It is playoff time in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL), which means it is time for my CCHL playoff predictions! I plan to make this a regular feature of my column and may even take a crack at the NHL playoffs once they start. But perhaps we’ll see how my CCHL forecasts go first…
We will start things off with the play-in game between the Rockland Nationals and the Smiths Falls Bears, who finished tied for eighth place in the CCHL with 55 points in 55 games. As I am writing this, it is Monday afternoon, April 11, and the game is on Tuesday evening, April 12, prior to press time for the regular paper on Wednesday, April 13. So we’ll already know how well my predictions are going by the time the paper comes out.
Here goes nothing.
Rockland Nationals (8) vs. Smiths Falls Bears (8)
The winner of this one-game playoff gets to face the 43-8-2-2 league leading Ottawa Junior Senators in the first round of the CCHL playoffs, which isn’t exactly a bed of roses.
Both teams have almost identical regular season records – Smiths Falls at 25-25-4-1 and Rockland at 24-24-4-3 for 55 points – essentially .500 teams, so this is a toss up. I’m going to go with the Bears because I think on paper they have the better team, but I would not be surprised a bit to see Rockland win.
Mac’s Pick: Smiths Falls in 1
Ottawa Junior Senators (1) vs. Smiths Falls Bears or Rockland Nationals (8)
OK that was tough, so let’s move on to an easy one. As I said, the winner of the Bears-Nationals game gets the ominous task of facing first-place Ottawa in the first round of the CCHL playoffs and that is going to be a difficult ask of any .500 team.
The Junior Senators are not only the best team in the CCHL, they finished the season ranked as the sixth best team in the country by the Canadian Junior Hockey League. They’re that good.
But anything can happen in any given game, so I am going to forego predicting a sweep and will forecast either the Bears or Nationals stealing one game in the series. But that’s it.
Mac’s Pick: Ottawa in 5
Hawkesbury Hawks (2) vs. Navan Grads (7)
Hawkesbury finished in second place in the CCHL’s Yzerman Division, with the Navan Grads in third, but the teams were in two different leagues as far as wins and points. Hawkesbury had a stellar record of 37-13-3-2, despite an 0-3 start to the season, while the Grads finished just three games over .500 at 27-24-2-2. Hawkesbury was also 3-1 against Navan during the regular season.
I’m not going to sugar-coat things here: the Hawks have a high-powered offense, great defense and stellar goaltending and should dominate this series. But Navan has great offense too – scoring one more goal during the season than Hawkesbury.
In this series the biggest different is on defense and in net, where Hawkesbury led the league by allowing only 131 goals in 55 games on the season, while Navan allowed 194 goals against. That’s a lot of goals and should be enough to make the difference here.
The Hawks have better goaltending with Matthew Tovell in net and Spratt, the Toure brothers, Quesnel, Gendron, Cusson, and Cooper I think will tear it up and get lots of points. Players to watch out for on Navan are Orpana, Crete, Burke, Lovisek, Hogue, Drouin.
Mac’s Pick: Hawkesbury in 6
Brockville Braves (3) vs. Pembroke Lumber Kings (6)
What should be a really tight series between the Brockville Braves and the Pembroke Lumber Kings kicks off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12, at the Brockville Memorial Centre.
The Braves finished first in the CCHL’s Robinson Division and third overall, with a record of 36-17-0-2 for 74 points, while Pembroke was fourth in the division and sixth overall with a record of 30-21-2-2 for 66 points.
The two teams were almost the same in goals allowed this year, but Brockville’s high-powered offense outscored the Lumber Kings by 31 goals this year. Despite that, I’m going to pick the upset here.
Mac’s Pick: Pembroke in 6
Kemptville 73’s (4) vs. Renfrew Wolves (5)
The fourth place team against the fifth is always the toughest call in a first round set of series.
On paper, Renfrew should have the edge here. The Wolves had a record of 35-17-1-2 for 73 points during the regular season and second place in the CCHL’s Robinson Division, while the 73’s finished in third place in the division with a record of 29-18-5-3 for 66 points. But seven points in 55 games is not a huge difference at this level of Junior hockey – they’re both talented teams.
If you look more deeply into the season stats, Renfrew scored 11 more goals than Kemptville and also allowed 20 fewer goals. The fact that the Wolves are stronger at both ends of the ice is why they get my pick… but it will be close.
Mac’s Pick: Renfrew in 6
Known as Vankleek Hill’s Sports Authority, Mackenzie Hinton writes regular sports updates on his popular Facebook page. Mac is the statistician for the Vankleek Hill Cougars and Hawkesbury Hawks Junior hockey clubs. His column appears weekly in The Review.