2019-20 PJHL Pollock Division Season Preview: Mitchell HawksSeptember 10, 2019 6:00am
The Mitchell Hawks endured a tough year last season, a season which saw them fall nearly to the bottom, finishing higher only above Goderich.
However, the team is optimistic they can vault back up the standings after a successful summer that saw them bring back a ton of their core, while adding exciting new players from right in their back yard. GM Kevin Ward says he thinks the team has a ton of potential, and with the entire coaching staff returning as well, there is a cohesiveness among the group that should translate into a much better year.
Offensively, the Hawks are lucky that they get to bring back all their top 3 scorers. Jake Finlayson (38 points) and the dynamic Jarett Bogdon (35 points) form a high end 1-2 punch that can consistently put pucks in the net and create long fore checks in opponent’s D-zones. Tyson Hall (22 points) also returns, and he should see his point total likely climb above 30 with even more power play time. The Hawk’s other 20 point forward last year, Ethan Hill, is also back, along with Nathan and Max Hall (16 and 12 points) and youngster Kaden Hoggarth (8 points). Mitchell has also added a bunch of home grown talent from the Mitchell Midget Rep team, including Jacob Rauser and Zach Dow, who can both fly and hopefully gel quickly with the great returning cast of veterans. Mitchell scored just 134 goals last year, the second fewest behind only Hanover, but the returning high end core and young, hungry rookies is giving the Hawks the hope of far more pucks denting the twine.
On defense, the Hawks will basically look the same, albeit with the return of a former Hawk from Jr. B. Reid Ramseyer, who played in Mitchell as a 16-year-old, is coming back from Jr. B St. Marys, where he scored 2 points in 33 games for a team at the bottom of the standings. He will have far more talent to work with at the Jr. C level, and he’s a great puck rusher who will likely run the power play with Mitchell and provide tons of steady defending and physicality. Returning from last year is number one D-man Luken Van Pelt, who had a stellar 24 points in 33 games last year. Van Pelt and Ramseyer make up a formidable top-2 that can get pucks up ice, run power plays, and shut down opponents. As if that wasn’t enough, Dylan Nafziger is back, and his one timer and great passing will make power plays and odd man rushes even more dangerous after he scored an amazing 20 points in just 22 games. Veteran D Spencer Dowd is coming back, too for one more kick at the can, and he will be relied upon to keep opposing forwards in check near his own net (though he did have 19 points). Brett Denny is also back in the fold (18 points) as well as physical bruiser Eric Rolph, who will begin the year suspended. Rolph is the classic stay-at-home defender and when he returns to the ice, he provides a snarl that makes opponents think twice about going near the crease. The blue line is very well rounded here, and could be the best offensive group top to bottom. Can they defend though? Only Goderich allowed more than Mitchell’s 197 goals against last year, so maybe a more cautious approach from some of these great offensive defenseman is the way to go.
In goal, Mitchell had a few different appearance makers last year before Ryan Govier took over late in the year, helping Mitchell push Kincardine to 6 games in the playoffs. Govier will now have the opportunity to be the number 1, and went 3-4 last year with a 5.10 GAA and .876 save percentage. Those numbers will climb if Mitchell can get more consistent defending from their D-core, and more buy-in to back checking from the forwards. Mitchell’s forwards could be accused at times last year of leaving the zone too quickly and leaving their goalie out to dry on odd man rushes. If that changes, the goalie stats will of course benefit. Backing up Govier will be another home grown talent in Kari Dingman, the Mitchell Midget Rep goalie who comes highly touted by GM Kevin Ward. If he can use his impressive size and puck playing ability to challenge Govier, the team may be able to split starts and have both goalies more fresh for the post season.
Mitchell are certainly banking on a lot of the same to lead the team back up the standings. If the home grown youth products can make significant contributions, and the team improves a lot defensively, the Hawks could potentially jump a few spots up the Pollock standings. Mitchell open their season in Walkerton this Friday night at 8:20. For more on the upcoming Mitchell Hawks season, listen to the full length interview with GM Kevin Ward here: