By: Bryan Thiel
After the London Knights dominated the Ontario Hockey League playoffs to the tune of a 16-2 record and 13 straight wins, they’re OHL champions for the third time since 2011 and off to their fourth Mastercard Memorial Cup in that span.
Now, as with any dominating playoff run, there were a number of stars: Mitch Marner was the recipient of the Wayne Gretzky ’99’ Award as playoff MVP, Matthew Tkachuk led the league in goals, Christian Dvorak had a very pedestrian 35 points in 18 games, and Tyler Parsons backstopped the team to all 16 of their wins (which is important, considering 22 different goalies recorded decisions in these playoffs).
If you were to do some more digging, it’d be very easy to find a pair of defencemen to round out an all-London Knights playoff All-Star team. But where’s the fun in that? While the Knights will be well-represented across the first and second All-Star teams, we did our best to gather up a handful of other OHL’ers to round out both squads, for Across the OHL’s (Delayed by an ill-timed vacation) playoff All-Star team.
6. Peterborough Petes @ 3. North Bay Battalion
After dropping a tight Game 1, the Peterborough Petes were able to salvage a split in North Bay on Sunday. Things started out well for the Battalion when Maurizio Colella’s first career playoff goal put them ahead late in the first. But North Bay couldn’t even take that lead to the second, as with 11 seconds left in the opening period, Logan DeNoble’s second of the post-season tied it at one. After that the Peterborough offence started clicking, as Hunter Garlent, Jonathan Ang, and Greg Betzold all scored second period goals to open up a 4-1 lead. Michael Amadio cut it to 4-2 with 47 seconds left in the second, but North Bay wouldn’t get any closer: Steven Lorentz and Steve Harland traded third period goals as the Petes took Game 2 by a 5-3 score, sending the series back to Peterborough tied at one. The Battalion clicked twice on four power play chances, while the Petes could’ve had a few more, going just 1/7 with the man advantage. Amadio added an assist for a two-point afternoon, while Kyle Wood and Cam Dineen both had 2 assists. Garlent, Ang, and Betzold all came away with 1G/1A each and Eric Cornell had a pair of helpers.
Series tied 1-1
8. Saginaw Spirit @ 1. Erie Otters
While the Erie Otters relied on secondary scoring to slip past Saginaw in Game 1, their big guns made their mark in Game 2. In the first, it was Taylor Raddysh getting things started on the power play before Alex DeBrincat scored his first of the series. 2 minutes into the second the onslaught continued when Dyland Strome nabbed his first on the Otters’ third-straight power play goal. Mitchell Byrne would make it 4-0 before Jesse Barwell got Saginaw on the board. After that the teams would alternate goals, with Kyle Maksimovich and Patrick Fellows coming through for Erie, while Connor Brown and Brady Gilmour scored for Saginaw. Kyle Pettit rounded out the scoring with his third of the series into an empty net, as Erie wrapped up a 7-3 win and a 2-0 series lead. Devin Williams ended up making 19 saves for the win, as both DeBrincat and Strome finished with one goal and two assists. Maksimovich, Travis Dermott and Jordan Sambrook all chipped in with two point efforts as well, as the Otters went 4/8 on the power play and fired 43 pucks at Evan Cormier.
Otters lead series 2-0
7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds @ 2. Sarnia Sting
While the Sarnia Sting still have five games (at most) to figure things out, the playoff demons continue to haunt this franchise. With just two round wins since 1996/97, the Sting are staring another 2-0 series hole in the face after a 5-2 loss to Sault Ste. Marie. While Sarnia started quickly in Game 1, there was no such luck here: The teams skated through a scoreless first until Zachary Senyshyn broke the tie with 1:38 to go. From there on, it was the Greyhounds’ day. Boris Katchouk, Tim Gettinger and Bobby MacIntyre had the Soo out to a 4-0 lead before Anthony Salinitri brought Sarnia within three early in the third. Matt Mistele cut the lead to two on a power play four minutes later, but Senyshyn’s second proved to be too much as the ‘Hounds rolled to a 5-2 win. Sarnia may have had more success if it wasn’t for Brandon Halverson: the third-year netminder stopped 39 of 41 shots, including 22 of them in the third (Sarnia outshot the Soo 24-3 in the frame), and owns a 0.935 SV% across two games. Travis Konecny and Pavel Zacha were held quiet on the afternoon, as each came away with a single assist. Charlie Graham was only in for the first and second, giving way to Justin Fazio in the third.
Greyhounds lead series 2-0
“We’ve shown that we’re a good road team but they’re an excellent hockey club, you can see when they really get to work they’re difficult to handle. So a lot of work left.” – Sarnia Observer
“There was a different vibe today right from our pre-game meal to when we got to the rink. The guys were focused. The biggest difference is they were skating as a team. When we do that we can play a pretty effective game.” – Peterborough Examiner
Keep Your Eye On…
The Sarnia net. Word out of Sarnia (from the Sarnia Observer; same link as above) is that Derian Hatcher hasn’t decided on a Game 3 starter. Charlie Graham was 13-4-0-1 during the regular season with Sarnia, including a 0.915 SV% and a 2.35 GAA, but things haven’t gone well for him in the playoffs. Fazio was 24-13-3-1 with a 2.68 GAA and a 0.902 SV%, but hadn’t played since March 3rd before entering Game 2 due to injury.
Travis Konecny was banged up and missed most of the second period of Game 2. Konecny played in the late stages of the second and the third period.
First Star: Brandon Halverson, SSM Greyhounds: Stopped 39/41 shots, Greyhounds lead series 2-0
Second Star: Alex DeBrincat, Erie Otters: 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 3 Power Play points
Third Star: Greg Betzold, Peterborough Petes: 1 Goal, 1 Assist, +2, GWG
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.