GOJHL Playoff Preview: Listowel Cyclones (1) vs. Kitchener Dutchmen (4)

With the first round out of the way, the top 4 seeds in the GOJHL Midwestern Conference remain. The second round will pit the Listowel Cyclones against the Kitchener Dutchmen in a battle that will surely be one of the most physical this year.

Listowel made quick work of Brampton once again in a 4 game sweep in round one, while Kitchener went 7 full rounds with the Elmira Sugar Kings. It will be interesting to see how beat up Kitchener is from that grueling series, and if Listowel is still mentally sharp after some time off. Kitchener boasts a more veteran squad, but Listowel started to see some improved depth scoring late in the year and in the first round against Brampton. This will be a series that tests the mettle of both teams.

Offensively, Listowel continues to follow the lead of Chayse Herrfort and Holdyn Lansink. In just 4 games, Lansink has 11 points, while Herrfort actually sits third in team scoring with 7. Youngsters Trent Verbeek and Steven Grant each have 8. Herrfort led in goal scoring with 5, and continues to be a dominant power play threat. Harlen VanWynsberghe provided 7 points from the back end, and star rookie Brayden Krieger also had 7 as he continues to get better and better. Jonah White really had a solid first round with 5 points, and was reliable on the forecheck and in special teams situations as his game keeps growing. That will have to continue against a much tougher opponent in Kitchener.

The Dutchmen have a potent offense that will cause far more problems than Brampton did. Tyler Harrison, though he did play 7 games, put up an impressive 13 points against Elmira. Sean Kawalec, a great veteran offensive presence, had 9 points and led the way in goal scoring with 6. These two will certainly put some of the younger Listowel D through their paces, particularly in power play situations. The forward scoring drops off after that though, with Kyle Kennery’s 4 points being the next highest, while defenders¬† Alex Peterson and Chris Taylor had 7 and 5 points respectively. Drayton Duckett and Scott Kole have more to offer and are big physical players, but if Listowel can remain well organized and shuts down the top players of Kitchener, it will bode well toward advancing to the Cherrey Cup final.

On defense, Harlen VanWynsberghe has been an excellent addition after joining up from London. He adds a veteran savvy and puck moving ability that was lost in Listowel when Max Coyle and Keaton Willis left. He’s been very solid and will need to keep his game at the level it was against Brampton. After him though, Listowel isn’t getting much offensive from their D core, but they did play responsibly and didn’t take very many penalties. Thomas Gangl and David Mabey each had a point and were plenty physical and could skate the puck out of danger, while Brendan Koops, Daniel Heelis and physical leader Brenden Clayton were very good in their own end. Clayton is the big physical answer to the heavy forecheckers of Kitchener. While not the biggest, he continues to put his body on the line all the time laying crushing hits and keeping the opposition honest. How Listowel handles the big heavy wall work of Kitchener will be a key factor in this series.

For the Dutchmen, Alex Peterson and Chris Taylor form a very dynamic top pair, equally adept at skating the puck up ice themselves or making crisp feeds up ice to streaking forwards. They are also potent on the power play and can interchange seamlessly with forwards to create match-up problems. Jeb Paulsen had a good series against Elmira, collecting 3 points and playing hard while only collecting 2 penalty minutes. Matt Marinier, Blair Derynck, Zac McInall and Carter Lennon all put up points and round out a D-core that is a little more versatile than the Cyclones current group. Cam Allan was also a useful cog in the machine as Kitchener often went with 7 D. This core doesn’t take many penalties as a whole, and handling a quick and relentless forecheck from Listowel will put that to the test in terms of not taking restraining fouls. Also, can anyone shut down Lansink and Herrfort? That’s a big question for Kitchener’s hopes.

In net, Evan Morrison will continue to be the man for the Cyclones, as they let youngster Riley McCabe have the 4th and clinching game in Brampton. Morrison, though playing a weaker opponent in Brampton, put up sparkling numbers. A paltry .67 GAA and .971 save percentage in his 3 wins, which included a shutout, are dazzling. Kitchener will cause far more problems with heavy screens and a willingness to crash the net often, something that can bother Morrison on occasion. Morrison will keep on chugging, but, again if he falters at all, Listowel will not feel in trouble if they have to go to McCabe, twice the goalie of the month this season.

Kitchener will keep rolling out veteran Lucas Patton, who started all 7 games against Elmira, had a great series, even though he was pulled halfway through one contest for backup Christian Linton. Patton went 4-3, with 2 shutouts, a 2.39 GAA and .912 save percentage. He’s one of the best starters in this loop, and is perfectly capable of stealing games. Listowel need to ensure he does not do that.

On special teams, Listowel were very good, posting the 4th best power play in the whole GOJHL playoffs at just over 35 percent, and the PK ranks 6th at just over 86 percent. Those numbers will have to hold, if not improve, to challenge Kitchener on a nightly basis, especially the PK. Kitchener had a decent first round as well, with the 9th best man advantage at just over 24 percent and the 9th best PK, too, operating at 85 percent. Again, the tired cliche of special teams rings true for a reason. If Kitchener takes too many penalties being too rough and out of sync with Herrfort and Lansink coming over the boards on power plays, they’ll have a very tough time winning this series. Ditto for Listowel, who has a younger D core and with a young forward group, may have trouble playing catch up hockey a ton against this veteran Dutchmen group.

This will be a true battle. One of these teams will advance to the Cherrey Cup final against either Waterloo or Stratford, and one will go home bitterly disappointed. Whoever stays out of the box and executes more on the cycle will likely come out on top. Everything kicks off Friday, March 15th at 7:30 in Listowel, and we will have full coverage of the entire series live on CKNX AM920. Enjoy the ride!

Full Listowel vs. Kitchener schedule:

Game 1 Friday, March 15th at 7:30 in Listowel

Game 2 Sunday, March 17th at 5:30 in Kitchener

Game 3 Tuesday, March 19th at 7:30 in Listowel

Game 4 Wednesday, March 20th at 7:45 in Kitchener

If Necessary

Game 5 Friday, March 22nd at 7:30 in Listowel

Game 6 Sunday, March 24th at 2:30 in Kitchener

Game 7 Monday, March 25th at 7:30 in Listowel