle early on or this will be a big step back season for this program.

2011-12 outlook: While last season was nice to watch for this team, it’s going to be a bit of a step back as they look to replace their top players. The rookies look like they will be nice additions to the team, but it’s not quite enough, especially with their talented graduating class from last year. Goaltender Jason Guy has been a bit Jekyll and Hyde throughout his time at UOIT and I don’t think we have any indication of that changing. It doesn’t help that the Ridgebacks have a pretty weak defence that gave up the second most goals in the West last year.

In other words, it just doesn’t look like they have enough in any phase of the game to make the playoffs.

Predicted conference finish: 9th

Results thus far: York 5-2 UOIT

Waterloo Warriors

2010-11 regular season record: 15-12-1 (6th)
Playoff result: Defeated Lakehead 2-0, Lost 2-1 to Western

Powerplay: 18.5% (3)

Last season in 50 words: A gruesome finish to the season without top scorer Chris Ray undoes what was a pretty solid season and causes the Warriors to sink to 6th place. But an impressive showing in the playoffs takes them to the OUA West semi-final where they took Western to 3 games.

Key departures: F Kurt Thorner, F Kyle Schwende, D Kyle Sonnenburg

Key arrivals: F Justin Larson, D Joe Underwood, D Jeff Einhorn

Key player: Their two-headed beast up front in senior Chris Ray and sophomore Tyler Moir will be critical. But their most important player will be goaltender Keaton Hartigan. He was stellar two years ago, but for some reason, just didn’t perform until the playoffs last year. If he can revert to his rookie form, look out for the Warriors.

2011-12 outlook: With all due respect to Thorner, Schwende and Sonnenburg, the Warriors remained pretty well intact. Ray, Moir and Jarrett Schnurr all return up front and Kirt Hill and Josh Schappert each put up seven points on opening weekend. While Sonnenburg will be missed, the Warriors do add a really nice defencemen in Joe Underwood, a consistent D-man for Saginaw in the OHL. Returning defencemen Steve Whitely should be able to pick up some of the offensive slack as well.

If Hartigan can play the way he is capable, the Warriors might be the team to challenge Western for the title in the West.

Predicted conference finish: 3rd

Results thus far: Waterloo 5-3 UQTR, Waterloo 7-2 Nipissing

Western Mustangs

2010-11 regular season record: 20-3-5 (1st)
Playoff result: Defeated Windsor 2-0, Defeated Waterloo 2-1, Defeated Guelph 2-0, Lost 6-2 to McGill in Queen’s Cup – 1-1 at University Cup

Powerplay: 16.9% (7)

Last season in 50 words: They flat out dominated the OUA West all season long, easing their way to the Queen’s Cup, losing only one game in the process. Of course, McGill flat out embarrassed the Mustangs in London in the OUA title game and UNB showed how far Western is from the top at the national championships.

Key departures: F Kyle Lamb, F Josh McQuade, D Jason Swit, G Anthony Grieco

Key arrivals: F Jeff Brown, F Zach Harnden, F Tyler Peters, D Matt Ashman, D Dominic Desando, G Alain Valiquette

Key player: Like most teams, goaltending will be the crucial factor for the Mustangs. We know what we are getting with up front and from their defencemen. Now it is up to former OHL star Josh Unice to prove he can carry the load for an entire OUA season. He was good last year, but he was still the back up to Anthony Grieco. This is his team now.

2011-12 outlook: Truthfully, I think this team is more talented than what they had last year. Losing Lamb and McQuade hurt because they scored and did the dirty work. But Harnden and Peters will more than make up for the loss. Ashman and Desando are also CHL proven defencemen who will slot in nicely behind OUA stars Scott Aarssen and Geoff Killing.

Losing Grieco hurts badly, but Unice is most definitely a quality goaltender. If Alain Valiquette can put in a few games in relief, they may not even notice the loss of Grieco.

This team is still the class of the OUA West. What remains to be seen is if they still have the ability to mow down their opposition in the playoffs, and whether they have done enough to catch McGill and UNB. Right now, I’m saying they haven’t.

Predicted conference finish: 1st

Results thus far: Western 5-2 RMC, Western 4-2 Carleton

Windsor Lancers

2010-11 regular season record: 12-12-4 (8th)
Playoff result: Lost 2-0 to Western

Powerplay: 12.7% (8)

Last season in 50 words: Much like Laurier, this team relied heavily on their goaltending duo of Jim Watt and Frank Dayus. If not for York, they may not have been a playoff team. Only a few players managed to get it going at any point in the season, resulting in a team that scored the third fewest goals in the entire OUA.

Key departures: F Mike Lombardi, F Kyle Lang, F Kyle Nishizaki, G Jim Watt, G Frank Dayus

Key arrivals: F Derek Lanoue, F Cory McGillis, F Isak Quakenbush, D Mike MacIntyre, G Parker Van Buskirk

Key player: The team relied on goaltending the last few years and I can’t see how that will be different. Parker Van Buskirk is expected to perform as well as Watt and Dayus had for years, and he is capable. But it will be a big adjustment for a player that was average in the OHL and worse in the ECHL.

2011-12 outlook: They lose their top scorer and star goaltender. Most teams can’t recover from that and this one is no exception. They do return some good defencemen in Steve Ferry and Matt McCready, who finished second and third in team scoring last year. They also didn’t really lose anyone other than the five listed above, meaning they return a lot of good depth players. Plus they have done a good job mining the Windsor Spitfires and the general Windsor area for recruits, which will bode well for the future.

But this team is still a few years away from really making any noise in the OUA.

Predicted conference finish: 8th

York Lions

2010-11 regular season record: 10-16-2 (9th)
Playoff result: Missed Playoffs

Powerplay: 10.9% (9)

Last season in 50 words: It was simply an awful season for the Lions. They were knocked out very early, finishing six points behind Windsor and UOIT. They finished couldn’t score and they couldn’t keep the puck out of the net, finished last in the West in both categories.

Key departures: F Adam Stuart, F Jaskirat Gill, F Jesse Grespan, D Kyle Lamb

Key arrivals: F Ryan Andersen, F Troy Barss, D Jeremie Perron, G Andrew Perugini

Key player: Mackenzie Micks was their second leading scorer as a rookie and, of the top three forwards, he is the only one who returns. He led the team in goals and powerplay goals and will be counted on to do the same this year if the Lions want to make the playoffs.

2011-12 outlook: There is nowhere to go but up for this team. And they will. They had nothing but rookies last year, and they will surely benefit from the experience that last year brought. They bring in another sizable rookie class, which will make for a rough opening. But I think this team will settle in. Their opening weekend, admittedly against weak opposition, was promising. If goaltender David Blair can improve on his rather poor 2010-2011 season, this team will definitely take a step or two forward. Now if only this team could hold on to their young talent (re: Stuart, Gill and Lamb) for longer than a season, they might legitimately be competitive one day.

Predicted conference finish: 7th (This is more of a statement on the impending downfall of Laurier, Windsor and UOIT than the stark improvement of York)

Results thus far: Toronto 5-4 York (OT), York 5-2 UOIT

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1 comment:

  1. Great read. I am not sure I would have put Ben Holtom in as a "key arrival" for Guelph though. He had 8 points in 21 games in Junior C in 2009-2010 and no points in his junior B games last year. He has yet to play for Guelph thus far.

    As a fan of Laurier (who are looking poor this year) I am hoping Joe Vanni and Brent Vandenberg (who will add major junior and NCAA experience) could be classified as key arrivals along with Mitch Lebar.