Junior squad’s first round opponent still to be determined
After what has turned out to be the worst season in franchise history, the Hamilton Red Wings have a shot at some redemption when the playoffs begin next week.
“I still have faith in the team and in the coaching staff that we can battle and we can go pretty far in the playoffs…if we play as a team,” said Red Wings captain Dalton Jay following a hard fought 4-3 shoot-out win over Milton on home ice Monday night to finish the regular season with 11 wins.
Jay noted the post season means a clean slate and the victory over Milton has sent the Red Wings into the first round of the playoffs on a positive note.
The OJHL regular season continues to Sunday and Jay said the week-long break should enable some of their sick and injured players to get healthy and return to the line-up.
Hamilton will likely face Buffalo or Burlington in the best-of-five opening round series.
“I’d prefer Buffalo,” Jay said. “We’ve had a better record this year against Buffalo.”
In a short playoff series a hot goaltender can mean the difference between advancing to the second round and hanging up the skates for another season.
Red Wings goalie Dalton McGrath, who was back in net on Monday night after a battle with the flu, said he’s back to 100 percent.
“I’m ready for it,” he said. “But I don’t take all the pressure on myself. There’s five other guys on the ice with me.”
McGrath said it doesn’t matter to him who the Red Wings play in the first round.
The Red Wings are currently in fourth place in the West Division with 39 points, one point ahead of fifth place Burlington and four ahead of sixth place Milton.
Since Burlington has two games remaining and Milton has three, it’s possible the Red Wings could drop to the sixth and final playoff spot.
Burlington has a tougher schedule.
They face Georgetown and Oakville, the top two teams in the division who have a bye through the first round of the playoffs.
Milton has dates with last place Brampton, fourth place Buffalo and Stouffville, who are in second place in the OJHL’s North Division.
At the Dave Andreychuk-Mountain Arena on Monday night, Adam Brady scored the winning goal in a shootout as the Red Wings edged the Milton Icehawks 4-3.
The Red Wings would have run away with the game in regulation time if not for the outstanding goaltending of Paul Favaro, who stopped 42 shots in the Milton net.
Nick Scamurra, Jim Roll and Luke Laidlaw scored the other Hamilton goals, while Kane Elliot scored two goals and Jason Abbot added a single tally for the visitors.
McGrath made 32 saves for Hamilton.
The Red Wings went into the game missing several players due to illness and injury, but a half dozen call-ups from the Toronto Marlies AAA club didn’t look out of place and they allowed the Hamilton regulars to maintain their energy level throughout the contest.