Cherrey Buslines OHA Friday Night Focus: Kincardine Bulldogs Vs. Hanover Barons

Each week, Ryan Drury will preview the CKNX Cherrey Buslines OHA Hockey match-up, with pre-game analysis, reports, and quotes from the 2 teams.

Tonight’s match-up is a tale of haves and have nots. The Kincardine Bulldogs are marching their way up the standings, currently tied for 2nd in the Pollock Division with the Walkerton Hawks, nearly a week after beating 1st place Mount Forest at the Davidson Centre. A team-first mentality has the Bulldogs churning along as a great shutdown unit that spreads its offense throughout its lineup. Hanover, on the other hand, is languishing in last place, tied with the Goderich Flyers with 13 points. The top end scorers from year’s past are gone, and the team is struggling to find its way right now. They’ll have a very stiff test at the Davidson Centre this evening.

Kincardine were as low as 5th early in the season, but have really hit a new gear as the team settled into what made them champions in 2015. They don’t have one of the division’s highest scorers, they don’t have gaudy offensive numbers, and they don’t have eye popping skill littered through their forward group. What they do have is an excellent group of hard workers who are very skilled in their own right, who know how to grind teams down in every zone and never stop skating. Their 98 goals are good for 4th, but an air-tight D core have allowed just 74 goals, 2nd fewest behind Mount Forest’s 56. These forwards are no slouches though. Mike Fieghan leads the way with 25 points in 28 games and has the ability to go on big hot streaks. Brett Burrows (22), Jordan Caskenette (18), Keegan Angel (18), Damien Demarco-Sutton (18), Logan Freiburger (12), Brady Richards (10) and Derrick Bernath (10) all have double digit point totals. So, while there are no monster point totals here right now, this team has a healthy spread of offense that can strike as a unit.

On defense, the Bulldogs have an excellent unit with a great mix of size, speed, and heavy physicality. Head Coach Shawn Burrows has called Robert White the “scariest defender in the league.” White is tied with Hunter Robbins-Gibbons with 11 points to lead the D-core. This unit isn’t the quick, jump up ice unit you might find in Mitchell or Wingham, but they might be the best shutdown group as a whole. This group is responsible, they don’t take tons of penalties, and they can handle any sort of fore-check teams throw at them. There really isn’t any set way to intimidate this unit. Jesse Carnahan, Logan Swanton, Payton Dunlop, youngsters Kent Ribey and Jake Fair along with Grant Stevens help the Bulldogs bully opponents away from their crease, where they allow their goalies to do some pretty stellar work.

In terms of starting goalies, Craig Luinstra defines that role better than a lot of goalies at this level. He carries the mail for this group, starting 19 games, with a 13-6-0 record, 2 shutouts, a 2.47 GAA and .915 save percentage. So not only is he carrying that mail, he’s delivering the full package for Kincardine. He is capably spelled off when needed by Ethan Primeau, who in 10 starts has a 3-5-1 record with a shutout, a 2.88 GAA and .899 save percentage. The goaltending has helped the bulldogs to an identical 8 home and road wins, and there’s never a worry in the blue paint, especially with the D-core this team sports in front of the crease.

Hanover at one time boasted high end scoring talent like Jarett Kuntz and Justin Graham, or “Shifty” as they called him, but they have left Junior C behind, and the team offensively has struggled to replace them. Brodie LeMay is also gone, meaning 3 of Hanover’s top 4 scorers from last year are gone, leaving only Matt Shields, who was 3rd in team scoring last year but has had a tough season so far. Hanover is led this year by Jordan Reaman who has a solid 22 points in 25 games, but their next highest scorer is D-man Colton Culbert with 20, after he returned from last year after leaving the Junior B Sugar Kings. The only other forwards that have double digit points are Noah Johnson (15) and Tyson Lina (10). If Hanover has hopes of rising from the basement of the Pollock Division, someone is going to have to get hot up front and bring the point totals up. Come playoff time when things get tighter and teams buckle down on scoring chances, this unit might have trouble sticking around for more than 4 or 5 games.

Defensively, the Barons have an absolute gem in Culbert, who is one of the best rushing D-men in the Division, and his 20 points backs that up. He was a depth player for the Sugar Kings, but at this level he’s a high end puck mover that can cause issues with his skating, and just as easily make a great pass when he draws attention to himself. Derek Cornfield has also provided steady two-way play for the Barons, amassing 13 points so far. Just like the forwards though, the point totals drop off. Unfortunately for the defensive side, which is the focus here, the goals against numbers aren’t pretty either. Hanover has allowed a division high 135 goals, ahead of Goderich with 133. Those numbers are awful hard to stomach on a nightly basis, and unless it changes, like I mentioned with the forward concerns, an early playoff exit is likely.

That brings us to goaltending, and through no real fault of their own, and through no lack of talent, the numbers here aren’t so great. Luke Aulthouse has started 12 games with a 3-8-0 record, a 5.13 GAA and .859 save percentage. Chase Krompocker of 14 starts has a 2-11-0 record with a 3.72 GAA and .886 save percentage. Needless to say, it has been a rough year to be a Barons goalie. As much as a goalie can save a season and carry a weaker team, there’s only so much any goalie can do for a team.

Hanover has certainly had a tough year hitting rock bottom, and they’ll look to try and at least claw past Goderich to try to not finish dead last. They will have a tough time at the home of one of the best defenses in the division, as the Bulldogs look to keep pace with Walkerton and chase down the Pats. Should be a great game, tune in at 8 for the pre-game show and stick around for 8:25 puck drop with Steve Sabourin and Scott Bridge live on CKNX AM920 and