It was a successful 2011-12 campaign for the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. The Troops wrapped up the regular season in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, boasting a record of 36-22-3-7. A first round encounter with the Sudbury Wolves ended in a series sweep for the Battalion and an eventual second round matchup with another rival, this time the Niagara IceDogs.
Brampton played Niagara hard, forcing overtime in game one, and nearly tying game two in the dying seconds before an empty-net goal sealed the game for the IceDogs. Despite the series loss, the Battalion, coached by Stan Butler played a well-rounded and disciplined team-first game all season and as a result, turned a lot of heads throughout the league.
In years past, the Battalion have had players like Cody Hodgson, Matt Duchene or Wojtek Wolski to look to for carrying the offense. This year’s team lacked the marquee scorer of that ilk, but had the depth in scoring that made up for it. Phil Lane chipped in 41 points, Barclay Goodrow hit 52 points including 26 goals. Dylan Blujus paced the defensive scoring with 34 points and was a fixture on the power play all year. Rookies Patrik Machac and Brandon Robinson were also able to get their feet wet and chip in offensively as well.
The well-balanced attack was spearheaded by the Captain, Sam Carrick. In what could only be called his breakout season, the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect tallied 37 goals while chipping in another 30 assists for 67 points in 68 games. As the leader on the Battalion, Carrick took the bull by the horns throughout the year, leading both on the ice and off of it. His performance culminated in Player of the Year honours, and parlayed itself into an entry-level contract with the Maple Leafs. Although he has one year of Junior eligibility left, Carrick should be playing Pro hockey next fall.
“It’s been a great year and it flew by. I think it flew by because time flies when you’re having fun” said Carrick. “We surprised a lot of people, had a little playoff run that was cut short, but if you really look back, it was a successful year.”
Also moving on from the Battalion will be over-agers Mitchell Porowski, Ian Watters and Brett Mackie. “It’s tough, obviously I’d have liked my career to last a little longer, but this year was a lot of fun” said Mackie, who was acquired from Belleville early in the year to add an extra element to the Battalion lineup. “I think my first year when we had a pretty good run, losing in the third round and then this year, were probably the two highlights of my career. They were my two best years with team success.”
Defenseman Cameron Wind has another year of junior eligibility left and combined with Zach Bell, formed the top defensive unit for the Battalion. “We started off as a defensive team, but as the season wore on,we picked it up offensively” said Wind. “Bell and I took a lot of pride all season shutting down the other team’s top lines all season.” Brampton native Zach Bell would share those same sentiments about his defense partner “We played the shut-down role all year, it’s a good test for the two of us, and we’ve had a good year doing it.”
In a league where experience is a critical element for success, a key strength for the Battalion moving into next year will be that all of their defensemen are expected to return for a third straight season. Mix in Coach Stan Butler’s structured coaching style, which will mesh well with the returning players benefiting from already understanding the system in place. “The back end will be pretty much the same, same defense and goaltender, but we will need the forwards to step up next year” said Wind.
Just over a year ago, Brandon Robinson was looking forward to beginning his career in the OHL with the Battalion. A season’s worth of experience has proved valuable to his development. “It was a good season and I’m glad I went to Brampton, I got a lot of ice-time and fit in” said Robinson. “I learned a lot, just what I have to do over the summer to get stronger, and be able to compete in the league and be one of the best players next year.”
“We have a good character group in there, and I’m definitely going to miss the guys that are moving on, but we just have to push forward and look forward to next year” summed up Defenseman Spencer Abraham. Next year isn’t too far away though, as the Troops open their summer orientation camp on May 26th.