After clinching the Division title last Friday on home ice, the Markham Royals will begin their quest for the Buckland Cup one week later when they host the Whitby Fury for Game 1 of their first round series Friday March 4.
The Royals are in the postseason in just their first year back in the City of Markham, while the Fury return to the postseason again as the 7th seed this year, last year falling in a 4-game sweep to the Cobourg Cougars. The Fury also made the playoffs as one of the 4 teams (Cobourg, Newmarket Hurricanes, Stouffville Spirit) battling for the final 3 playoff spots in the North-East Conference, thanks to winning 3 of their last 5 games down the stretch.
Markham enters the playoffs with just 2 wins in their last 5 games, but their last win (a 6-3 final over Stouffville, eliminating the Spirit from the playoffs) could be the shift in momentum that the Royals need heading into their first round matchup. They will be getting some reinforcements as players return to the lineup from injuries and suspensions, giving the Royals more depth to the lineup. Depth the Royals have built on all season, it supported the team while some of the more depended upon offence stalled and when injuries bit the blue line.
In terms of experience, the Royals may be a first year club, but the roster is full of veterans who have been to this dance before. Take Captain Aaron Spivak for example, this will be his 5th consecutive postseason for him while playing for 3 different teams, or others such as Sean Perichak (2012 and 2013), Matthew Dunlop (2015), Brett Markham (2015 with Toronto Pats, also going to the Dudley Hewitt) and the Royals leading regular season point getter Tyson Bruce (2015). The Fury are a young squad with 7 players born in 1997 and 6 players born in 1998 or 1999, but will be lead by experienced veterans in Jonathan O’Hara (4th straight post season, all with Whitby), Rylee McKinnon (also 4th straight postseason, previous 3 with the Cobourg Cougars), and goaltender Daniel Mannella (2015 with Oakville Blades).
Mannella is the clear starter for the Fury after starting 36 games for Whitby this season, he has a career 5 – 6 postseason record, with a 2.96GAA and 0.909SV% after starting in 11 playoff games for Oakville last year. The Royals will be turning to Marcus Semiao who had a rough go-around last season with the Aurora Tigers in the playoffs, after having to replace Andy Munroe as the starter. Semiao had a great regular season with the Royals after being acquired from the Milton IceHawks, with a record of 15-8, 3 shutouts, a 2.57GAA and a 0.921SV%, while backup Scott Smith got some playing time down the stretch, giving the Royals two confident and capable goaltenders (more depth) in the crease.