The Oakville Blades already had something to celebrate even before the puck dropped on the 2016-17 campaign.
This season marks the 50th anniversary of operations for the Ontario Junior Hockey League franchise.
The Blades would certainly love to capture a league championship during their golden anniversary. And they just might have what it takes.
Oakville entered the Christmas holidays sporting a 22-11-0-2 record, good for top spot in the league’s six-team South Division.
“We’re happy with where we are,” said Blades’ head coach Mike Tarantino. “But we just have to keep improving.”
The Blades return to action on Dec. 30 with a road contest versus the Milton Icehawks.
Tarantino admits there was plenty of anniversary talk among the club’s members earlier on. There was a fair bit of pre-season hype, which included new retro jerseys for the team.
“As the season has gone on we’re focusing on what’s happening on the ice and it’s just another hockey season,” Tarantino said.
The Blades bench boss, however, has not been entirely content with his squad.
“I think with us inconsistency has been our biggest thing,” he said. “Most of our losses have been to teams behind us in the standings.”
On the plus side, Oakville has fared rather well against teams ahead of them. For example, the Blades have split their four games thus far against the Georgetown Raiders.
Oakville is the only team that has two victories against the Raiders, who have lost a league-low four matches this season.
So it’s no surprise that Tarantino and his charges have visions of a lengthy playoff run, possibly capped off with an OJHL crown.
“I think we’re right there,” Tarantino said. “I think there’s eight teams as of right now that can win this league. And we’re one of them.”
The Blades are a rather balanced squad this season. They don’t have a single player among the league’s Top 10 pointgetters.
But they do have six individuals who have already hit the double digit mark in goals scored.
Ryan Foss, a 20-year-old who is in his second year with the Blades, is leading the club in scoring with 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) in 33 contests.
Foss joined the Oakville squad last year following a brief stint with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Prior to that he spent a pair of seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, splitting his time between the Windsor Spitfires and Guelph Storm.
Oakville’s roster also includes highly touted 17-year-old Bryce Misley, who was a member of the Canada East squad that captured the silver medal at the recent World Junior A Challenge.
Misley, who has committed to the University of Vermont starting with the 2018-19 season, has earned 39 points, including 17 goals, in 29 matches.
Should they continue to improve, the Blades just might end up making their 50th anniversary even more special.
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