Guelph Hurricanes swept from playoffs by Elmira
Rob Massey, Guelph Sports Journal
GUELPH – The Guelph Hurricanes saw their Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season come to an end Tuesday night at the Sleeman Centre when they were downed 8-3 by the Elmira Sugar Kings.
That result gave Elmira a four-game sweep of the best-of-seven Midwestern Conference quarter-final playoff series.
The Canes fell behind early as they gave up two goals 53 seconds apart before the game was a minute and a half old.
Elmira scored two goals later in the first period, but the Canes rallied in the second to cut the gap to a single goal. However, three minutes after getting the margin down to one it was back to three as the Sugar Kings scored twice. The visitors added another goal later in the period to take a 7-3 lead into the third.
“They’re a good hockey club, they came out and knew what they had to do,” Canes coach Mike Down said. “They dictated the play right off the bat, we got behind and then it just kind of snowballed from there for a little while. By the time we figured out we were in a hockey game, it was too late. We battled back to 4-3 and a couple of breaks again and they pulled away. That’s the mark of a good hockey club.”
The Sugar Kings were held to five shots in the third period as they were content to go into a defensive shell to help preserve the victory.
The Canes outshot the Sugar Kings 28-18 and went 1-for-11 on their power play while Elmira went 3-for-5.
Anthony Mota, Cameron Stokes and Bradley Smith had a goal apiece for Guelph while Smith had two assists and Lucas Dybowski, Liam Kendall, Mitchell Morrison and Stokes each had one.
Ethan Skinner and Zack Cameron tallied twice each for Elmira while single goals were added by Jake Brown, Jacob Black, Mitch Hoelscher and Jeff Jordan. Brown, Mitch Hoelscher, Skinner and Andrew McIntyre each had two assists.
Kristian Hufsky took the loss in net for the Canes after yielding seven goals on 13 shots in the first two periods. Jacob Hutchings played the third and gave up one goal on five shots.
Jonathan Reinhart was in net for the win for Elmira in all four games of the series.
The Canes had finished seventh in the Midwestern Conference after going 14-33-2-1 in the regular season. They had six wins and a tie in their first eight games and then were held to eight wins the rest of the way.
The Canes had finished fourth in the conference at 26-14-3-7 in the 2015-16 season, but were also put out by Elmira in five games in the first round of the playoffs. The Guelph squad has not won a playoff series since 2011 when they swept the Waterloo Siskins 4-0 in the conference quarter-finals, then lost 4-2 to the Listowel Cyclones in the semifinals. Since then they lost the conference quarter-finals 4-2 to the Cambridge Winter Hawks in 2012, didn’t qualify for the playoffs in 2013 and were swept from the conference quarter-finals by Waterloo in both 2014 and 2015.
This season the Hurricanes scored 155 goals and yielded 209 in the regular season. Of the 27 teams in the league, 20 scored more goals and 19 gave up fewer goals.
However, the Canes were a young squad and only forwards Chris Poletek (9 goals-19 assists in 42 games) and Kevin Gergely (5 goals-12 assists in 39 games) won’t be eligible to play next season due to their age.
“We can bring pretty much everybody back, but there are guys that have other aspirations,” Down said. “Part of the process is moving guys forward to the next level. There’ll be a few guys there and guys go off to school and different things. I figure we’ll have probably about two-thirds of the guys back which is average any given year.”
Both Gergely and Poletek had their photos taken with most of their teammates in the hall outside the team’s dressing room shortly after the game.
“It was my (overage) year this year so the season coming to an end is the end of my junior career, which is very sad, but it’s time to start on to bigger and better things,” Gergely said. “I look forward to that. I had a great time in junior so I can’t dwell on anything.”
While his hockey plans are not set for next season, he is a University of Guelph student and is thinking about trying out for the Gryphons.
Forwards Stokes, Graham Evans, Adel Zivojevic and Mota, defencemen Nicholas Bird and Braydon Munn and goalies Hutchings and Nick Redman have 1997 birthdates and will be back only as overagers. Forwards Dybowski and Jacob Miller, forward/defenceman Alex Ritchie and defencemen Kendall, Kyle Somani and Brett Hunter were born in 1998, forwards Lyam Cripps, Smith, Jason Stachelbeck and Ben Maidment, defenceman Jaxon Camp and goaltender Hufsky were born in 1999 and forward Morrison, the team’s leading scorer in the series with Elmira with three goals and two assists, was born in 2000.
Four members of the Canes were former OHL draft picks — Morrison (fifth round in 2016), Camp (11th round in 2015) and Miller (8th round in 2014) by the Saginaw Spirit and Kendall (12th round in 2014) by the Kingston Frontenacs.
Looking ahead to next season, this season’s trials likely benefited the younger players.
“A lot of people grew and their roles changes throughout the year,” Down said. “We’re real happy about that. When they came and they wanted to play and execute the systems we wanted to play, we were very successful. When we kind of got off the rails a little bit and decided to do our own thing, then things kind of went south and that was basically our year. We had three long stretches where guys were working hard and playing hard and that, but we just couldn’t buy a goal.”
“Maybe it was just our work ethic,” Gergely said. “Some games we’d take shifts off and we wouldn’t play the full 60 (minutes) which is definitely what every team needs to do.”
During the regular season the Canes had an 11-game winless streak and two eight-game winless streaks. They never scored more than three goals in a game during the 11-game stretch Of the 50 games during the regular season, they scored three goals or less in 31 of them and 11 of the losses were by a single goal.
“That’s something that we have to address,” Down said. “We didn’t score enough goals and we let too many in at certain times. That’s part of the process this summer. We have to find the guys that are going to help us put the puck in the net and a couple of guys that will help keep it out of the net.”
“We have the guys that can do it here,” Gergely said. “They just need to keep working hard. They can’t take shifts off. They can’t takes days off. They can’t be doing any of that, they just have to keep working hard.”
Next up for the Canes will be their annual spring camp at the Gryphon Centre. Goalie camp is set for May 8 and the skaters camp is set for May 13 and 14.