GLANBROOK (Mar. 1) — One of the benefits of finishing first in your division is that you get the option of bypassing the first round of the playoffs and proceeding immediately to the second round. The Glanbrook Rangers took top spot in the Bloomfield Division and will “take the bye.” Round 1 can begin Tuesday, Mar. 7 and extend as far as Monday, Mar. 20.
Now, it’s one of those timeless hockey hot stove debates about whether taking the bye is wise or not and, o be sure, there are compelling arguments on both sides.
“The ‘pro’ would definitely be the rest,” said Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait, whose team is beset with a few nagging injuries that could surely use a period of recovery. And getting a bit of a break before what could be a very long slog toward the Schmalz Cup finals (almost a second season in itself, lasting up to two months with upwards of 30 games) definitely has a lot going for it.
“You hope your opponents go to game 7 (in their first round) and have a hard-fought series,” said Tait. “Perhaps you catch them sluggish and tired in the second round.”
On other hand, there is always the danger that a team sitting idle for a couple of weeks will lose its competitive edge. Of course, they’ll be practising over that span, but it’s not the same, said Tait.
“You get away from game action and, especially in the playoffs, the intensity amplifies and that can be tough to match in practice.”
Another consideration is that, should a team pass on the bye and go right into competition, there is potential for even further injuries and the off-chance that a lower-level team will prove to be a tougher opponent than you might have bargained for, even pulling off some kind of miraculous upset.
In any case, it’s all academic: the Rangers have decided — they’ll sit out the first round, leaving the other six teams to battle it out in Round 1. And as of this writing, only one matchup is set: the second-seeded Grimsby Peach Kings will take on the number seven seed, Hagersville Hawks. The Dunnville Mudcats (6) and Dundas Blues (5) will have to wait to see who wins the battle for third spot between the Port Dover Sailors and the Niagara Riverhawks. Port Dover holds that spot now after beating Niagara 4-1 last night and they would have to be favoured since they face Dundas in their final regular season game, while the RiverHawks will have to go up against Grimsby.
The implications are significant for Glanbrook, as they will face the lowest-seeded surviving team when they re-enter competition in the second round, and the Rangers had a 7-0 record against Port Dover, but just a 4-2-0-1 mark against Niagara.
Anyway, that’s for the future. For now, after Sunday’s rescheduled game against Hagersville — their final outing of the regular season — the Rangers will focus on getting themselves as prepared as possible for whoever their opponent is.
“We will have to have high-energy practices and be ready to go,” said Tait. “We finished first, so we know teams will be bringing their best against us. We have dealt with it all year, but playoffs are win and move on, or lose and go home. We can’t have any letdowns.”