2017-18 GOJHL Midwest Preview: Listowel Cyclones
It was the perfect storm. A loaded club with depth at every position, trying to right the wrongs of the season just passed. The Listowel Cyclones of 2016-17 were a juggernaut, exploding for the greatest season in franchise history.
Now, the expectations have the club’s sights set ever higher. Despite smashing previous franchise wins and points totals last year, with a 40-7-1-2 record for 83 points, and winning just the second Cherrey Cup in the team’s history, the Cyclones fell in the Sutherland Cup semis to a London team used to contending in that competition. However, it was a season to celebrate, as many players starred for the club that showed it had all the tools to be a well oiled machine under the stewardship of Head Coach Jason Brooks and his staff. A couple notable departures will dent this year’s Cyclones roster ever so slightly, but some good news in terms of returnees, and a bulk of the roster still intact will help the Cyclones continue to reach higher goals, just like they did last season.
Up front, some excellent news for the club as leading regular season and playoff scorer Holdyn Lansink will return after flirting with a stint in the BCHL. Lansink was nothing short of brilliant on the score sheet, putting up 72 points in 49 regular season games, and 30 in 19 playoff contests. But Lansink isn’t just a points collector. Frequently energetic on fore-checks, and on power plays, he killed penalties regularly, bothering opposing D-men at the line and forcing mistakes. He is a very welcome returnee for the club after being named a Midwest First Team All-Star last year. Chase Herrfort, who was second in regular season scoring with 64 points, will also return. He scored clutch goals in the playoffs, putting up 16 points in 19 games despite being hampered by an ankle issue as the playoffs rolled on. Cullen Mercer, who joined midway through the year from OHL Flint, also returns to give the Cyclones a potent 1-2-3. Mercer had 20 points in 16 regular season contests, but exploded in the playoffs, posting 24 points in 19 games, while taking draws, killing penalties and becoming the go to sniper in the face-off dot on the man advantage. The only really notable subtraction from last year’s group is Jamie Huber, who will play Junior C with the Wingham Ironmen, where he began his junior career. Brady Anderson, the team’s leading goal scorer last year with 26, will come back, aided by super rookie Mitch Deelstra, Jacob Lee, co-captains Blake Nichol and Caleb Warren, etc., etc. You get it. This team was loaded last year, and will be this year again. It was hard to tell sometimes what the Cyclones top line was, and with basically the same cast, there’s no reason to assume they can’t pound in goals at will this season.
On the back end, Listowel initially thought two-way workhorse Max Coyle would return. However, after considering coming back to Listowel from the BCHL, Coyle received another offer to depart for BC, and is taking his talents west. Coyle had a solid regular season, with 19 points in 49 games, and was a brick wall in the playoffs, consistently shutting down opposition top lines and players, and Listowel will certainly miss his contributions. However, star defender Keaton Willis will be back to give the Cyclones a dynamic top end defender. Willis is the rocket man on the power play, as he can dish it off down low quickly, pinch in back door, or unleash bombs from the line. He had 34 points in the regular season, and managed to post 5 in 18 playoff games, as he battled a nagging shoulder issue. Danny Skinner returns as well, after posting 22 points in 44 games, adding in 1 playoff point while largely taking a shutdown role. Listowel will lose versatile Alec Tiley to the OPJHL, as well as the impressive young Chet Phillips to OHL Saginaw, though there’s a chance he may return, but Head Coach Jason Brooks says the team isn’t expecting him back. Brooks says the team have added three new faces to the blue line, including Zack Trott, who played for Junior C Stayner as a rookie last year and smashed it. Trott put up a blistering 67 points in just 41 games, and it looks like he’s exactly the type of defender that can fit Brooks’ system. Trott was drafted by the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL, and is a former Grey-Bruce Highlander. The Cyclones also added Cambridge Winterhawks Midget AAA standouts Steven Grant and Jagger O’Toole. Grant is a Guelph Storm prospect, and O’Toole’s rights are owned by Peterborough.
The Cyclones roster excellence certainly did not stop in the crease last year. In fact, you could make the case it was their strongest position, which is pretty incredible. Brock Baier had a monstrous year in what will be his only Junior B season. After impressing for Junior C Mitchell the year prior, Baier took the Cyclones crease with authority last year, and stymied shooters all the way to a dominant Cherrey Cup performance. Baier went 24-6-1 with 4 shutouts in regular season play, with an astounding 2.03 GAA and .933 save percentage. He was the landslide Midwest Rookie of the Year and a Second Team All-Star. In the playoffs, he only got better, going 13-6 with 3 shutouts, with a 1.67 GAA and a staggering .943 save percentage. One of those 3 shutouts came in the Game 6 Cherrey Cup clincher in Elmira, where Baier made 26 brilliant stops. Brock will be a permanent fixture with OHL Windsor this season, as he rode their wave to a Memorial Cup last year as a backup. He has earned his departure. Fortunately for Listowel, “backup” goalie Justin Herrgott returns to take the crease full-time. Hergott, in spot duty, posted a 16-3 record with 3 shutouts, a 2.11 GAA and a .919 save percentage. He didn’t leave the bench in the post season due to Baier’s brilliance, but he will carry the load this year, and showed he is just as capable of being a dominant crease warrior. To back him up, Listowel signed on former Cambridge Winterhawks goalie Max Wright, as Cambridge folds out of the GOJHL. Wright had a stellar year as the main man in Cambridge, going 22-16, with 3 shutouts, a 3.06 GAA and .904 save percentage. Head Coach Jason Brooks believes adding Wright gives the Cyclones another potent 1-2 in the net, something that certainly aided them down the stretch last year.
For more on the upcoming Listowel Cyclones season, check out our full-length interview with Head Coach Jason Brooks: