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Oakville Blades Season Recap – 2019-20

Oakville Blades Dudley Hewitt Cup 2019
Oakville Blades Season Recap – 2019-20
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TJ Dhir

TJ Dhir is a Journalism student at Sheridan College. He's lived in Oakville for over 10 years, and he loves all sports.

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Before the start of the season, there was uncertainty if the Oakville Blades could replicate their incredible successes of the previous season. New ownership, lots of outbound players, and rookies coming into the team meant the Blades would have been facing an uphill challenge this past season. Some thought: too young, too inexperienced.

How the tables turned. As it turns out, the Blades were too good.

The Blades qualified for the playoffs after winning their second consecutive West Division title, as well as the top seed in the North-West Conference for the second year in a row. The Blades finished with a record of 39-9-2-4. Their 84-point total was the second-best tally in the league, behind only the Wellington Dukes.

The Blades were set to march through the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) playoffs as they did last season. They swept the Brantford 99ers in the first round and were scheduled to play the Buffalo Jr. Sabres in the second round of this year’s playoffs.

Buffalo Jr. Sabres Oakville Blades

The Oakville Blades were set to take on the Buffalo Jr. Sabres in the second round of this year’s playoffs before they were cancelled. Image Courtesy: Michelle Malvaso / OJHL Images

Then, the bomb dropped.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OJHL announced that the rest of the playoffs would be cancelled.

Not postponed. Cancelled.

The Blades would, unfortunately, be unable to defend their OJHL Buckland Cup title from last season, as well as their Dudley Hewitt Cup in the Central Canadian Junior A championship.

Despite the premature end to the season, there were many positives taken from it.

New owner and head coach Jamie Storr did not expect the team to do as well as last season. Only six players and one goaltender returned to the team this year.

“The expectation with what we had coming back and not knowing what we were going to add; the team projected we would finish second, third, or fourth in our conference,” said Storr.

Their success this season showed that the Blades far exceeded expectations and will continue as a force to be reckoned with once the league starts back up again.

“For the coaching staff and ownership, we couldn’t be happier with how the kids developed and how the year went for this group,” continued Storr.

One of four returning forwards, Harrison Israels had a season to remember. The University of Alaska Fairbanks-committed player tied for the league lead in assists and points during the regular season and was recently named the 2019-20 OJHL Most Valuable Player. He elaborated on the expectations last season’s successes and the massive roster turnover.

“Coming out of last year, we had some big shoes to fill,” said Israels. “We were one of the best teams in the league’s history. We had a lot of young guys coming in; we pretty much turned over half the team. But we had a strong core group come back, and everybody bought in really early. We obviously had a coaching change and they made sure everybody adapted to a new system. Right of the bat, we went 9-0, so to get that confidence up really helped us, and we carried it through the whole season.”

Jack Lyons, one of two returning defencemen, had a fantastic season in his own right. The Canisius College-committed player finished ninth among defensemen in league scoring with 42 points. Lyons likes the future of the Blades and knows they will continue to succeed.

“This is such a skilled and young team that I would be so excited if I was still around Oakville to watch them the next year,” said Lyons. “There’s a couple big guys coming out of there like Luke Tchor, or (Cam) Garvey; two forwards that are really young, but you just know they’re both going to have commitments coming out of the next year.”

Will Barber, who went to Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School, was the only returning goaltender on this year’s squad. He shared the crease this season with new arrival Adam Harris, and the Saint Mary’s University-committed goaltender touched on the relationship with his rookie teammate.

“We both learned different things from each other,” said Barber. “We talked a lot about goalie stuff. It was a competitive nature; trying to make each other better, and helping the team win games.”

Harris finished third in the league with a 2.08 goals against average and owned a fifth-best 0.929 save percentage.

“He had a really strong season. I think he’ll be a very good goalie in the league next year,” continued Barber.

With most of the team from this season likely to stay for the 2020-21 season, it is fair to say that the Oakville Blades have every chance of replicating their incredible feats from the last two seasons. The new direction has been set. Let us hope it carries on for years to come.

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