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Stars ready for playoff action

 Stars ready to take on rival London


   The best of seven series between the two local teams starts Wednesday at London,

   with the Stars playing their best hockey of the season entering the playoffs



  April 5, 2022


By Rob. J. Ross 

ST. THOMAS - For the first time this decade the St. Thomas Stars have playoff action.

The Stars open the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League Western Conference playoffs, with a first round date with the London Nationals, starting Wednesday, at London.

If the series seems familiar, the Stars fell to London, four games to one, in the opening round of the playoffs in 2019.

St. Thomas missed the playoffs in 2020 and the 2021 season was cancelled.

"We're ready to go and we've got our old rivals," said Joe Daniels, Stars' owner and GM. "We've been playing very well. We've probably played some of our best hockey of the whole season the past month."

The Stars finished seventh this season with a 18-26-3-1 record, but were 9-8-2 since the season resumed, on February 4. During the month of March, the Stars had a season high four game win streak during a 6-3 stretch.

"Going into playoffs we are playing the right way, so we'll see how we make out," Daniels said. "We're peaking at the right time hopefully and we can give London a good series."

London won the regular season series, four games to two.

The Nationals are led by leading scorer, Jeff Burridge, who had 31 goals and 50 assists, Lucas Chard, 15 goals, 33 assists, Jacob Julien, 18 goals, 25 assists, and Riley Wood, who had six goals, 17 assists, in 22 games, since a trade from Strathroy.

"Obviously their first line is very high skilled," Daniels said. "We're going to have to give special attention to him (Burridge) and try to shut him down. He's a good player. If he gets a second anywhere near the net, the puck is in the top of the net. So we can't give him that time to set up and we'll try to keep the puck away from him."

St. Thomas will likely be without their top scorer, rookie Mathieu Paris, who had a team leading 20 goals, three while shorthanded and 40 points, in 39 games, for the first two games of the series, due to a lower body injury.

"For us, it's more the blue collar game," Daniel said. "Work hard, get the puck deep, cycle the puck. We don't have that high end skill or the older players. Our scoring is spread out more."

The Stars will lean on veterans, 21-year old captain Tristan Roberts, with 18 goals, 20 assists, and 19-year old Jackson Phillips, four goals in six games, since arriving from Listowel. Tyler Alexander led the defence in scoring, with 10 goals and 24 assists.

"We're young," Daniels said. "The young guys have to go through this playoff bit. They haven't done it before, a lot of them. Sometimes it's an eye opener."

Defenceman Oliver Bonk and forward Maddox Amaral are two rookies who had impressive first years. Bonk had five goals and a team high 27 assist in just 32 games. Amaral had 15 goals and 14 assists.

The Stars were the least penalized team in the conference.

"We take pride with that," Daniel said. "It's a good thing going against London. Hopefully we don't give them a lot of power plays."

London had the number one power play in the conference, successful 21.4 per cent of the time. The Stars were third, at 19.4.


First round schedule

Game 1: Wednesday, April 6th @ London (Western Fair Sports Complex) - 7 p.m.
Game 2: Friday, April 8th @ St. Thomas - 7:30 p.m.
Game 3 Saturday, April 9th @ London - 7 p.m.
Game 4: Sunday, April 10th @ St. Thomas - 7:30 p.m.
Game 5: Wednesday, April 13th @ London - 7 p.m.*
Game 6: Saturday, April 16th @ St. Thomas - 7:30 p.m.*
Game 7: Sunday, April 17th @ London - 7 p.m.*
*If necessary





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