With my column printing in the paper only on Wednesdays, I made my Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) picks on Saturday morning (April 23), prior to the first game that evening of the semi final series between the Ottawa Junior Senators and Renfrew Wolves. Here are my picks:

Hawkesbury Hawks (2) vs. Brockville Braves (3)

Both teams are coming off tough first-round series, with the Hawks downing Navan in six games – four of which went to overtime – and the Braves outlasting Pembroke in seven games, including a four-period overtime marathon 2-1 win on Friday, April 22, to finally clinch the series.

The two teams were only five points apart in the standings, with Hawkesbury finishing second in the CCHL’s Yzerman Division with 79 points and Brockville winning the Robinson Division with 74 points. Anyway you slice it, this is set up to be a tight series.

The Hawks have made consistent improvements all season and were tested in the first round by a tough Navan Grads team that focused on defense. That should bode well for the team’s future in the playoffs. The Braves are battle tested too, but the team’s goaltending looked shaky at times during the series against Pembroke. Matthew Tovell has been solid in the Hawks net and forward Kerfalla Toure was a beast in front of the net in the Navan series. That should be enough to overcome the Braves.

You didn’t think for one second I would pick Brockville did you?

Hawkesbury Hawks in 6

Ottawa Junior Senators (1) vs. Renfrew Wolves (4)

The Junior Senators were the class of the CCHL all season, finishing first overall and winning the Yzerman Division, as well as finishing the regular schedule as the sixth ranked team in Canada by the Canadian Junior Hockey League. Meanwhile, Renfrew battled Brockville for first place in the Robinson Division, losing out on the title by just one point.

This is going to be a tougher series than it looks on paper, as evidenced by Renfrew’s 3-1 Game 1 win on Saturday and Ottawa’s 3-2 overtime win on Sunday to tie the series at one game apiece. I made my pick prior to those games and went with Ottawa’s depth ultimately taking the series. But it will be close.

Ottawa Junior Senators in 7

For the record, I was 4-1 in the first round, including the play-in game between Rockland and Smiths Falls. I predicted an upset that almost happened, picking Pembroke to beat Brockville. The Lumber Kings were up 3-1 in games at one point, but ended up losing in triple overtime in Game 7. Close, but no cigar.

Hawks select future stars

Last week, the Hawks were busy not only preparing for Game 6 of the CCHL quarter-final, but the team’s executive was also securing the future via the CCHL Bantam Protect Draft.

Picked first by the Hawks was my nephew Reid Cunning, a 14-year-old forward who played the 2021 season with the Eastern Ontario Wild U15 AAA squad, scoring seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points in 25 games. From Vankleek Hill, Reid also played six games with the Hawks U18 AAA team, recording one assist.

Hawkesbury’s second pick, 14-year-old defenseman Samuel Bisaillon, is a native of Casselman and also played for the Eastern Ontario Wild U15 AAA team in 2021-2022. Bisaillon recorded a goal and three assists in 22 games for the Wild, and also played seven games with the Cornwall Colts U18 AAA squad.

The Hawks rounded out their top three selections with another pick from the Eastern Ontario Wild U15 AAA. Makail Poole Fournier, a 15-year-old forward from Orleans, recorded two goals and three assists in 26 games with the Wild this season.

Congratulations to the new batch of hatchlings and welcome to the Flock! Below is a list of Hawkesbury’s picks, along with their primary team during the 2021-2022 season:

Round 1: Reid Cunning – Eastern Ontario Wild U15 AAA

Round 2: Samuel Bisaillon – Eastern Ontario Wild U15 AAA

Round 3: Makail Poole Fournier – Eastern Ontario Wild U15 AAA

Round 4: Ethan Vachon – Seaway Valley Rapids U15 AAA

Round 5: Ben Hiel – OV Silver Seven U15 AA

Round 6: Hayden Mader – Seaway Valley Rapids U15 AA

Round 7: Kieran Prichett – Nepean Raiders U15 AA

Round 8: Wyatt Leblanc – RSL Kings U15 AA

Round 9: Colton Rheaume – Eastern Ontario Wild U15 AAA

Round 10: Joshua Baker – Seaway Valley Rapids U15 AA

Round 11: Yanick Marion – Eastern Ontario Cobras U15 AA

The Hawkesbury Hawks’ first round draft picks from last week’s CCHL Bantam Protect Draft appeared on the ice before the home game against the Brockville Braves on Sunday, April 24. Photo: James Morgan