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Oakville Blades eliminated from playoff contention

Lukas Bernasiewicz
Lukas Bernasiewicz

The seemingly inevitable has occurred. The Oakville Blades have been eliminated from playoff contention after losing on Feb. 24 against the Collingwood Blues.

How did this happen?

The team started the season with a lot of changes; last season's coaching staff decided to part ways with the organization, and a new coaching staff stepped in. 

The new staff, led by head coach Scott McCrory, tried to establish a new identity for the team: an identity that centred around toughness and truculence.

Certain players like Aidan Russel, Conor Thacker, and Luc Modry were added to the lineup for the start of the season, bringing a type of toughness and nastiness that the team lacked last season.

Oakville also saw considerable improvements in their veteran players.

Second-year forward Matthew Wang led the team in points with 46 and was invited to the OJHL InStat Top Prospects game. Wang showed the league he is a player to watch and an offensive threat whenever he stepped onto the ice.

Another second-year player, Assistant Captain Jacob Crisp, was a massive contributor. Crisp stepped into a more significant role this season and a new position. For all of Jacob’s hockey career, he was a defender. But this year, he decided to challenge himself and played the wing. Crisp was a significant leader off the ice and a prominent leader on the ice. He scored 35 points this season and played big minutes when called upon.

The team also saw a massive improvement in co-captain Andrew Brown. Brown asserted himself as a top-pairing defender this season. He racked up tons and tons of points and was a powerplay quarterback. Andrew also, on many occasions, turned into Bobby Orr, rushing the puck from end to end, shooting it past the goalie for a great goal.

All three players are destined for incredible hockey careers once their time with the Blades ends.

Oakville also had some first-year players make big contributions. Gleb Akimov was an incredible find; he showed this season that his shot is one of the deadliest in the entire OJHL.

Luke Johnston had a great rookie season after being acquired from Wellington early in the season. Johnston had a nose for the net and always came up with a clutch play when the team needed one.

Then there is Lachlan Wells, who became a vital part of the Blades roster, playing well in any scenario. Whether it was penalty kill, powerplay, or even strength, Lachlan gave Oakville meaningful and serviceable minutes that always helped the team.

So where did it all go wrong? The season started okay for Oakville.

The team went 3-3 in their first six games and tried to establish their new identity. But after that 3-3 stretch, the team lost 10 consecutive games and plummetted to the bottom of the standings. 

While the Blades tried to climb out of that hole, they simply could not. Any time they tried to gain some momentum in the season, it was immediately interrupted by another losing streak.

The team also couldn't consistently beat elite teams in the league, like Collingwood, Burlington, and Pickering. Though beating those teams is a tall task, it's necessary to win some of those games to contend in the playoffs.

What can the Blades can look forward to? Though the team was young and inexperienced, contributing to the team struggling to win consistently, the Blades are only expected to lose one over-aging player next year, Co-Captain Jake Alcaraz. 

Other than that, the team is expected to return a year older, stronger, and better next season.

Oakville still has two home games left this season: tomorrow night, Friday, March 3, and again on Saturday March 4. The team hopes to end the season on a high note.