2019-20 PJHL Pollock Division Season Preview: Wingham Ironmen
An excellent regular season, the majority of which was spent in first place, ended in near miss for a Wingham Ironmen team on the cusp of glory.
The team was in first place all season basically from puck drop, until a late charge from eventual champion Mount Forest, coupled with some late season hiccups, cost Wingham the number one seed. The teams finished with equal points (65) but Mount Forest had one more regulation win. That would come to define the division final last season, too. Wingham looked to have the early advantage and would have long spells of dominance, only to trip up at inopportune times to give the Patriots life, eventually losing in 6 games. This year, the Ironmen’s season can be boiled down to three words: Championship or bust. It’s that simple. The returning roster and new additions, coupled with returning Head Coach Corey Hamilton, make Wingham the early betting favourite for the title. Can they get it done?
Up front, Wingham will clearly miss captain and Jr. C standoiut Jamie Huber, whose 77 points paced the team. However, one of the Vollmers is back to provide instant scoring punch, as Rhys (62 points) gives the Ironmen a very formidable scoring option at centre, though Shane (61 points) has aged out. Not to worry, as Wingham completed a 4-player trade with Goderich in the off-season to acquire veteran forward Chase Meurs (26 points) and a defender for fellow D-man Kyle Langlois and forward Parker Gibbings. Meurs will add secondary scoring and can easily be on either power play. Kyle Stanbury is a skilled player who can provide more than he did last year (50 points), and GM Wayne Johnson says youngster Tyson Koopman, who only played 7 games last year, will get opportunities to step in and provide offense. Logan Toltan (36 points) is also back in the mix, with Matt signing with Jr. B Elmira. The Ironmen also made a significant pickup in acquiring Exeter Hawks standout Liam Melady who had an astounding 51 points in only 29 games. He can replace what the Ironmen lost in Huber, and is an early favourite to lead the division in scoring. This group led the league in scoring last year (202 goals) and looks no weaker in this department. The Ironmen should continue to score in bunches.
The D-core conversation in Wingham quite frankly starts and ends with the best defender I’ve ever personally seen in the Jr. C level, Carter Collinson, who returns to captain the Ironmen after a season which saw him earn Pollock MVP and OHA Jr. C Player of the Year honours. There is simply put, no better defender in the division, full stop, especially at providing offense. Collinson had a statistical year that would make great forwards blush (64 points), calmly orchestrating the Ironmen breakouts, power play and penalty kill. He’s bar none the most dangerous player in the division. Regular partner Kyle Langlois was a piece in the Goderich trade, which saw defender Braeden Duncan come the other way. Duncan can slot in anywhere and provide steady defending, though he won’t be leaned on for loads of points (5 last year.) Jacob Bishop will return to make impacts on the penalty kill and provide some snarl in his own zone, and Dana Smith will do just the same. Chris Adlys likely pairs back up with Collinson to be the stay-at-home defender to Collinson’s mobile puck rusher. Ryan Litt is also back and can take another leap forward. The Ironmen d-core isn’t wildly offensively-minded, but they all provide solid defending and let Collinson handle that,as the team was also the best defensive unit last year (119 goals against). No reason not to expect more of the same.
In goal, Wingham will bring back one half of their goalie duel that won the Best Team Goaltending award last season. Jamie Brock was shipped off to Kincardine, giving the full time reins to Devon Carson. Carson split starts with Brock last year and got the nod in the playoffs, posting great numbers. In 22 appearances, Carson went 15-6-1 with 2 shutouts, a 2.55 GAA and .905 save percentage. With a mightily strong team in front of him and another year of experience under his belt, it’s not out of the question for those numbers to move into the 2.20 GAA and .915 save percentage range. Carson is big, quick and covers the bottom of the net incredibly well. You have to beat him up high with accurate lasers. His backup will be youngster Garrett Golley, who GM Wayne Johnson is very high on after he played with the Grey-Bruce Highlanders.
The Wingham Ironmen were agonizingly close last year, and the returning group, mixed in with some young faces, are coming into this year with a chip on their collective shoulders. They know they’re the favourite, they know how close they were, and they know they can win. It’s now all about putting it together and executing. The journey begins for Wingham this Friday night at home at 8 against, who else, the Mount Forest Patriots. For more on the Wingham Ironmen season, check out the full length interview below with Ironmen GM Wayne Johnson: