2017-18 Pollock Division Season Preview: Walkerton Hawks

After storming to another dominant regular season crown, perennial Junior C powerhouse Walkerton fell in a dramatic 7-game series to the Mount Forest Patriots.

Despite a good back-and-forth series, the ending was somewhat contentious, as general manager Steve Barrett wasn't happy after learning a large group of players made some "poor decisions" prior to the evening of game 7. Barrett says with the way the season ended, the year was a "total waste of everyone's time." Strong words for a team that cruised through the season and was one win away from being champs again. But Barrett says expectations are high, and a culture change is coming under new head coach Jamie Petrie. With a roster that still sports loads of firepower, the Hawks are poised to be crowned champions again for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Up front, the most notable loss is that of Lauchlin Elder, who has aged out, and will be missed for sure, but not sorely. Elder, a former league MVP, was the heart and soul of the offense, but rounded into a reliable two-way force last year, earning 47 points to lead the team in scoring, but sacrificed some numbers to better help the club. Even though he is moving on, younger brother Spencer Elder, who put up 45 points and tied for 5th in Pollock Division scoring, can certainly step up and fill that void. He won't be alone. Reid Simmons had 40 points and was second on the team in goals with 19, behind Lauchlin Elder's 25. Jordan Caskenette and Connor Patton put up 40 and 36 points respectively, and that doesn't even dig down into the depth scoring in this lineup. Walkerton had 8 starters earn over a point-per-game this year, a staggering stat when you dole that out over a couple forward lines. The Hawks scored 188 goals in 36 games, more than anyone else. This team, like the rosters in the past, won't struggle to score goals.

On the blue line, the strength of the team gets no weaker. Josh Hopkin had an explosive year for a d-man, scoring 42 points and quarterbacking a power play that scores in bunches if given the opportunity. Brendan Welsh had 29 points from the line in 30 games, nearly adding to the amount of point-per-game players on this roster. Offense from defense is not an issue. If you think this team is just all offense back there, you'd be mistaken. Josh Deyell, who Barrett called "the most feared guy in the league," can rough up anyone with ease, and even he had 25 points in 28 games. Mix in depth contributions of Jesse Schmid, Carter Franks, Cole Walker and Josh Urbshott, all of whom had double digit point totals, and this team can score from any area of their lineup, and defend well, too. The team allowed a division low 89 goals, so they're able to slam the door just as well as they can pry another team's open.

In goal is really the only area that bears a question mark for the Hawks. Last year, 17-year-old Ryan Winter stepped in and won a division high 21 games, and if not for the brilliance of Matt Oullette in Mount Forest, he could have potentially garnered MVP consideration, or in the very least top goalie of the division. But Winter has yet to sign anywhere at the time of this article, and Barrett thinks he deserves a shot at a higher level. Backup Kallen Macumber also won't be back, but Barrett says new signing Matt Donnelly, a 16-year-old Walkerton native, has the potential to step in as a young goalie and do what Winter did a year ago. Donnelly came through the vaunted Grey-Bruce Highlanders program, which speaks to his ability, and playing behind the best defense in the division certainly won't hurt.

For more on the upcoming Walkerton Hawks season, here is the full-length interview with GM Steve Barrett:

[audio mp3="http://blackburnnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/STEVE-BARRETT.mp3"][/audio]


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