This is the time of year when legends are born. Where the unexpected becomes reality and anyone on any night can be the hero. Yes. The post season is upon us. So who will rise in the thickest of moments to cement their lore in the legends of the Ball Hockey history? Mike Kusy after his outstanding 2012 playoff performance became a house hold name. The Polar Bears will forever be remembered for their upsets of the two top seeds advancing all the way to the finals after sneaking in on the last game of the regular season. Some will be remembered and others will merely want to forget what will be certainly an entertaining and exciting quarter final round of games. So here is a preview of the first round matchups. It’s up to you to try and figure out who will advance and who will have their dreams shattered. The only thing that I know for sure is that we will have two new semi-finalists then we had from the 2012 post season.
#1 Brampton Express #1 vs. #8 Vaughan Red Wings
Can the Express regain the Premier Championship? For the last two sessions the Express has stalled in the semi-final round losing to eventual Fall Champions the Orangemen and the Polar Bears. The last time these two met in a playoff series in went to the wire and an OT goal from Frankie Giustini ended an epic series. This season has been a roller coaster ride for the VRW, never able to get on a roll and carry it through a five or six game stretches and a playoff spot was in jeopardy. The turning point in the season may have been 4-3 shootout victory versus the Express at a critical point of the season when a loss may have ended the VRW playoff hopes. So here we stand the number eight Wings versus the number one Express. Martello, Giustini, Porter, Morrison, Montiero, Hannon, the forwards are loaded with speed and offensive fire power that can’t be matched. Renda, Shilton, Metallo, Ceccanese, Mentis, Varone all can play and will be a handful for the Express defence. The defence of the Express with Parravano, Perriera and all-time great Mentis are all fast and clear the defensive zone before a fore check can be started. Can the defence of the Wings stand tall, being physical and playing a man to man system will be the game plan, can they execute it flawlessly? Serpe, Alonzi, Ciarabellini, Rodrigues, Grisonich will need to play as a cohesive unit to slow down the offensive machine known as Midnight. Will the speed of the Wings and their quick break offence be enough to take down the number one seed? In goal All-Star Dave DiGironimo and Anthony Ferrante will lock horns in a classic goaltending battle. The season series was split at a game apiece Express winning 5-3 and the Wings winning the shootout second game 4-3. Both teams are deadly with the PP and the team that stays out of the box will win this series. Discipline, discipline, discipline must be preached by both coaches and the teams that implements that warning will reap the benefits. Neither team I’m sure wants to be heading into this matchup in the QF round, both have the talent and make up to win the Championship unfortunately only one of these two can move on.
#2 Mississauga Hawks vs. #7 Toronto Thunder
At the start of the season the chances of these two teams being matched up this early in the playoffs never really crossed anybody’s mind. These two teams were both pegged to be battling for the top seed in the post season at the start of the year. The Hawks lived up to the billing and finished in the number two seed the Thunder unfortunately went through a midseason slide and fell into the number seven seed. The season series was won by the Hawks 1-0 with a 6-3 victory. The Thunder to their credit have played playoff hockey the last couple of weeks and secured a playoff berth by beating the VRW on the final night of the regular season. The Hawks are stacked Captain Matt Tremblett, super snipers JK Gill, Mike Kusy, Frank D’Ambrosio and Allen Penney have been unstoppable all year. The Hawks have been eliminated in the QF round the last two sessions and GM Gurjeet Gill addressed his clubs issues and will head into a playoff series with top goaltender Paul Zarnett healthy and ready to put up a big time performance. This may be just where the Thunder wants to be, under the radar with the pressure will be squarely on the backs of their opponents. Veterans like Captain Danny Filice, Massimo Principe and Paul Duarte will need to lead by example and steady the ship when it starts to rock. Two icons of the sport Tony Faria (Thunder) and Frank Zampini (Hawks) will clash once again. The difference will be which of the defence can stop the other team from scoring. Dan Conte and Gurjeet Gill will have their hands full with the Thunders quick strike offence. Charlie Giffin will look to come back and haunt the team that traded away him away just under a year ago. Thunder will rely on Kakish and Martins and they will need to use all their power to stop the big bodies of Tremblett, Kusy, and JK Gill who excel at driving the net. The X factor of the series will be two players that haven’t played a lot during the year but are game changers Marco Goncalves (Thunder) and Will Trougakos (Hawks), two men that can carry a team on their shoulders. Will either be ready for the challenge that awaits? Both these teams would rather not be locked in this series but it’s the luck of the draw and in this case the unlucky draw as one of these two will leave the dance before the clock strikes midnight.
#3 Metro Orangemen vs. #6 North York Hitmen
The Men vs. the Men. Will it be the Orange or the Hit that win this series? Two of the youngest and fastest teams in the division will square off looking to reach the semi-finals of a summer playoff for the first time. The Orangemen coming off their Fall Premier Championship have been through the playoff wars and have the experience and savvy needed to win big, hard fought tight games. The Hitmen who have been riding a hot streak of their own look to carry the momentum in to the biggest playoff series of their young careers. Hitmen goaltender David Clark picked his squad up on his shoulders as of late and what was a battle to gain a top eight seed became a chase for the top four. The Orangemen for years have had what is considered the top group of defencemen in the sport today. With the acquisition of Danny Pacheco and Robert Cardoso the back end is as solid a back six you can compile. Captain and leader Chris Creador is arguably the top defenseman in the sport and will certainly be thrust into every pressure packed situation that arises. The Hitmen house a solid back end group with quiet leaders Carlos Arce and JP Nangini equal to every task thrown their way. The superstar of the Hitmen’s back end is Victor Azevedo who was named MVP Defencemen in 2012 and will log mega minutes. The Hitmen will have to find ways to score, Jonathan Pulicicchio and speedster Anthony Novia will need to rise to the occasion and use their speed and determination to force turnovers into scoring chances and ultimately goals. Ricardo Pires, the question is can the Hitmen shut him down. With the crew of DaPonte, Pacheco and Bradbury adding the offensive support for Pires he has flourished in to a Premier forward who has all the tools to single handily win games. The X factor of the series will be two players who are at their best when they get under their opponents skin both Gary Costa of the Orangemen and Tony Ricci of the Hitmen are masters at stirring the pot and they will be able to turn the tide in their clubs favor when the going gets tough. The chess match behind the benches will be played by Marcel Vieira and Angelo Gaetano, both will use their players and knowledge to try and out duel the other. The Orangemen swept the season series 2-0 winning by the scores of 3-1 and 3-2 in a shootout. Neither of these team’s score a ton of goals and this series could be another three game marathon with overtimes needed to determine a winner.
#4 Belleville Bruins vs. #5 Niagara Generals
The hottest team heading into the playoffs, the Generals won seven of their last nine games and beat some tough competition along the way serving notice to all the other teams that the Generals are ready for a playoff push. The Bellville Bruins have been a consistent club throughout their fourteen game season. Opening the season behind the stellar goaltending of Andrew “Chevy” Platt the Bruins were the talk of the Premier division. In their only meeting this season the Bruins came away with a 1-0 victory. It was Niagara’s first game of the year and their lineup was not nearly as accomplished as it is today. Bram Leggatt will get serious consideration for MVP goaltender as he has been instrumental in the rise of the Generals by offering solid goaltending every night. The Bruins hold two beauties of their own as Platt and Bailie are both top notch goaltenders. This series could become who gives up the first and possibly only goal of the game. The offence of the Generals is loaded with Ian Downes and Mike Nielson carrying the bulk of the load during the regular season and opponents still have Team Canada members Mike Hedden and Eric Tardiff to deal with. The sparkplug and emotional leader for the Bruins is Jeff Brokema who was also a member of Canada’s Gold winning team at the World Championships will have to lead this young Bruins team up front. The Bruins back end will be patrolled by team captain Shane Terry, this veteran defender has been a Premier All-Star and his huge booming shot on the power play may be the difference in the series. As in any playoff series special team, coaching and goaltending tends to be the difference in winning and losing. Both teams will have to travel to the opposing center and this series could very easily come down to a do or die game three in Toronto.
Playoffs begin Saturday in Niagara with game one and Sunday in Oshawa with game two as the Generals and Bruins start things out in the quarterfinal round. If you cant make it to those games we welcome you all to Mississauga Valley Monday night and Downsview Arena Wednesday both night starting at 7pm. You will see the best ball hockey in the Province played for the coveted Championshp over the next three weeks.