For the first time Dorchester missed advancing to the divisional final
which ultimately was cancelled, but still highlights and awards
Monday, June 15th, 2020 (updated June 18th)
By Rob J. Ross
DORCHESTER - No doubt about it, the end of 2019-20 season was unique for the Dorchester Dolphins.
For the first time in the junior hockey club's eight year history, the Dolphins failed to advance to the Yeck Division final, bowing out to the Thamesford Trojans in the semifinals.
Of course there wasn't even a final, as the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the remainder of the Provincial Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Dorchester finished the regular season fourth with 56 points in the Yeck, but was part of a four way tie for most wins at 28. The Dolphins eliminated North Middlesex in the first round of the playoffs before facing Thamesford, the division's top team with 60 points.
"I thought we had a chance to beat them. The group did," said Dolphins' head coach Mark Steele following the series. "We didn't rise to their intensity. They (Trojans) out worked us at times. They're a older team. A little more experience on that side carried them forward."
The Trojans outscored the Dolphins, 19-13, over the five games.
"We didn't get any puck luck. We had open nets and missed (and) that could have changed the games," Steele said.
Seven consecutive appearances in the final, including three Yeck Division titles, is a remarkable feat and tough to repeat season after season.
Disappointed the season ended earlier than usual for Dorchester, Steele understands the reality and the pressure.
"There is going to be changing of the guard. You just can't do it every season. That's just the nature of the business," said Steele, who wants to remain behind the bench in Dorchester. "Hopefully I'm back and we can build on what we think we can do."
The Dolphins did have 28 wins in an ultra competitive division, a total shared with the Trojans, Exeter Hawks, and the improved Mt. Brydges Bulldogs.
Steele pointed out the Dolphins had their youngest roster ever and the camaraderie in the dressing room was unmatched.
"This was the best room in 12 years being a head coach. They all got along," added Steele. "We have possibly 19 players coming back. The outlook for next year is good, having that year under their belt. That's a big plus."
The returnees likely will include veteran forwards Ryan Root, Austin Bisschop and Ryan Poley, goalie Liam McCarthy and defenceman Braidon Duncan.
Bisschop spent much of the season on a line with Noah Small and Dylan Van Dusen.
"They were leading our team. They were our best line mid season," said Steele.
In the playoffs, Bisschop was anchored to rookie sensation Josh Short.
At 17 years old, Short scored 23 goals in his first season of junior and added nine more in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, but not to their surprise, Short moved up, signing with the St. Marys Lincolns, of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL), earlier this month.
"Josh started off slow but he got over 20 goals," said Steele. "Then he lit it up in the playoffs. He's come along in leaps and bounds and he's a big, strong kid. He can shoot the puck too."
Similar to every off season there will be changes with players graduating from the junior hockey and players such as Short, moving up the ranks.
Tristan Gerth, who played as a 16-year old with the Dolphins, with three goals and 15 assists, signed this past week with the London Nationals (GOJHL).
The Dolphins signed three players this month, including a forward and defenceman from Dorchester, continuing their rep of building the team from within the hometown.
Forward Austin Connors played with the Brantford 99ers U16 team and made three appearances with the St. Thomas Stars (GOJHL). Defenceman Nick Andrews suited up for nine games last season with the Dolphins, picking up four assists. Goalie Wyatt Sloetjes, who turned 17 years old in January, is a St. Thomas native who made two appearances this past season with the Dolphins, picking up two wins, with just one goal allowed.
Captain Brody Smith moves on after 287 games over six seasons of junior hockey, with Dorchester and Mt. Brydges, compiling 92 goals and 145 assists.
"It's a beautiful community and place to play. I want to thank everyone. I enjoyed my two years here," Smith said of playing in Dorchester. "They're professional and they treat you well. It was very thoughtful and touching for me and my family for all they did for us. I appreciate it a lot."
Smith will continue to work as a driver with Purolator and looks to get in to coaching.
"I like to stick around the rink," said Smith.
Forward Dylan Buckholz played all of his 220 games with Dorchester, his hometown, posting 135 goals and 148 assists over his five year career.
"I loved every second of it" Bucky said. "An awesome journey and I'm thankful for everyone who has helped me through it. All of my coaches, the owners, just a huge thank you to everybody."
Buckholz's most memorable moments are winning the Yeck title in his rookie year and taking the scoring title in his second season.
"That was special to me," Buckholz said. "Those are some highlights that I'll have forever."
His future includes continuing a work co-op at Michael Clark construction, as an assistant project coordinator and school at Fanshawe College for architectural technology.
"That's what I'm doing right now and I graduate in December," said Buckholz.
Goalie Matt Waller tended the Dolphins' net four of his five seasons of junior hockey, compiling 84 wins, 28 losses and 12 shutouts.
"My best hockey has been here. It's been good. It's sad that it's over. Bittersweet," said Waller, who also made a pit stop in Lambeth. "My first two years, winning and going undefeated the one year is special. Every year I've played here I played with such good guys. It has always felt like a family in the room. I have a lot of good memories."
Although from London, the Dolphins captured Waller's heart before his junior career.
"I had buddy move out here when I was younger," said Waller. "I started watching Dorchester before I played here. That's why I came out here, knowing it was a good organization."
Waller was finishing his final year at Western University for kinesiology when the pandemic occurred. Next year Waller is attending Fanshawe College for ergonomics, with a possibly a career in the health field.
Defenceman Colin Capstick contributed five goals and 18 assists in 54 games with the Dolphins, where the London native made his mark as a solid stay at home defenceman.
Capstick's junior career also includes two seasons with the St. Marys Lincolns and one with the Komoka Kings, of the GOJHL.
2019-20 team award winners
Outstanding Community Service - Bryce Darville
Volunteer of the Year - Garry Spurgeon & Mark Somers
Goaltender of the Year - Liam McCarthy & Matt Waller
MVP - Dylan Buckholz
Leading Scorer - Dylan Buckholz
Best Defenceman - Colin Capstick
Best Playoff Performer - Josh Short
Rookie of the Year - Tristan Gerth
Coaches' Player Award - Ryan Poley
Most Improved Player - Braidon Duncan
Outstanding Leadership - Brody Smith
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