The OJHL’s west division spans from as far north as Orangeville all the way down to Buffalo, NY with 3 teams from Halton and 1 team from Hamilton in between. This season the early prognosis is that the division will be headlined by the Georgetown Raiders who come in as the preseason 3rd ranked team in the CJHL with the Buffalo Jr Sabre’s snagging an honourable mention in the top 20 list.
The hope for the division this year is to get more playoff teams as 3 of the 6 teams in the division failed to make the playoffs as Milton, Orangeville and Hamilton all had their seasons end prematurely. Burlington meanwhile squeeked in as the 8th seed only to get upended in 4 straight by Buffalo and the Jr Sabres and Raiders failed to make it out of the 2nd round.
It will be an interesting season none the less and without further ado here are the teams.
Buffalo Jr Sabres.
After snagging the top seed a year ago the Jr Sabres season ended abruptly at the hands of North York. Gone from last year’s team is star forward Tyler Gjurich and his 53 goals in 53 games to the University of Maine. Top Goalie Parker Gahagen is taking his .924 save% to West Point to play with Army.
All is not lost in Buffalo however as OJHL coach of the year Michael Peca is back behind the bench with a pair of Canisus 2014 commits leading the way on the ice in leading returning scorer Ryan Schmeltzer and Nolan Sheeran.
12-13 record 38-12-5 (81 Points, 1st in SouthWest Confrence) (Lost in 2nd Round)
Players lost to Commitment: Sean Federow (AIC), Parker Gahagen (Army), Tyler Gjurich (Maine), Frank Hora (Kitchener OHL), Josh Kielich (Canisus), Derek Patterson (Plattsburgh), Nathan Pelligra (Manhattenville), David Seward (Nazareth), Darrin Trebes (Fredonia)
Players to Watch: Ryan Schmeltzer (F)
2013 Season Predection: 2nd in the West
In what started out as a season of hope for the Cougars with a great start only faded as the season went along culminating in the trade of star forward Shane Conacher to the St. Michaels Buzzers at the deadline. The Cougars were still able to slip into the playoffs as the number 8 seed but were quickly swept by Buffalo.
It will be an interesting year in Burlington as former Erie Otters 2nd round pick Jeremy Gottzmann returns for another season after leading Burlington in scoring a year ago. Also back after being reassaigned by the Peterborough Petes is Adam Burnett who in my mind was the Cougars best player in the 2nd half of last season.
With starting goalie Alex Murray no longer in Burlington it will be up to returning back up Brock Novak and the new Shawn Jeffery who hails from Cape Breton to carry the loads as the tailors of the tangled twine.
12-13 Record 25-27-3 ( 53 points, 8th in the SouthWest Conference) (Lost in the 1st Round)
Players Lost to Commitment: Alex Landry (Minot State), Ellery O’Hare (Curry), Tyler Vankleef (Curry)
Players to Watch: Jeremy Gottzmann (F) Adam Burnett (D)
2013 Predicted Finish: 5th
Following a 2nd place finish in the division last season and the 3rd overall seed in the SouthWest Conference the Georgetown Raiders enter this season under the weight of heavy expectations. Inspite of losing their top scorers from last season to various universities as well as OJHL 1st team all prospect David Miller to S.S.M of the OHL the Raiders enter the pre season ranked 3rd by the CJHL.
Still if anyone is up to the challenge it is the Georgetown Raiders who have highly touted OHL prospect Mitchell Kreis patrolling the blue line for them this season. 19 year old Anthony Marra is also back for another season looking to build upon last year’s 52 point campaign. It will be interested to see what happens with Santino Cenorame as the London Knights are a deep squad who are hosting the Memorial Cup this year. Is there room for Santino on their blue line? Does he play another year of Jr A? It will be a boon for the Raiders if he does indeed come back.
12-13 Record 38-13-4 (80 Points, 3rd Place in SouthWest) (Lost in 2nd Round of the Playoffs)
Players Lost to Commitment: Alex Botten (Oswego), Santino Centorame (London OHL), Knick Dawe (Sarnia OHL), Gabe Grunwald (Wisconsin), Tyler McCarthy (Ryerson CIS), David Miller (S.S.M. OHL), Robbie Murden (Hamilton), Nick Perruccio (Nuemann), Thomas Welsh (Mississauga OHL)
Players to Watch: Mitchell Kreiss (D), Anthony Marra (F), Tyler Macpherson (D)
Predicted Finish: 1st place
Hamilton Red Wings
Well there is no need to sugar coat things last year was a long season up on the Mountain as the Hamilton Red Wings limped to a last place finish in the West Division. With a new year comes new hope as Dan Cameron is now behind the bench with the goal of growing the team with more local Hamilton talent.
Of note is the fact that Hamilton will carry 3 16 year olds on their team this year including North Bay 11th round pick Josh Chiarot. Also there is only 1 ’93 born player on the team so the youth movement is on. While growing pains can be expected the light can be seen at the end of the tunnel as it seems the Red Wings have a plan and are going to stick to it.
12-13 Record 5-49-1 (10 Points 12th Place) (Failed to make Playoffs)
Players Lost to Commitment: Troy Crema (Dartmouth), Spencer Hyman (Michigan)
Players to Watch: Josh Chariot (D), Niko Porikos (D), Cole Poliziani (F)
Predicted Finish: 6th Place
In spite of having OJHL 1st team all star Shane Bennet fill the net for them it was still a long season for the Milton Ice Hawks as they finished 9th in the SouthWest and failed to make the playoffs. This season however they will be carrying 4 high end ‘97s on their team in hopes of turning their fortunes around.
The biggest name of the bunch is goalie Ben Blacker who was one of the highest rated goalies in last May’s OHL priority selection. Ben however has committed to Western Michigan University for the start of the 2015 season. Others 97s include Erie Otters prospect TJ Fergus, Oshawa Generals prospect Stephen Templeton and Windsor Spitfires prospect Michael Andlauer.
12-13 Record 19-28-8 (46 points 10th Place) (Failed to make the Playoffs)
Players Lost to Commitment: Justin Devincentis (Westfield State)
Players to Watch: Ben Blacker (G), Shane Bennet (F), Tye Campbell (F), TJ Fergus (D), Stephen Templeton (D), Michael Andlauer (F), Kane Elliot (F)
Predicted Finish 3rd Place
It was a long season for the Orangeville Flyers who finished the 12-13 season in 5th place in the West Division and failed to make the playoffs. A few moves were made at the deadline and one that looks to pay dividends this year was the acquisition of former S.S.M. Greyhounds 3rd round pick Peter Angelopoulos. In 16 games to end the season with the Flyers last year Peter picked up 7 goals and 15 assists. He will be looked upon to help carry the offensive load this season.
A couple of ‘97s will also be suiting up in Orangeville this year lead my Ottawa 67’s 6th round pick Matt Mercer who spent last year with the Halton Hurricanes MM team. Lucas Smilsky is the other 97 on the Flyers. He went undrafted in the OHL priority selection but was a point a game player for the Barrie Jr Colts and added 4 goals in the OHL Cup.
12-13 Record 18-34-3 (39 Points, 11th Place) (Failed to make the Playoffs)
Players Lost to Commitment: Geoffry Bagnall (Lake Forrest), Tommy Tsicos (Curry)
Players to Watch: Peter Angelopoulos (F), Matt Mercer (D), Lucas Smilsky (F), Keegan Ackerland (F)
Predicted Finish: 4th Place