By Jake Howorth
It’s been known for over a week that the North York Rangers and Georgetown Raiders are set to battle in the second round of the playoffs. Obviously, this matchup offers more challenges compared to squad’s first series sweep of the Buffalo Jr. Sabres and St. Michaels Buzzers. This has the possibility of being one of the most physical and closely contested series in all of Junior A hockey. Here are the reasons why.
The defending OJHL champions Raiders are physical, defensive-minded and outrageous aggressive. If those characteristics sounds familiar it’s because I’ve used those exact words to describe the Rangers at some point in the season over a broadcast or in this form. Before Geoff Schomoygi became the head coach for the North York, he held an assistant position for Georgetown under Greg Walters for two seasons. One of the seasons ended in a heartbreak loss in the OJHL final series.
Coach Schomoygi holds a ton of respect for Walters, at one point calling him the best coach in the league. A bit of Georgetown’s coach rubbed off on the future bench boss. As a result, the two have very similar personalities and their teams embody it. This seems like a very Jedi and padawan type of situation. It has a feeling of a possible Obi-Wan and Anakin storyline.
The key to any playoff success and especially in this matchup is goaltending. By now everyone knows about the NYR tag team of OJHL goaltender of the year Colby Muise and possible NHL prospect Jett Alexander. They stonewalled any real chances the Jr. Sabres had a possible upset. Alexander posted video game numbers in the first round. In two starts, the 18-year-old tallied a .978 save percentage and 0.50 goals against average. Don’t forget, the Rangers acquired Alexander and Ross Kreiger, another big piece to this team from Georgetown last season. Either way, it doesn’t seem to matter who’s between the pipes for the Rangers, because the players in front are completely confident in both.
At the beginning of the year, the Raiders number one goalie was Mario Cavaliere. Even with his top-tier numbers, they somehow upgraded at the position. Cue in former OHL Erie Otters goalie Troy Timpano. Since he arrived at the scene, he’s registered a combined regular season and the playoff record of 8-1 plus a .942 SV% and a 1.91 GAA. The future Ryerson Rams netminder is exactly what Georgetown needed since they scoring went down with the departures of possible NCAA rookie of the year Jack Jacome and fellow Clarkson teammate Josh Dickinson. A hot goaltender formula seems to work for Georgetown since they’ve made it to the finals in three of the past four years all with different netminders.
The final reasons for this to be a tight contest is the defence. Both teams ranked one, two during the regular season in goals allowed per game and penalty kills. The Rangers and Raiders do a fabulous job in keeping shots to the outside and clogging up shooting lanes. In their games, one doesn’t see many ‘great’ scoring opportunities.
The intriguing part is, will North York be able to shut down Georgetown’s offence. Since the defending champs rank first in shots on goal (40.17), first on the man advantage (21.4%) and sixth in goal per game (3.70).
If history can tell us anything, North York can withstand the heavy offensive juggernaut. Even though they went 1-2-0-1 (W-L-T-OTL) in the season series, the Rangers held their own. The Raiders never scored three goals, two of the losses were decided by one and more importantly, North York put up a 3-0 shutout in the last meeting.
If you’re the hockey fan that enjoys the intensity and a full out war every game this is a must watch series. The hype will match the end results.
Photo by Ryan McCullough / OJHL Images