By: Bryan Thiel
The CHL handed out their awards for the 2015/16 season the night before the Mastercard Memorial Cup final, and the Ontario Hockey League was well-represented. Of the ten handed out, three went to OHL’ers.
Sportsnet Player of the Year Award
Mitch Marner, London Knights
Only four players scored more points during their respective regular seasons than Marner’s 116, and one was teammate Christian Dvorak. Add in to that a playoff-leading 44 points, and Marner’s 160 points were the highest combined total in the CHL this season. The fact he went scoreless just once in 18 playoff games (and finished the playoffs on a 16-game point-streak) and mixed in 21 and 13-game point streaks during the regular season just adds to his amazing year. Continue reading
By Bryan Thiel:
Niagara IceDogs @ Ottawa 67’s
The Ottawa 67’s forced their way back into their quarterfinal series with the Niagara IceDogs, coming out with a 4-2 win in Game 3 in front of their home fans. Leo Lazarev was sharp all afternoon for the 67’s, but a stellar first period was what kept the home side in front. The IceDogs outshot the 67’s 15-5 in the first, but Lazarev kept them off the board, while Artur Tyanulin (1:06 in) and Nathan Todd capitalized on two of Ottawa’s five shots. Todd kept the pedal down in the second when he scored his third of the series 1:40 in, before Pavel Jenys’ third of the series broke Lazarev’s shutout bid. Stepan Falkovsky scored 30 second later though, and a Vince Dunn power play goal early in the third was as close as Niagara would get. Todd and Tyanulin dominated the afternoon, as both finished with three points. Lazarev ended up making 26 saves for the game, while Alex Nedeljkovic had a rough day, making just 12 saves. While the 67’s won the game, there was a big loss however, as Nevin Guy left the game during the first and was seen during the second intermission with his arm in a sling. It was revealed afterwards that his playoffs are over.
Niagara leads series 2-1
Next Game: Wednesday @Ottawa
London Knights @ Owen Sound Attack
After the first two games in London, some were asking where Mitch Marner was. It appears that he’s been found. For those dreading that Game 3 would be a repeat of Game 2 for the Knights, it nearly was. Damir Sharipzyanov broke a scoreless tie with two minutes to go in the first period on the Attack’s third power play of the game (just after a 5-on-3 ended). Early in the second the Knights tied things up on a power play of their own as Matthew Tkachuk converted on his first of the series…and then Marner struck. A minute after Aaron Berisha made it 2-1, Marner made it 3-1, and after Nick Suzuki failed to convert a penalty shot late in the second, Marner nabbed his second of the game 10 seconds into the third. After that the Knights would cruise, as Tkachuk added his second for a 5-1 win. This game was a nightmare for Tyler Parsons and Michael McNiven from the start, as Owen Sound outshot London 22-15 in the first, London came back with 15 shots in the second to Owen Sound’s 4, and they were 13-11 Attack in the third. After Marner and Tkachuk were held to just one goal combined in the first two games, the two combined for 4 goals and 1 assist in Game 3, taking home first and second star.
London leads series 2-1
Next Game: Wednesday @Owen Sound
Kitchener Rangers @ Windsor Spitfires
No series has changed as much over the course of three games as the Rangers and Spitfires. The first two games in Kitchener were offensive showcases; the Rangers scored 12 goals over that span, while the Spitfires weren’t too far behind with 9, and chased Luke Opilka from the net in favour of Dawson Carty. Add in the fact that Brendan Lemieux was serving the second of a two-game suspension for a slew foot that he picked up in the opener of this series, and there was plenty to keep fans interested in Game 3. Well you can add one more twist, as rookie goalie Michael DiPietro replaced Mario Culina between the pipes for Game 3, meaning all four goalies have started a game before we’re even through four games. The opening frame of this one took a much quieter tone, as the teams traded a handful of scoring chances before Jeremy Bracco was able to poke home a loose puck with just 35 seconds left. From there it was DiPietro and Carty stealing the show, going save-for-save through a scoreless second period, as the closest anyone came to scoring was when Carty knocked a puck away from the goal-line with his pad (prompting a review). DiPietro’s sharp play carried over into the third, where he was able to buy the Spits enough time to tie it up at 9:25 on the power play thanks to Aaron Luchuk. But just as it looked like we may be heading to overtime for the second time in three games, Brandon Robinson one-timed his fifth of the series home with 1:26 to go to seal a 2-1 Kitchener win. Outside of the two goals DiPietro was spectacular in his OHL playoff debut, stopping 28/30 shots, while Luchuk has a point in all three games (2 goals, 1 assist). Bracco and Ryan MacInnis were in on both goals for the Rangers, coming away with two-point nights, while Brandon Robinson now has 7 points (5G/2A) in three games, and two game-winning goals. Lemieux is due back for Game 4, a boost that the Spits desperately need.
Kitchener leads series 3-0
Next Game: Wednesday @Windsor
Mississauga Steelheads @ Barrie Colts
Maybe Alex Nylander isn’t 100%. Maybe he doesn’t need to be. After Game 1 between the Colts and Steelheads was pushed back to Saturday, it gave Nylander a little extra time to get healthy…and while it took two periods to get his feet under him, he sure looked comfortable come the third. The Colts had a quick start, getting a goal from Justin Scott 4:21 in to the game, and it could have been worse if it wasn’t for Jack Flinn making 15 saves in the first period. Another 16 shots in the second led to two more goals for the Colts from Rasmus Andersson (on the power play) and Anthony Stefano (shorthanded), as they outshot the Steelheads 32-20 through two periods. Then…cue the comeback. Everett Clark’s first-career playoff goal got things started at the 7:16 mark, and the next 10 minutes was all Mississauga. Nylander picked up a pair, Mason Marchment gave the Steelheads the lead, and Daniel Muzito-Bagenda provided the insurance before Nylander capped off the hat-trick with an empty netter for the 6-5 win. For Nylander, the three goals were his first since February 15th as he rounded out a 4-point night, as ten different Steelheads recorded a point. Flinn ended up making 36 saves for the win.
Series tied 1-1
Next Game: Tuesday @Mississauga
“It’s funny how the hockey gods work,” Brown said. “You play your hearts out for two games, you don’t get rewarded, then you come home and you play terrible like we did in the first period — and we end up winning the game.” – Ottawa Citizen
“We’re a team used to scoring five goals a game, or more, and for us not to do that (every time out) is kind of discouraging,” Berisha said, “but it didn’t really matter. We still put up five in the end and we’re still excited about that.” – London Free Press
“Pressure is really what you make of it,” he said. “If you let it get to you, you can use it as an excuse or a crutch. I think you have to take advantage of the opportunities that are put in front of you, because not a lot of people have them.” – The Record
First Star: Alex Nylander, Mississauga Steelheads: 3 Goals, 1 Assist, +4, 9 shots
Second Star: Mitch Marner, London Knights: 2 Goals, 1 Assist, +3
Third Star: Nathan Todd, Ottawa 67’s: 2 Goals, 1 Assist, GWG, +4
By: Bryan Thiel
There was a little bit of everything on the first night of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, including a postponement.
7. Mississauga Steelheads @ 2. Barrie Colts
Weather saved the Steelheads a game without their top scorer on Thursday. Alex Nylander battled a shoulder injury towards the end of the regular season, and on the opening night of the OHL playoffs he wasn’t ready to go. Thanks to a power outage brought about by the nasty Ontario weather, Game 1 between the Colts and Steelheads was called off. Despite the best efforts of both sides to make the game happen, things were pushed back and the series will now open on Saturday with Game 2 on Monday.
5. Ottawa 67’s @ 4. Niagara IceDogs
The Ottawa 67’s came in to the playoffs red hot, but the IceDogs were able to keep them at arms length to take a 1-0 series lead with a 5-4 win. In a game that Ottawa never led, they were never really out of it either, as they were either down by a goal or tied with Niagara until the IceDogs went up 4-3 midway through the second, and made it 5-3 early in the third. Even then, Jeremiah Addison scored with under four minutes to go to make it a one-goal game, but it was just too much for Ottawa to overcome. William Lochead’s second-career OHL goal (first in the playoffs) opened things up for Niagara who got the game-winning goal and an assist out of Vince Dunn, and goals out of Pavel Jenys, Anthony DiFruscia, and Graham Knott. Josh Ho-Sang stole first star honours with three assists while Alex Nedeljkovic made 19 saves for the win. Leo Lazarev took the loss for the 67’s, while Travis Barron (1G/1A), Todd Nathan (1G/2A), and Dante Salituro all added goals.IceDogs lead series 1-0
5. Windsor Spitfires @ 4. Kitchener RangersThis game was bananas, and everything that everyone hoped it would be. For beginners, the Spitfires chased Luke Opilka from the Kitchener net and took the air out of the Aud with three goals in the first 9:36, which included a beauty by Christian Fischer. Then, suddenly, the Rangers got themselves back in it. Brandon Robinson and Ryan MacInnis cut it to 3-2 before Brendan Lemieux got called for slew footing, sending the Rangers to a five-minute power play. Kitchener scored once on the man advantage to tie and once after it was done to go up 4-3, but we weren’t done there. Windsor tied it at four and the teams traded third period goals to send it to overtime tied at five. Then, early in overtime, OA Brandon Robinson snapped home the game-winner off of a faceoff to send the fans home happy with a 6-5 Rangers win. Mario Culina made 32 saves for the Spitfires in a losing effort, while Dawson Carty came in and steadied the Rangers, stopping 29 of 31. Four different Rangers scored goals, as Jeremy Bracco added three assists (all on the Rangers’ first three goals) and Miles Liberati added two, while Bradley Latour was the only Spitfire with multiple points (1G/1A).Rangers lead series 1-0
Keep an eye on…Brendan Lemieux’s status for the next couple games bears watching. The actual infraction doesn’t look as egregious as the five-minute, suspension-inducing slew foot call makes it sound, but we won’t know until after the league reviews it.
It will also be interesting to see what the Rangers and Spitfires do between the pipes for Game 2. Do they go with the status quo and give Opilka and Culina second chances? Did Dawson Carty do enough to earn himself a start in Game 2, or did he just prove why it’s important to have depth between the pipes? Is there a chance we see Michael DiPietro in Kitchener on Saturday night?
Three Stars of the Night:
First Star: Brandon Robinson, Kitchener Rangers: 2 Goals, 1 GWG, 1 Assist
Second Star: Josh Ho-Sang, Niagara IceDogs: 3 Assists, 2 PP assists, assisted on GWG
Third Star: Dawson Carty, Kitchener Rangers: 29/31 saves in relief of Luke Opilka
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 the past four seasons. You can follow him on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.