(ESSEX, ON) – The Essex 73’s have extended their streak of dominance over the Yeck Division (formerly the SOJHL) to five seasons. Beginning with the Ayr Centennials in 2013, the 73’s, and by default the Stobbs Divisions, has never lost a series to their West Conference brethren since the grouping was promoted from Junior D in 2012.
The Dorchester Dolphins, the only undefeated team in the Provincial Junior Hockey League’s regular season, were no match for Essex, as the 73’s capped off their 4-games-to-1 series with a 4-1 win Sunday evening.
The Dolphins, against their stiffest competition of the season, could not get a handle on their own zone throughout the series. Essex gave Dolphins goalie Riley Brown no room to breathe and never allowed sniper Derek Todosichuk the opportunity to truly get loose in the series.
Dorchester fared much better than in their Schmalz Cup quarter-final series last year. The games were actually competitive, and they did manage a Game 3 win, but the 73’s were just that much better.
Eric Shaw leads the 73’s in scoring through 18 games of playoff competition with 14 goals. Along with Tyler Scott, the two veterans lead their team with 22 points apiece.
Goalie Tyler Ryan carries a 15-2 record into the Schmalz Cup semi-final, with two shutouts, a 1.60 GAA, and a .943 save percentage.
Essex will now move on to another grudge match with the defending Schmalz Cup champions, the Ayr Centennials.
The 73’s gave the Centennials a baptism by fire in 2013, during Ayr’s first Junior C season, sweeping them with relative ease. They met again two years later in the provincial semi-final. Ayr, then in a new league, lost as Essex triumphed in five games, going on to take their record seventh Schmalz Cup.
Last year was a different story.
The Centennials, fueled by the magnificent goaltending of Mitch Figueiredo, swept through the 73’s en route to their very own Schmalz Cup victory.
Ayr is undefeated in the playoffs, having walked through the Burford Bulldogs, Norwich Merchants, and Paris Mounties, to win their division, and then the Grimsby Peach Kings to take the South Conference championship.
In addition, the Centennials have not lost in 34 games as they have an almost unbelievably balanced scoring attack.
Quinn Diamond leads the way with 14 goals, while Hudson Michaelis has notched 21 points. Nine of their forwards and one defenceman have averaged at least a point a game and Cole Cummings and Alex Mutton join Diamond and Michaelis in the 20-point club.
Considering their team has only played 16 playoff games, those are some pretty good numbers.
Between the pipes, replacing the aged-out Figueiredo, is the tandem of Jackson Swindells and Brennan Hadad. Splitting the guardian duties, each goalie has eight wins in the playoffs.
Swindells boasts a 1.45 goals against average and .952 save percentage. Hadad also has great numbers with a 2.01 average and a .927 save percentage.
The semi-final series commences tonight at the North Dumfries Community Centre at 7:00pm. Game two will be in Essex on Thursday; also at 7:00pm.
The winner of this semi-final will meet the winner of the Port Hope Panthers and Alliston Hornets for the Schmalz Cup and the inaugural PJHL crown.
- Tuesday, April 4 – 7 p.m. @ Ayr
- Thursday, April 6 – 7 p.m. @ Essex
- Sunday, April 9 – 2 p.m. @ Ayr
- Tuesday, April 11 – 7 p.m. @ Essex
- *Thursday, April 13 – 7:30 p.m. @ Ayr
- *Saturday, April 15 – 7 p.m. @ Essex
- *Monday, April 17 – 7:30 p.m. @ Ayr
* If necessary