TORONTO - The preliminary rounds of the 2019 UUHA Playoffs are over. Now the real Playoffs begin.
This Saturday, March 23 will see six of the seven UUHA teams face off against one another in competition for the three remaining berths in the Semi-finals (scheduled for Saturday, March 30 at UCC). The President's Cup-winning Beau's Beer Hack, who won their opening-round series vs. the Gas Station Islanders with a tie and a win, defeated the Brockton Rockets 3-1 last Saturday to earn a bye through the Quarter-finals and lock down a spot in the Semis. For all other teams setting their sights on the road to the Championship Final, it's must-win from here on in.
First up on the chopping block will be the Jokers and Rockets - two teams on opposite ends of the momentum spectrum this past Regular Season. Believed to be the oldest team in the league (based on average players' ages), the Jokers finished the 2018/19 campaign with a sub-500 record, a -5 goal differential and a points total of 16.5 which was still good enough for 3rd-place overall finish. The Rockets, meanwhile, enjoyed their best season thus far, finishing just a half point out of 1st-place (25 points) with a 10-4-2 record and +19 goal differential. Regarded as the most youthful team in the UUHA, the speedy Rockets boasted four of the top 10 points scorers in the league this past Regular Season, including leader Dustin Harris, who finished out the 16-game tour with a tidy record of 16 goals and 16 assists. One of the few games that Harris was held off the game sheet this past season, though, was against the Jokers, who won that lopsided affair by a score of 5-0. Additionally, the Jokers have enjoyed more playoff success than the Rockets, including winning two Championships (2010 and 2012) while the Brockton Boys have made a habit of flaming out midway through the March mission.
Regular Season Series (advantage: Rockets 2-1)
November 24, 2018 - Rockets 2, Jokers 1
January 12, 2019 - Jokers 5, Rockets 0
February 2, 2019 - Rockets 6, Jokers 1
Next up are the Wheatfield Souldiers and Gas Station Islanders - two teams that know each other well having competed annually for the past 18 years. Though currently the reigning UUHA Champions, the Souldiers endured a consistently inconsistent Regular Season, finishing with an uncharacteristically weak record (6-9-1), a goal differential of -10 and a woeful start that saw the team drop it's first four games during which they managed just a single goal. Injuries have claimed key players, too. The Islanders had their challenges this season, too, at one point dropping eight consecutive decisions. The team bounced back, though, registering victories in four of their last six Regular Season games, including a big 7-3 win over the Souldiers. If Playoffs experience counts for anything, though, the Souldiers enjoy that edge like no other UUHA, having been to Championship Final on six occasions - five of those times successfully. Their most recent win? Last year vs. the Gas Station Islanders. However, this year's Isles would be accurately considered new and improved with the addition of a handful of quality rookies, several veteran players contributing as if in their prime and consistently solid goaltending from Jonathan Steinman.
Regular Season Series (advantage: Souldiers 2-1)
November 3, 2018 - Souldiers 5, GSI 2
December 8, 2018 - Souldiers 4, GSI 3
January 12, 2019 - GSI 7, Souldiers 3
Finally, one of the great rivalries in "music league" hockey will be revisited this Saturday when the Parkdale Hockey Lads take to the ice vs. the Humiliation for a one-and-done game that will see the victor on to the Semis. The Lads, who started this past Regular Season as the gold-standard squad with a remarkable record of seven straight wins, will limp into this contest nursing a 12-game losing streak - the worst-ever run of defeats in UUHA history. A number of those matches have been tight, though, including a pair of games vs. the Humiliation which were decided by a single goal. And with team scoring leaders Kyle Welton and Ian Seeton on the ice, anything can happen. The addition of rookie Sean Morrison has benefitted the Humiliation greatly - in just eight Regular Season games he potted 15 goals and 5 assists for 20 points, and is averaging a goal-a-game in the Playoffs. Veterans Luke Moretti, Jimmy Sioukas and Mike Thompson appear in prime form these days, as well. But goaltending remains a question mark for the Black Wizards who, in the absence of injured tender Luke Smit, have thus far employed a pair of out-of-league netminders (after unsuccessful attempts to recruit within the league), including a rental goalie in their most recent game, a 3-1 win over the Souldiers.
Regular Season Series (advantage: Humiliation 2-1)
October 27, 2018 - Lads 4, Humiliation 3
January 5, 2019 - Humiliation 5, Lads 1
February 23, 2019 - Humiliation 3, Lads 2
All three of this Saturday' games take place at Upper Canada College.
TORONTO - The Beau's Beer Hack moved onto the Semi-Finals of the 2019 UUHA Playoffs with a 3-1 victory over the Brockton Rockets this past Saturday night at Upper Canada College. Meanwhile, the Gas Station Islanders defeated the Parkdale Hockey Lads 6-2 and the Humiliation bettered the Wheatfield Souldiers 3-1, garnering top spot in the opening-round, round-robin Playoffs series.
The Humiliation will now face the Lads in this coming Saturday's Quarter-finals, while the Souldiers will go up against GSI for a shot at a Semis berth. The Jokers, who finished third among the three round-robin series teams, will take on the Rockets.
Luke Moretti had a pair of goals for the Humiliation, who outshot the Souldiers 22 to nine over the course of three periods. Sean Morrison had the other Humiliation goal, while Scott Pettus tallied for the losing side. Veteran Souldiers goaltender John Sutton turned aside 19 of 22 scoring attempts, while his counterpart at the other end of the ice (a towering rental goalie named Parker) had an easier time of it, stopping eight of just nine shots on the Black Wizards' goal.
In the GSI/Lads contest, Dominic Chartier potted a pair and added an assist en route to a three-point night. Linemate Bry N. Evin enjoyed a three-point game as well, while Dan Brock, Courtney Stevens, John Pickernell and Yan Bourassa all pitched in with a pair of points. Kyle Welton and Ian Seeton scored for the Lads and assisted on each other's goals. Luis Freitas made 14 saves for the Lads while Joseph Steinman turned aside 19 attempts on the Gassers' cage.
And it was another big night for Beau's Beer Hack goaltender Aaron Brophy, who finished the night one goal shy of a shutout (he was sitting on an egg until five minutes-or-so into the final frame). Despite the loss, Jonathan Dickson was no slouch at the opposite end of the rink, making at least 23 saves in his effort to help the Rockets earn a bye to the Semi-finals. That honour, however, would go to the Hack, thanks to goals from Lance Moreton, Dominic Hanlon and Chris Barkley. Bryan Eelhart had the lone goal for the Brockton Boys.
With the opening rounds out of the way, the 2019 UUHA Playoffs now move into must-win territory for teams hoping to maintain a shot at the Championship Final. Quarter-finals action gets underway at 7:00 pm this coming Saturday with the Jokers going up against the Rockets, followed by a rematch of last season's Final as Burton's Boys face off against the Islanders at 8:00 pm. The last match of the night will see an old rivalry revisited as the Humiliation attempt to hand the Lads their 13th consecutive loss at 9:00 pm. All three games take place as Upper Canada College's William P. Wilder Arena.