Leave it to a former Wellington Dukes goaltender to get it right earlier this month.
Rob Gherson, a Dukes netminder in the 99-00 season who used his time in Wellington as a stepping stone to a minor-pro career that featured American Hockey League stops in Chicago, Hartford and Manitoba and now serves as assistant coach for the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s North York Rangers tweeted that if Jett Alexander ended up being named Canadian Junior Hockey league goaltender of the year, that Black Shire Farms (Alexander’s home) “might need to build a new barn on County Road 1 to hold all these awards.”
Well, Jett Alexander’s dad Jamie might want to start applying for building permits because his son is the best goaltender in the 133 team CJHL.
The 19-year-old billed from Bloomfield but living closer to Wellington earned the accolades over fellow CJHL Top Goaltender finalists Jack LaFontaine, Penticton Vees (BCHL); Liam Souliere, Brockville Braves (CCHL); Justen Close, Kindersley Klippers (SJHL) and Brock Aiken, Thunder Bay North Stars (SIJHL) following a voting process completed by each of the CJHL’s 10-member leagues, for their respective efforts during the course of the regular season.
Among the exceptional efforts produced by Alexander for North York was leading all OJHL netminders in victories during the campaign with 30 and the Prince Edward County Kings alumnus also topped all stoppers in his 22-team league in both goals-against average at 1.67 and save percentage at .945.
Along the way, Alexander also posted 10 shutouts for the Rangers this season, which broke a league record that dated all the way back to the early 1970s.
His contributions also saw the six-foot-five-inch, 215-pound netminder named the OJHL’s Goaltender of the Year Award recipient as voted by media members of the OJHL as well as the Top Goaltender award presented to the top puckstopper on a statistical basis in the Jr. A loop.
For a young county native that took a leap of faith and travelled to the Greater Toronto Hockey League during he later stages of youth hockey in search of a goaltending spot in the planet’s largest minor hockey system, Alexander’s investment into himself and his sport of choice paid off in spades this season.
“It’s not anything I really dreamt of coming into the season but I had a good group in front of me a lot of veteran guys and we managed to have one of the best teams in all of Canada,” Alexander told the Gazette Monday.
Then, after Alexander spoke with the Gazette on Monday, he as tabbed as the Ontario Hockey Association’s Jr. A player of the year in 2018-19 late Tuesday.
Rarely has any hockey player in the OJHL had such a haul of individual awards.
The lanky netminder got hot right out of the gate and was the OJHL player of the month in October, posting a half dozen shutouts including three against the Toronto Jr. Canadiens en route to setting the historic Jr. A record.
“Everyone was palying well so and I was as locked in as I’ve ever been in my career,” Alexander recalled. “I played every game that month because (teammate) Eli Shiller was injured and I was playing every other day, it felt like playoffs in October and everyone played so well in front of me. There were times my team bailed me out and there were times I bailed them out,”Alexander added.
It would be hard for Gherson to forget his time in the county as he is partners with county native Amber Rutgers and coaches the county’s best native born junior hockey player.
Alexander couldn’t say enough about the veteran of 72 AHL games and a Calder Cup champion with the Chicago Wolves in 2008.
“Rob was everything for me over the last two years,” Alexander said. “Off the ice, he helped me grow as a person and understand day-to-day life. He’s one of the best influences I’ve ever had and it’s pretty ironic he’s with to someone from the County that lived up the road from me and lived here when he was playing for Wellington. It’s crazy how small of a world hockey really is. He knows what it takes to make it as a professional in hockey and it’s a great prospective to have.”
The hot question around these parts when it comes to Alexander is what might be next. Uncommitted at the NCAA level as of yet, the goaltender shed some light on his current situation.
“There have been offers here and there but nothing I have taken. I understand it can be difficult for an NCAA University to invest $250,000 in you,” Alexander said. “For me, it’s been matter of finding the right location, the right package and the right opportunity and it just hasn’t happened yet. If it happens soon or after my last year of junior, I’ll be ready for it.”
Junior notes: In other OJHL news, the Ontario Hockey Association continued to honor the memory of the late BJ Munro with its annual BJ Munro Memorial Award presented to the top prospect in the association. Munro, a county native, was an up-and-coming prospect slated to be drafted into the Ontario Hockey League when he was tragically killed in a car accident in 1994.
Eric Ciccolini (Vaughan, ON.) has played in the OJHL for two seasons and recently completed his first full season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens.
He is the highest-ranked OHA player for the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Ciccolini was ranked 108th among North American Skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings. The 6’0” 170 pound right winger scored 62 points in 2018-19 with the Jr. Canadiens.
Ranked ninth in OJHL scoring and of his 62 points, Ciccolini scored 27 goals and added 35 helpers. Each of his totals were personal bests in the OJHL for the 18-year-old forward.
In 2017-18, Ciccolini had 30 points in 47 games in a season he split with the Milton Icehawks and Jr. Canadiens.
This season’s total more than doubles his previous point total. Ciccolini added five points in Toronto’s five-game playoff run in the 2018-19 postseason. He and the Jr. Canadiens were ousted by the North York Rangers in five games in round one of the OJHL Buckland Cup playoffs. NHL Central Scouting described Ciccolini as a player with a “high-end skill set, good offensive hockey sense” and a player who can see the ice at top speed and is a dynamic offensive threat.
In addition to playing for the Jr. Canadiens, Ciccolini suited up for Canada East at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, AB. Ciccolini also participated in the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s (CJHL) Top Prospects game as a member of Team East in January.
Ciccolini, who turned 18 in January, was voted the OJHL’s Top Prospect by a panel of league general managers and media representatives; and was named an OJHL 2nd Team All-Star at season’s end.
Ciccolini has also committed to the University of Michigan (NCAA Division 1 – Big Ten) for the 2020-21 season.
He is following a similar path to that of former OJHL players Mike Cammalleri (Bramalea), Andrew Cogliano (St. Michael’s), Zack Hyman (Hamilton) and Phil Di Giuseppe (Villanova) took – from the OJHL to the NCAA and eventually the NHL.