OJLL: Mimico leads playoff bound teams into first postseason since 2019

The Ontario Junior Lacrosse League (OJLL) playoffs begin on Wednesday. Ontario’s first full Junior A season since 2019 featured four players with one hundred points or more, and a chance for two separate three-way ties in the standings. The final three seeds were decided by the fourth league tie breaker. Here’s how the first round of the playoffs will matchup, and what to expect.

Mimico Mountaineers Jr. A players celebrate a goal against the Peterborough Lakers. May 30, 2022. (Photo: Anna Taylor)

 (1) Mimico Mountaineers (16-4) vs (8) Burlington Chiefs (10-10)

There’s an opportunity here for Burlington to surprise.

Yes, the Chiefs split their season 10-10. All of their losses were by three goals or less. And two of Mimico’s four losses came at the hands of their QEW rivals.

Mimico had by far the best special teams unit in the league with 72 power play goals, 17 more than their next closest competitor, St Catharines. The Mountaineers were the third most penalized team in the OJLL, and had the highest PIMs of any playoff team. On the flip side of the coin, Burlington were penalized the third least meaning Mimico’s chances could be limited.

But, they’re still the Mountaineers and are top seed for a reason. Finlay Thomson is the second consecutive Mountaineer to win the league’s scoring title with 124 points (52 goals, 72 assists) in 19 games. They have a formidable one-two punch in net with Owen Dew and Laine Hruska. There have been times this season when they’ve been inconsistent – Mimico allowed the third most goals among playoff bound teams, and 10 or more in three of their last four. However, the offense, and the stifling defense in front of them, has nearly always bailed them out.

Expect a tight series, but expect Mimico to come out on top.

(2) Toronto Beaches (15-5) vs (7) Peterborough Lakers (10-10)

The Peterborough Lakers enter the playoffs losing their last two games, and just 1-8 against playoff bound teams to end the season. These two teams last played back in June with Toronto winning both 11-10 in overtime in Peterborough and 18-8 at Ted Reeve Arena.

Toronto’s Willem Firth is a problem. He is one of four players in the OJLL to score over 100 points this season (106 – 50 goals, 56 assists). Nearly every play is designed around him and he can pass the ball and put it in the back of the net nearly at will (see what I did there??). Paired with the size of Matthew Collison, Jacob Hickey and David Anderson, taking three from a strong Beaches team will be a tough ask.

Peterborough will lean on Deacan Knott to keep games close as the Lakers led the OJLL in overtime games with four.

 (3) Whitby Warriors (14-6) vs (6) St Catharines Athletics (10-10)

At one point this season St Catharines lost eight straight games to playoff bound opponents. They needed an overtime goal against Peterborough to stop the streak, force a three-way tie break and avoid last place. This, after starting their season 7-2 and competing for top spot. The Athletics clearly have the skill to win OJLL games. Which team will emerge in the playoffs is the question: the one that beat Whitby 10-8 at home June 4th, or the one who lost 17-5 on the road?

This series will be won by the offense. St Catharines will need all hands on deck. Outside of Keaton Zavitz, who played in every game, the next top four scorers – Jackson Webster, Clay Scanlon, Tye Steenhuis and Gavin Howard – missed a combined 15 games. At various times this season the offense has run through each of these player and all are capable of double-digit point nights each time out.

Also capable of double-digit point nights each time out are Whitby’s three-headed monster of Brock Haley, Adam Poitras and Parker Pipher. The trio combined for 305 points in the regular season, including Haley’s near historic 120 in 16 games. Haley’s 74 goals is the most since Austin Staats scored 72 in 2016 and they are the only two players to hit 70 since before 2009.

Mike McKee holds the Junior A record for goals in a season with 115, however that was over 28 games (or roughly 4.1 goals per game). This season Haley scored at a 4.625 goals per game pace.

There’s no indication Haley will slow down in the postseason. St Catharines will have their hands full.

(4) Oakville Buzz (13-7) vs (5) Orangeville Northmen (13-7)

Back in 2019 the Oakville Buzz moved from Junior B to the OJLL. They won 12 of their first 28 games in their first two years.

In 2019, the Orangeville Northmen won their seventh Minto Cup. They’re not about to let the title go lightly.

Two teams on the complete opposite ends of history. Otherwise, nearly identical.

The most glaring difference is the Northmen’s +44 goal differential (compared to +16 for the Buzz). Most of this can be attributed to San Diego Seals draft pick, Chris Origlieri. Returning to Junior from his first full NLL season, Origlieri went 1-5. After that, he won nine of his last 10 games with the only loss in overtime to Mimico. It was also the only game over that stretch he allowed double-digit goals – something he only did three times all season.

Not to be outdone, Oakville boast two solid goaltending options in Aden Walsh and Sam Haines. Both netminders went back and forth most of the season. Walsh won eight of 12 games he appeared in whilst only allowed double-digit goals twice, while Haines won five goals, also only allowing double-digit goals twice.

Orangeville are entering the playoffs as the hottest team. They’re the defending Minto Cup champions, and want to keep it that way. Oakville will put up a fight, but is it a fight they can win?

This will be a hard fought series. Take the under.