Having grown up in Dublin and attended high school in Stratford, Jeff Flanagan knows the value – and rarity – of taking points in Perth County.
The Brampton Bombers head coach has watched his young team grab three of four so far in 2019-20 after a win in Listowel and 4-4 tie last Friday at the Allman.
It’s a tiny sample, but it’s maybe the best example so far that these Bombers are different than the ones who have typically languished near the bottom of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Midwestern Conference standings.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if teams have taken us a little lightly because of the history,” Flanagan, a St. Mike’s alum, said a week ago.
With ice being installed late into Brampton’s home arena, the Bombers are making the most of multiple road trips until their first home game next weekend. They’ll make a second drive to Stratford for a rematch tonight at 7:30.
“Our bus rides have been fun, and we’ve been doing some games to help guys know each other,” Flanagan said. “Most of these guys have never rode a bus before, so they’re really enjoying it and getting to know each other, and hopefully we can continue that.”
Flanagan has been around the league, with stops in Elmira, Guelph and Listowel, and this year’s Bombers remind him of the Cyclones team he took over in 2012-13 that won 28 games.
“We were fairly young and had a couple older players that were really good,” he said. “Our (current Bombers) captain Brandan Fisher is a really good player and he’s been excellent this year, so it’s similar to (Listowel). I just think it’s the first time I’ve had a team this young with this type of depth. I think we’ve got good depth and we’ve been playing players in all situations. Guys have been moving to the power play, penalty kill, five-on-five, and we’re really giving them the opportunity to make their way and show what they can do to earn a spot.”
In net, Owen Porter and Diego D’Allesandro have split six games and posted a .918 save percentage. Porter stole a point last Friday with a 53-save performance.
Offensively, Fisher leads the Bombers with five goals and seven points. Brampton is averaging 2.8 goals per game – about half a goal more than in 2018-19.
“There’s quite a few young guys who have (scored) their first goals in the league, so it’s been coming all through the roster and we don’t have to rely on or 20 or 19 year olds to carry the load as much as you’d think,” Flanagan said. “It’s been fun so far but we’re going to have some bumps and we’re going to have to be able to move through those and learn from them and carry on.”
Stratford (2-2-1-1) is winless in three but has gained points in two of those games with a tie and overtime loss.
The Listowel Cyclones are making the most of their goals. Despite averaging less than two per game, which ranks seventh of eight teams, Listowel leads the Midwestern Conference with a 4-1-0-1 record – one point ahead of Elmira and Cambridge early in the season.
The Cyclones’ stingy defence and goaltending has resulted in the team allowing two goals a game. Listowel hosts Waterloo tonight at 7:30 in a rematch of last year’s Cherrey Cup final, which the Siskins won before taking the Sutherland Cup.
After their five-game win streak was snapped last weekend with a tie against Strathroy, the St. Marys Lincolns will try to earn a point in seven straight tonight against Leamington at 7:30.
St. Marys is off to one of its best starts in years, boasting a 5-0-1-0 record and will face a Flyers team that also has 11 points but has played one more game.
Coming off an 11-2 win over Burford last weekend, the Tavistock Braves return home tonight to face the New Hamburg Firebirds at 7:30.
Tavistock (2-1-0-1) is one of four Doherty Division teams with two wins, while the Firebirds – despite a plus-five goal differential through four games – are 1-3-0-0.
The Mitchell Hawks will be well rested before hitting the road for games tonight in Kincardine and Saturday in Goderich.
Mitchell (2-1-0-0) hasn’t played since last Friday’s 5-2 loss to Wingham. The Hawks’ scheduled game Sunday at home was postponed due to poor ice conditions.