GMHL Playoff Preview
A first glance at the first-round matchupsFebruary 21st, 2019 at 10:28AM February 28th, 2019 3:51AM
With the last games of the regular season and qualifiers done, the playoff matchups are set. The South Muskoka Shield’s loss at the hands of the Knights of Meaford in the qualifiers locked the final post-season series into place in the North Division. Meanwhile, the Tottenham Steam battled hard in the South, winning their three qualifying games to lock up the last spot in the South Division And with that, the GMHL can prepare for the one-plus month journey to the Russell Cup with a look at the first-round matchups that will decide which teams extend their seasons:
Bradford Rattlers (1) vs. Knights of Meaford (8)
The last time these two met in the playoffs was in 2015-2016 in the first round. The Rattlers were the favourites in the series, but the Knights managed to upset them in a 3-1 Series win. Since then, the Rattlers and the Knights have had quite the rivalry over the past couple of seasons. This season, the teams have met a total of six times, and the Rattlers won all six of their games against the Knights. Meaford is hoping they can channel some of the magic they had in 2015-2016 for another upset, while the Rattlers are looking for a little bit of revenge, and to continue the dominance they had over the Knights in the regular season. This series begins Friday, February 22, 2019, at Meaford.
Ville-Marie Pirates (2) vs. Bradford Bulls (7)
This year was the first year the Pirates and the Bulls faced each other, due to the fact they were in different divisions last season. They played each other a total of four times this year, with the Pirates sweeping the season series 4-0. However, the Bulls played the Pirates close in a couple of those games, but ended up losing in a one-goal game. Home ice will play a huge factor in this series, due to the Pirates outstanding play in front of their home crowd, but this series will definitely be an interesting one to watch, whether the Bulls can manage to be a pest and maybe upset, or Ville-Marie continues to dominate. This series starts Saturday, February 23, 2019, in Ville-Marie.
Temiscaming Titans (3) vs. West Nipissing Lynx (6).
The Titans and the Lynx have been rivals in the North for awhile, and probably have the most history out of any series, stretching back to when the Lynx were the Lumberjacks. In 2011-2012 Temiscaming won the league and were favourites to win the Russell Cup, but were upset by the Lumberjacks in the Finals. After that, the Titans were even more hungry for a Russell Cup, and continued to build towards one, meanwhile the Lumberjacks began to decline a bit after their win, which led to a change in name/owenrship in 2016-2017, becoming the revitalized West Nipissing Lynx. This will be the first time these two teams have met in the playoffs since the Lumberjacks became the Lynx. West Nipissing has had a strong year, with their best finish since becoming the Lynx, however the Titans have controlled the regular season series, with a 5-0-1 record. Will the Lynx be able to upset the Titans, or will the Titans continue their regular season play against the Lynx? We’ll find out soon, with this series starting Friday, February 22, 2019 in Temiscaming.
New Tecumseth Civics (4) vs. Almaguin Spartans (5)
Seven points may have separated the two teams during the regular season, but the margin was even thinner than that. Both New Tecumseth and Almaguin won two games in the four games they played in the regular season, with two of those games being one-goal contests. It should be noted, however, that three of those games came in the first half of the season, before New Tecumseth became one of the GMHL’s juggernauts. In the second half, the Civics went a remarkable 11-1-0 and were two points off the league lead from January onward. The Spartans record may not be as remarkable as the Civics in the second half, however, they have had one-goal contests against the top teams including the Titans, the Rattlers, and the Pirates. Needless to say that this series will be an interesting one to watch. This series starts Thursday, February 21, 2019 in New Tecumseth.
St. George Ravens (1) vs. Tottenham Steam (10)
The Steam won a crucial game, a winner-take-all battle with the Oshawa Riverkings, to earn the right to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, sneaking in also comes with the task of playing the Ravens in the first round. The Ravens were unstoppable in the second half of the campaign, finishing the year with a 30 game win-streak. The season series is lopsided too, sadly for the Steam, with four losses out of four games against the Ravens. Maybe the Steam can take a run at the Ravens, but it certainly is an uphill battle for the Steam. This series starts Saturday, February 23, 2019, in Tottenham.
Tillsonburg Hurricanes (2) vs. North York Renegadess (7)
Tillsonburg comes into this series as the regular season’s second-best in the South Division, a group that’s deep offensively and one that has received stellar offence throughout the campaign. And the Hurricanes have dominated the season series as well beating the Renegades three out of the four times they played them, only losing once in overtime. However, the Renegades have had one of the better defence in the South Division, only allowing 194 GA, fourth lowest in the South. If the Renegades can get back to their defensive ways, and stifle the Hurricanes offense, they may be able to hold the Hurricanes back. The Hurricanes offense is tough to stop though and could continue their offensive dominance and run away with it. We’ll see what happens, when the series starts Saturday, February 22, 2019, in Tillsonburg.
Windsor Aces (3) vs. Niagara Whalers (6)
The Aces’ success this season led them to a top three spot in the South Division and sees them enter their first-ever playoff series as the betting favorites. The long look makes it clear why, too. Windsor had the division’s third-most potent offense and fifth-most staunch defense. The hardest task for the Whalers though, will be finding a way to stop Bryce Yetman, who broke the GMHL record for most points this season. The Aces also went 9-3-0 to Whalers’s 6-7-0 from January onward. Windsor won the season series too, with a 4-0 record over the Whalers. However, the Whalers have gotten hot recently, with a 6-1 record in the month of February. Will the Whaler’s continue to be hot, or will the Ace’s cool them right down? We’ll find out when the series starts Saturday, February, 23, 2019, in Windsor.
Kingsville Kings (4) vs. NOTL Nationals (5)
If the season series is any indication, hockey fans are going to have some late nights watching the Nationals and Kings. Of the four outings played between the two teams, all four saw the winner scoring 6+ goals, with both teams winning two games apiece. That’s how unpredictable the margin between these two clubs has been all season. It should be noted, however, that they have yet to face each other post-January. The Kings have an edge, record wise, going 6-4 January on-ward versus the Nationals 4-6. Either way, this series will be an unpredictable one. Buckle up for this one. This series will start on Friday, February 22, 2019, in Kingsville.
** Update February 21, 2019, 4:30 PM: This version fixes a mistake made previously. The Whalers were ahead of the Renegades in the standings, and will be taking on Windsor, whereas the Renegade's will be taking on the Hurricanes. We apologize for the inconvienence.