Hawkesbury Hawks (2) vs. Ottawa Junior Senators (1)

The cream has risen to the top in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) playoffs.

The Hawkesbury Hawks and Ottawa Junior Senators were the two best teams throughout the 2021-2022 CCHL regular season and it is only fitting they should meet in the league finals, which begin this week. So far this season, I have a 5-1 record with my picks, but this one is a little tougher because I have to pick with my heart as well as my head.

The Ottawa Junior Senators were the top team in the CCHL all season and finished the year ranked sixth in Canada. The Hawks got off to a slow start with losses in their first three games, but added talented players to the team throughout the year and I believe they are now Ottawa’s equals – being ranked 20th in the country would support that.

As the Hawks statistician, I’m obviously a little biased, but I would say as long the Hawks keep playing their game, stay out of the penalty box and don’t give Ottawa any power plays, they will be CCHL champions. I just think the Hawks are unbeatable and untouchable, with the offense doing a lot of scoring. As long as Kerfalla Toure and other key players on the team keep finding the back of the net, I don’t think they can be stopped.

Hawkesbury’s defenseman are also solid and if they continue to play their game and netminder Matthew Tovell keeps up his high level of play Ottawa will have a tough time scoring. The Hawks’ overall balance on defense should help them at both ends of the ice.

That said, the Junior Senators are also a balanced, high scoring club, with excellent goaltending. Whatever happens, I have no doubt it will be an exciting final and we will see both squads raise the levels of their games.

This is an epic battle between two great squads who are each a credit to their organizations. No matter the outcome, both Hawkesbury and Ottawa fans can be proud of their teams.

It’s going to be a long series and they will be tested like never before, but I believe the Hawkesbury Hawks will dig deep to win their first CCHL championship in 16 years.

Hawkesbury in 7

NHL playoffs picks

Reid liked my CCHL picks so much that he has asked me to make regular picks during the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs. There are a LOT of NHL fans in this area. Let’s get started

Florida Panthers (58-18-6) vs Washington Capitals (44-26-12)

The Presidents’ Trophy winning Panthers face Alex Ovechkin and the talented Capitals in the first round. This is going to be tougher than the experts think.

Florida in 7 games

Toronto Maple Leafs (54-21-7) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (51-23-8)

As a reward for one of the best regular seasons in their history, the lucky Leafs draw the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lighting in the first round. It’s time for the Leafs to put their recent playoff history behind them and they are going to do so.

Toronto in 6 games

Colorado Avalanche (56-9-7) vs Nashville Predators (45-30-7)

Nashville blew a 4-0 lead in its final game against the Arizona Coyotes to end up facing the top seeded Avalanche instead of Calgary. That was a big mistake.

Colorado in 5 games

New York Rangers (52-24-6) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (46-25-11)

The kids from New York against the grizzled veterans from Pittsburgh. Crosby and Malkin have unfortunately passed their ‘best before’ date. But they’ll put up a fight.

New York in 6 games

Minnesota Wild (53-22-7) vs St. Louis Blues (49-22-11)

Blues netminder Marc-Andre Fleury is the difference here between two evenly matched teams.

St. Louis in 7 games

Calgary Flames (50-21-11) vs Dallas Stars (46-30-6)

This is another series that I think will be closer than most hockey experts are predicting. Calgary will get tested in the first round, but that will make them stronger for the rest of the playoffs.

Calgary in 7 games

Edmonton Oilers (49-27-6) vs Los Angeles Kings (44-27-11)

Edmonton has the two best players in the NHL in Draisaitl and McDavid, but the team can never seem to get over the hump. They will for at least one round this year, but it won’t be easy

Edmonton in 7 games

Carolina Hurricanes (54-20-8) vs Boston Bruins (51-26-5)

Toughest series to call in the first round. The Bruins are always good. The Canes are loaded, but goaltending questions remain.

Carolina in 7 games

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.