By: Bryan Thiel
With round one out of the way, it’s time to get to the second round of the OHL playoffs. With just one upset in the entire league, the Erie Otters have to take on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, which leaves us with another installment of the London Knights vs Kitchener Rangers. On the East side, it’s number one Kingston against number four Niagara, and North Bay against Barrie.
1. Erie Otters vs. 7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The Greyhounds are in a tough spot now. After spoiling the hopes and dreams of the Sarnia Sting, they have to do it to one of the CHL’s best in the Erie Otters. Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat have a strong core around them that can shoulder the offensive load if the two big guns get shut down, and I’ve always been a fan of Devin Williams in net. If Brandon Halverson can be as good in the second round as he was in the first, I think the Greyhounds can frustrate the Otters with a balanced attack. Can they pull of a second-straight upset? I don’t think so, but you never know. A team that’s seen to be playing with house money is always dangerous.
Otters in six
3. London Knights vs. 4. Kitchener Rangers
This series is always fun. It doesn’t matter how much time passes and who the stars are, the London Knights and Kitchener Rangers still hate each other. The Knights are one of the deeper teams in the CHL, with talent across the board. Cliff Pu had a good first round, and he’ll need that to continue as a secondary threat behind the Marner/Tkachuk/Dvorak trio with Max Jones out for the series. The Rangers are an interesting team though, in the fact that they’re deep too, and I don’t see a huge drop off in talent. Overall I think the Knights have more talent, but they’re undisciplined. London was shorthanded the third-most times in the first round, and finished with a bleak 65% on the penalty kill while the Rangers clicked on the power play at just under 35%. That’s not to say the Rangers were much better though, as they finished with the worst PK% at 55%, but were shorthanded 12 fewer times (in one fewer game) than the Knights and their 20.8% power play. The Knights won the season series 4-2, but coming out on top here all depends if they can keep their cool.
Rangers in seven
1.Kingston Frontenacs vs. 4. Niagara IceDogs
In the first round I said the Niagara IceDogs had the talent to at least make the Conference Finals. I still believe it, but if they want to do that they’ll have to make their way through the East’s best in the Kingston Frontenacs. Kingston made it through the first round with a high-powered offence lead by Michael Dal Colle and Spencer Watson, but I do wonder what might happen if Niagara can rattle Jeremy Helvig and Lucas Peressini a little bit. It’s one thing to be jumping back and forth between the two against Oshawa, but against Niagara it could be trouble. On the other side the IceDogs have one of the best in Alex Nedeljkovic, in spite of what the first round numbers might say. Josh Ho-Sang seems to have found a friend in Pavel Janys, and I think Niagara has good depth. They didn’t have to rely too much on it for additional offence against Ottawa though, so they’ll need everyone to be on their game from the start.
IceDogs in seven
2. Barrie Colts vs. 3. North Bay Battalion
In a matchup of two teams that had to go the distance in round one, two of the league’s four 50-goal scorers will go head-to-head. Mike Amadio’s goal-scoring prowess has carried over into the post-season, as he had nine goals and 14 points in the first round for North Bay. Andrew Mangipane meanwhile, was quiet by his 51-goal standards with just four in the first round, but two of them were game-winners, including the one that sent the Colts to round two. Kevin Labanc had a great first round with 12 points in seven games (he had a point in every game except a shutout loss in game six), but the hot hand belongs to Justin Scott. Scott scored 10 goals in the first round (one more than Amadio for the playoff lead), and is a huge part of a lethal Barrie attack. North Bay has always played their system well, and have some of their best weapons in years with Amadio, Kyle Wood, Cam Dineen, and Matt Santos. The problem will be what happens if the games open up. North Bay was fine when they were able to limit Peterborough’s offence in round one and let their stars go to work, but they always seemed a goal short when things started to open up against the Petes despite keeping things close. I think this one will be every bit as interesting as both of these teams’ first round series, with the Colts finding a way to move on.
Colts in seven
Bryan Thiel is a freelance broadcaster who has covered the OHL from rink-side and the broadcast booth. He has also helped produce OHL features for five seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.