2017-18 Pollock Division Season Preview: Mitchell Hawks
It was supposed to be their year. A talent-laden roster, celebrating 50 seasons of existence, only to crash out of the playoffs in heart-breaking fashion. The Mitchell Hawks are on a mission to make last year a distant memory.
After finishing 2nd overall in the regular season, a full 10 points back of Walkerton, the Mitchell Hawks were feeling pretty good heading into the post-season. Their roster featured the Pollock Division’s top 3 scorers, a ton of scoring depth behind that trio, and a quick mobile defense with another great young goalie guarding the crease. But in the second round of the playoffs, disaster struck. After jumping out to a 3-0 series lead, the Mitchell Hawks watched the Mount Forest Patriots rattle off four straight for the improbable comeback. As a result, a new coach was brought in to try and hit the reset button. That’s exactly what new bench boss Joel Riley says the team will do, and a vast majority of the roster will return. Could this be their year?
Up front, the dynamic attack will mostly be the same. Derek Elliott led the division in scoring with 70 points, and would likely have been a sure-fire MVP if not for the Mount Forest goalie Matt Oullette, who coincidentally ousted Elliott and his team mates in that great comeback. Elliott had plenty of support in Nathan Templeman and Blake Pickering, who had 50 and 48 points to put them 2 and 3 in division scoring. Add in Drew Gross with 45, Quinten Haddock’s 34 and young Chase Duckworth’s 32, and you can see why this offense was so potent. Coach Riley notes that because of the new Junior B drop down rule, where a Junior C team may only carry 4 former Junior B players with a certain amount of experience, one of these forwards will likely not be back. Riley doesn’t know who will be the odd player(s) out, but he isn’t worried about his team creating offense, and he shouldn’t be.
On defense, the Hawks are well set up to contend with anyone in the league. Coach Riley says Mackinnon Hawkins will have higher expectations put on him after a stellar 18 point campaign, and he will be leaned on in special teams situations. Hawkins also had 78 penalty minutes, showing he has a bit of snarl in his game and Riley says he likes his willingness to battle in his own zone. Same goes for the all around efficient Garrett James, who had a great season, posting 25 points, elite level numbers for a defender in this loop. James was seemingly on the ice in every key situation in games for Mitchell, and he and Hawkins form a very formidable 1-2 punch on the back end. Another huge boost comes in the form of returning Greg Hansford, who only played 16 games and got 12 points. Riley says he has the potential to have a really special year. Coach Riley also says there are some players the Hawks have signed for their blue line, but they are still involved in Junior B camps, so there is still some uncertainty there.
In net, the Mitchell Hawks have been cranking out pretty good young crease masters of late. Brock Baier propelled himself to Junior B Listowel and being drafted by the OHL Spitfires after a great year in Mitchell, and last year, Graeme Lauresen was spectacular, and he is also moving on to Junior B. But the Hawks look to have added another young stalwart in goal, in the form of former Clarington Eagles stopper Curtis Laviolette. In 16 games last year for Clarington in the PJHL East, Laviolette won 13 games and posted a ridiculous .933 save percentage to go with a 1.93 GAA. Even though he was the back-up. those are numbers to be excited about. He will compete for crease time with Tyler Parr, a Stratford native who is coming from the Huron-Perth Lakers system, and even though he’s a smaller goalie at just over 5’6″, Coach Riley says his athleticism is what makes him a great prospect.
For more on the upcoming Mitchell Hawks season, listen to the full interview with new Head Coach Joel Riley: