Midwestern Conference: Listowel Cyclones usher in new era

The Listowel Cyclones lost to London in the Sutherland Cup semifinal last season. Cory Smith/The Beacon Herald

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Listowel Cyclones 33-11-0-4, first

Lost to Waterloo in Cherrey Cup final; Lost to London in Sutherland Cup semifinal

It’s a new era in Listowel.

Most of the players who helped the club win its first Sutherland Cup two seasons ago are gone, as is Jason Brooks, the architect of a group that grew into a Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League powerhouse.

Brooks will remain with the team but in a different capacity, passing the baton to former Stratford Culliton Jesse Cole, who’s spent time as a Cyclones’ assistant coach and general manager.

The team surprised onlookers by finishing atop the Midwestern Conference in 2018-19, thanks largely in part to the dynamic trio of Holdyn Lansink, Chayse Herrfort and Brayden Krieger. That line combined to score 120 goals and pile up 278 points, but that will have to be replaced as Lansink and Herrfort graduated from the league, and Krieger is playing in Alberta.

Trent Verbeek and Jonah White are the highest-scoring players returning. Both players scored 12 goals last season and combined for 50 points. Defencemen David Mabey and Thomas Gangl, and forwards Brendan Koops, Craig McKague and Rylan Bowers are also back.

Fourth-year defenceman Brenden Clayton anchors the blue-line and will wear the ‘C’ this season.

Evan Morrison is back in net after sporting a 2.54 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in 21 games in his first season in Listowel.

Among the new players is Stratford’s Tyler Hotson, who scored 12 goals and had 48 points in 33 games with the London Jr. Knights minor midgets last season.

Listowel also added six-foot-four goalie Dixon Grimes, a 16-year-old Guelph Storm draft pick, forward Carter McIlwain, from Exeter, and defencemen Brady Brezynskie (Brantford mimor midgets), Josh Schindler (Tavistock Braves) and Cam Angst (Waterloo major midget).

“We’re a very young team this year – only one 20 year old,” Cole said. “(Expectations are) to get better every single day working at being consistent every practice and game.”

Waterloo Siskins 32-13-0-03, third

Won Cherrey Cup; Won Sutherland Cup

Like most defending Sutherland Cup champions, the Waterloo Siskins will look much different as they try to defend their Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League title.

“There was a big turnover, which we expected,” general manager Matt Fidlin told the Waterloo Region Record. “We knew it was coming.”

Goalie Matt Onuska, captain Alex Cimino, leading point-getter Sam Cherry, top scorer Alex Lycett, and Joseph Serpa are among the players who are gone from the club that captured its 12th provincial championship and first since 1994 after a seven-game victory over the London Nationals.

Even now-former head coach Todd Hoffman is gone after joining Victus Academy. Former Siskins assistant and video coach Mike McIlveen takes over behind the bench.

“My goal this year is to build on the Waterloo Siskins culture of hard work, discipline, and winning while continuing to bring an exciting brand of hockey to our amazing fans,” he said in a release.

Forwards Matt Prucha and Benton Hayes, and defenceman Tyler Dam are part of a small group of returning players.

“We’re definitely going to be younger,” Fidlin said. “But all the guys are hungry. Even myself.”

Kitchener Dutchmen 28-15-1-4, fourth

Lost to Listowel in semifinal

With a strong group of returning players, the Kitchener Dutchmen project to be one of the top teams in the Midwestern Conference in 2019-20.

“We’re fortunate this year to have a returning core back that I would hope puts us in the top half of the league for sure,” general manager Jeff Grimwood told the Waterloo Region Record.

Leading the way is third-year forward Sean Kawalec, who led Kitchener with 32 goals and 70 points last season.

“Watching him grow the last couple of years in our league has been special,” Grimwood said.

In net, Luc Patton is back for a second season. |The 20 year old – one of several on the Dutchmen – registered a 2.46 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 2018-19.

Defencemen Alex Peterson, Jeb Paulsen, Dawson Garcia and Curtis Anderson give Kitchener experience on the blue-line.

Anderson was acquired in a trade with Brantford and tied for the team lead with 40 points a year ago.

“Curtis is a big get for us,” Grimwood said. “He can certainly step in and help out with the power play. He’s a piece that we’re excited to add.”

Kitchener will welcome 10 new players to its roster as it attempts to win the Cherrey Cup for the first time since 1993.

“It’s such a transitional league,” Grimwood said. “It’s always tough to tell. Our expectation is to get off to a good start and see where the chips fall from there.”

Elmira Sugar Kings 26-15-2-4, fifth

Lost to Kitchener in quarter-final

The Sugar Kings have more than 10 players returning from the squad that lost to Kitchener in the first round in the spring.

Leading scorer and team MVP Hunter Dubecki is back after an 18-goal, 56-point season. Forward Brody Waters, who averaged more than a point per game, and defenceman Harrison Toms are among those back for another year in the green and gold.

“We’re excited about the year going forward,” director of hockey operations Jeff Snyder told the Woolwich Observer. “We like our team. We think we’ve got a lot of good pieces in place. We’ve got an experienced team with a lot of returning players and added some really good young players to that mix. We’re just excited to get going.”

Rob Collins will start the season as head coach after stepping in when Trent Brown was fired late last season.

“We have the same coaching staff coming back,” Collins said. “Everyone in the organization is focused on improving and not having the early exit – we think of a first-round exit in this organization not to have that happen again. Everyone’s got to get better, from the best player on the hockey team to a trainer.”

Cambridge Redhawks 19-27-0-2, sixth

Lost to Waterloo in quarter-final

Kyle Baker, Austin Forsyth, Payton McLeish and Niki Molson were in the top seven in Redhawks’ scoring last season, and all are back with the club in 2019-20.

Reagan Giles is back in net after posting a 2.79 goals-against average and .907 save percentage in 30 games.

Brantford Bandits 10-33-1-4, seventh

Lost to Stratford in quarter-final

The biggest change in Brantford during the summer came off the ice when the team changed its nickname to the Bandits after a few years as the 99ers. That name now belongs to the Ontario Junior Hockey League team in town, which also scooped up Liam Galton and Ryan Mulholland, two of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League club’s better offensive weapons.

Jared Hill, Evan Ilkos and Ben Sheppard – second, fourth and fifth, respectively, in points last season – are also off to the OJ, while leading scorer Curtis Anderson is now in Kitchener.

Returning players include captain Shaun General, who had eight goals and 26 points in 2018-19. Defencemen Brayden McDonald, Ben Feijo and Sam Davies, and forward Tanner Mitton are the other returnees.

Hamilton Bulldogs third-rounder Chandler Romeo leads a group of incoming players who could have an impact. Brayden Anderson (Kitchener Rangers 11th round), Ben Edwards (Peterborough Petes second round U18 draft) and Henry Seebeck (Lake Forest Prep) are also being counted on to help the Bandits climb the standings.

Head coach Wes Consorti said expectations are to “compete every night, play the right way and continue to graduate players to the next level. We feel very confident that this trend will continue with our current roster.”

Brampton Bombers 8-34-1-5, eighth

Lost to Listowel in quarter-final

Brandan Fisher returns after a 44-point season that led the Bombers in 2018-19. The 20-year-old forward from Brampton also had 16 goals, which was tied for second on the team.

Remy Dalben, who had 29 points, is also back, along with Andrew Reynolds – one of five Brampton players to register at least 10 goals last season.

The team will miss forwards Hughie Sheppard and Marcus Didiano, and defenceman Luka Profaca, whose 18 assists led Brampton blue-liners.

Jeff Flanagan takes over behind the bench as the sixth head coach in Bombers’ history.

“The (Brampton) Bombers have always been a hard-working team and we will continue to build on that work ethic as we put the pieces in place to continue the programs development” Flanagan said on the Bombers’ website.

Flanagan has previous GOJHL experience with Elmira, Guelph and Listowel. He was most recently an assistant coach with the Guelph Gryphons’ women’s hockey team that won a national title last season.

“The GOJHL has proven that it is one of the province’s premier development leagues, and the Midwestern Conference leads the way,” he said. “The conference is very competitive, and this has been exemplified by producing the Sutherland Cup champion in the (last) two seasons. I have had the privilege to work in the league, and that experience is something that I will rely on as we build for the 2019-20 season.”