THE DESK OF MIKE HAYAKAWA..
SPLIT WEEKEND AFTER EMOTIONAL PRE-GAME CEREMONIES FOR THE GRADUATING EIGHT
With one game remaining in its Provincial Junior A Hockey League regular season schedule, the Markham Waxers know where they will finish in the south conference standings.
"There won't be an easy series in the first round no matter who we play. But we feel that we can match up against any of the teams we could
The question now remains who will they face when the second season, more commonly known as the playoffs, begins later this week. On Saturday, the Waxers wrapped up third place in the highly competitive south conference with a 7-3 road win over the cellar-dwelling North York Rangers.
For the Waxers, finishing third was a goal they had set once first and second place were out of their reach at the start of January. Not only did finishing third improve on last season's fourth-place finish. But more importantly, it gives them home ice advantage in the upcoming first round.
"We're happy to get third place," acknowledged Waxers head coach Russ
Herrington. "Considering the ups and downs that we've had this year it's pretty good. We got 22 out of the first 26 points of the season and then if we win on Tuesday (against the Oshawa Legionaires in its final regular season game) we'll have 21 of the last 26 points. That's 43 of 52 points. "The unfortunate part was that we only got a few points in between. November and December killed us for a chance to be in the race for first place," he cited.
"But we still firmly believe we're one of the top teams in our division. We have the confidence in the players that we have that we can challenge to win the division."
Signs of the confidence Herrington has in his charges were evident Saturday and in Friday's disappointing 4-3 overtime home ice loss to the Pickering Panthers, on a night that saw the club honour its eight graduating team members who played their final home regular season game at Centennial Arena including:
Jimmy Ball, Alex
Burrows, Rick Marnon,
Andy Schofield, Adam Doucette and
That loss was also the first overtime setback of the season for the Waxers and ended its five-game winning streak.
"I was happy that we got a point on Friday because I felt it was the worst game we've played since November," said Herrington.
In explaining Friday's loss, Herrington felt his charges got caught up in the emotions of the pre-game festivities. "The eight graduates were emotional and the rest of the guys were caught up in the feeling for the eight and thinking what they would go through when they finish here," Herrington speculated.
"We didn't play well. We were behind the whole game. The silver lining was the way we showed character and the drive to get a point."
In Saturday's win, Herrington felt his club played just good enough to earn the two points.
He hinted his club might have been showing signs of looking ahead to the playoffs, which will start later this week.
In Friday's game, Tompkins, Derek Doucette and
James Regan each scored once for the Waxers, who trailed 1-0 after one period and 3-2 through two before tying it in the third to force overtime, which the Panthers won in the first minute of the extra session.
|This article was written by Mike
Hayakawa and published in the Markham Economist and Sun. Minor edits
may have been performed to the original article.
This has been reproduced with permission.
Mark Menonte and Tompkins each netted two goals for the Waxers in Saturday's win against the Rangers. Adam Doucette, on a power play,
Jesse Boucher and Derek Doucette added singles for the Waxers, who led 2-1 after 20 minutes and 4-2 through two.
Sporting a 27-18-2-1 mark, Waxers really have nothing to gain in tonight's outing against Oshawa while the Legionaires are still jockeying for the fourth spot and home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Herrington, though, noted his club could still meet the Legionaires in the first round and will treat the game with caution.
"We might try and fine tune things a bit and work on some of our newer systems," he hinted.
While the Waxers are still unsure of who they will meet in the first round, they hope to host the first game of the upcoming best-of-seven first round series Friday at Centennial Arena at 8 p.m. With the regular schedule winding down, Herrington said his club could meet one of four teams in the Legionaires, Ajax Axemen, the Panthers or St. Michael's Buzzers.
As for who Herrington might have a preference to meet, he said they would all be formidable opponents. "There won't be an easy series in the first round no matter who we play. But we feel that we can match up against any of the teams we could meet."
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