By: Bryan Thiel
The OHL Playoffs are in the books and the Erie Otters are finally OHL Champions.
After four-straight years of making it to at least the Western Conference Final and claiming two Wayne Gretzky Trophies in the process, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and the Otters organization finally did it.
Along the way there were plenty of contributors. Among the top ten playoff scorers, six were Otters. DeBrincat led the way with 38 points, while Strome finished four points behind him. Anthony Cirelli not only played hero once again with the championship-clinching goal in overtime, but tied for the playoff lead in goals with 15. Then there’s Warren Foegele who took home the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as playoff MVP. And that’s not even getting into what the Raddyshes (Raddyshs? Raddi? Taylor and Darren?) did.
What we’re saying is that it would be easy to let Erie sweep all three forward spots and one on the blueline, while handing them some honourable mentions as well. So that’s not what’s going to happen. The Otters have their championship and are headed to Windsor for the Mastercard Memorial Cup. Instead, it’s the Across the OHL Playoff All-Star Team without anyone from the champions.
Bold. Continue reading
The first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs had plenty of drama, but in the end there were no upsets.
That means we ended up going three-for-four on our Western Conference preview (With the right number of games in two of the series) and four-for-four in the Eastern Conference (Nailing the number of games on two other series).
Pretty good, but it only gets tougher from here on out. With all top four seeds moving on it’s tough to say that any of the lower seeds winning would be ‘shocking’. In some cases it would be a bit of a surprise, but these are the best four teams in each conference. They all deserve to be here, and that means there should be some great hockey ahead. Continue reading
The great thing about the playoffs this year in the Ontario Hockey League, is that both conferences were so tight.
In the East, the Oshawa Generals missed first place by four points, while the race for the final three playoff spots came down to three teams and seven points. In the West, there were three teams with 100 points, with the Knights finishing one shy of the century mark.
If that’s any indication, the playoffs will be a lot of fun.
1) Peterborough Petes vs 8) Niagara IceDogs
Up front: The Petes seem to have it figured out offensively this year. The second-highest scoring team in the East got consistent production from the trio of Jonathan Ang, Steven Lorentz, and Logan DeNoble, and then tidied that up with Christopher Paquette and leading scorer Nikita Korostolev (29 points in 24 games with PBO). The IceDogs got a spectacular season out of rookie Akil Thomas, and an equally impressive one out of Oliver Castleman, but it’ll be up to them and Ben Jones and Johnny Corneil to keep pace with the Petes.
On the blueline: Give Ryan Mantha credit: He came into this year motivated, led by example, and earned himself an NHL contract. Now he and Aaron Haydon have to shoulder the load for a very young blueline. At first glance, Peterborough’s defence doesn’t have that ‘wow’ factor, but they’re consistent and reliable. Matthew Timms, Kyle Jenkins, Matt Spencer, and Brandon Prophet will have to prove they can limit the workload for Dylan Wells. Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
Each year NHL teams hold Development Camps for recently drafted/signed prospects, and to get a good look at some of the players that didn’t get draft but might be worth an entry-level contract.
Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of just who’s going where during the summer, so we’ve broken it down below, going team-by-team through the NHL. As some teams have not released a full roster, this list will be updated as information becomes available. Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
The OHL announced the schedule for all 20 home openers during 2016/17 Opening Week on Tuesday. All 20 teams will play their home openers between Wednesday, September 21st and Saturday, October 1st.
You can see the schedule below:
(*Indicates a playoff matchup from the 2016 playoffs; Home team is in capitals)
Wednesday, September 21st:
SARNIA STING vs London Knights
FLINT FIREBIRDS vs Saginaw Spirit Continue reading
By: Bryan Thiel
Niagara IceDogs @ Kingston Frontenacs
In the first round, both the IceDogs and Frontenacs dominated their opponents offensively, keeping both series to just five games. Early on, it was the IceDogs that quieted the Frontenacs, out-shooting them 16-4 in the first period. Of all those shots though, Vince Dunn was the only IceDog to score, throwing a shot on net from the point that found a way through Jeremy Helvig. After Helvig withstood that first-period barrage, it was Alex Nedeljkovic’s turn in the second period, but the veteran turned aside all 11 shots he faced (and the crossbar stopped one too). Helvig was slightly less busy facing nine shots, but yet again the IceDogs put one by him, as Anthony DiFruscia scored just seven minutes into the middle frame. In the third, Kingston finally solved Nedeljkovic as Lawson Crouse slid his fifth of the playoffs home on the power play, but that’s as close as the Fronts would get. Aaron Haydon would get the empty-netter, as Nedeljkovic would make 31 saves for the 3-1, game one win. The IceDogs got the production from the rest of the roster they were looking for, as Dunn finished with two points, DiFruscia scored his second of the playoffs, and Haydon scored his first.
IceDogs lead series 1-0
North Bay Battalion @ Barrie Colts
After two first round series that went seven games, the Battalion and Colts could very well go seven in this head-to-head matchup. While the Colts had an up-and-down opening round, they were all up in game one, and so was Andrew Mangiapane. The 51-goal man from the regular season opened the scoring late on a power play midway through the first, and then two minutes later put a beautiful move on Jake Smith as he finished off a give-and-go for an early 2-0 lead. The Colts weren’t done there, as two minutes after that Josh Carrick gave them an early 3-0 lead. Carrick would add his second of the game two minutes into the second, and it seemed like it would be all Colts from there. The Battalion made sure that wasn’t the case though, as Steve Harland and Kyle Wood scored in the third, but a Justin Scott empty-netter put the finishing touches on a 5-2 Colts win. Mangiapane and Kevin Labanc finished the game with three points each, while Scott nabbed his first assist of the playoffs for a two-point evening. MacKenzie Blackwood stopped 32 of 34 shots for the win, including 16 saves in the first period.
Colts lead series 1-0
“Momentum is everything in the playoffs, so it was really important we establish our game and establish our presence, and get the momentum right off the hop,” said Colts winger Keigan Goetz. – Barrie Examiner
“For whatever reason our compete level, our willingness to battle in the first period wasn’t high enough. The slow start cost us,” said head coach Paul McFarland. – Kingston Whig-Standard
Three Stars of the Night
1. Alex Nedeljkovic, Niagara IceDogs: 31 saves, game one win
2. Andrew Mangiapane, Barrie Colts: 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 1 PPG, +2
3. Josh Carrick, Barrie Colts: 2 Goals, +1, 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.
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.
By: Bryan Thiel
Three game sevens in the OHL last night, meaning we’re officially off to the second round!
Peterborough Petes @ North Bay Battalion
The sixth-seeded Peterborough Petes were trying to play spoiler in North Bay, and they got off to a great start when Josh Maguire scored four minutes in to give the Petes a 1-0 lead. The Battalion would battle back though, as a Kyle Wood one-timer would tie things up and Matthew Santos would snap one home with 1:31 to go in the first to give the Troops a lead they would never relinquish. Michael Amadio would add his eighth and ninth goals of the series in the second and third to wrap up a 4-1 Battalion win. For Amadio, it was a three-point night as he assisted on the game-winner, while Wood finished with two points and Cam Dineen added a pair of helpers. Jake Smith made 27 saves for the series-clinching victory, as he allowed just three goals in North Bay’s four wins over the Petes.
North Bay wins series 4-3
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds @ Sarnia Sting
Sarnia loaded up at the Trade Deadline for a reason, and it wasn’t to be staring at a potential first-round exit thanks to a seven-game series. Five minutes in, Anthony Salinitri calmed the nerves a little bit as his second have the Sting a 1-0 lead. The Greyhounds however, weren’t about to go quietly as Gabe Guertler netted his fourth of the series halfway through the first, and Bobby MacIntyre would put the ‘Hounds ahead 2-1 with his third. Pavel Zach poked in his sixth on a power play in the late second to tie things up headed to the third, where there would be fireworks. 27 seconds in Blake Speers put the Soo up 3-2, and Boris Katchouk would score seven minutes later for a two-goal lead. Not willing to say die, Troy Lajeunesse would cut it to one with just over two to go, but that’s as close as the Sting would get. Brandon Halverson turned aside four shots in the last two minutes and 36 of 39 overall on the night, leading Sault Ste. Marie to a 4-3 win and a spot in the second round. Katchouk and Zach Senyshyn would both finish with two-point efforts, while Lajeunesse had a goal and two assists in the loss. The Soo left the Sting disappointed in the first round once again, as six Greyhounds finished with four or more points in the series.
Sault Ste. Marie wins series 4-3
Mississauga Steelheads @ Barrie Colts
In a series with plenty of twists and turns, the upstart Steelheads were primed for an upset of the Barrie Colts. After a scoreless first in Barrie, draft eligible Michael McLeod put the Steelheads up 1-0 after he backhanded home a rolling puck past MacKenzie Blackwood. Jack Flinn (24 saves through two periods) and the Steelheads would take that lead to the third before the Barrie offence took over….well, Justin Scott took over. Scott scored his eighth four minutes in to the final frame, and five minutes later the Colts got a lead they would never relinquish. Andrew Mangiapane snapped one home from the slot on the power play, and Scott would add two more for the hat-trick to snuff out the Steelheads’ chances. Kevin Labanc would add an empty-netter to wrap up the game with a 5-1 win and the series 4-3. Labanc and Mangiapane would add multi-point efforts for the Colts, as Blackwood made 22 saves for the win.
Barrie wins series 4-3
Kingston Frontenacs vs Oshawa Generals
Bryan said: Kingston wins 4-1
What actually happened: Kingston won 4-1
AtO Series MVP: Spencer Watson: To be honest, I was really leaning towards Warren Foegele and his two game-winning goals for this, but when your team also features the playoffs’ leading scorer (15 points in five games) it’s kind of hard to hand it to someone else.
Barrie Colts vs Mississauga Steelheads
Bryan said: Barrie wins 4-2
What actually happened: Barrie won 4-3
AtO Series MVP: Justin Scott: Who needs assists? Justin Scott apparently doesn’t. The OA finished with 10 goals in the series, and almost all of them came in big spots. He scored four goals in a 6-5 OT win for Barrie in Game 4 (including the game-tying and game-winning goals), and a hat-trick in the series clincher. The Mississauga offence gave Barrie fits at times, but overall the Colts were a little too up-and-down in this series, and hit a snag with MacKenzie Blackwood’s mid-series injury.
North Bay Battalion vs Peterborough Petes
Bryan said: Petes win 4-2
What actually happened: North Bay won 4-3
AtO Series MVP: Jake Smith: Michael Amadio is second in playoff scoring and Kyle Wood leads all defencemen in points, but when Smith was on in this series, he was on. In the three losses he gave up 17 goals, but in his four wins he allowed just one goal each, including a shutout in Game 4.
Niagara IceDogs vs Ottawa 67’s
Bryan said: IceDogs win 4-2
What actually happened: IceDogs won 4-1
AtO Series MVP: Pavel Jenys: Jenys and Josh Ho-Sang were literally connected at the hip this series, as all seven of Jenys’ points (five goals and two assists) involved Ho-Sang (11 points in five games). Jenys stepped up in his first taste of playoff hockey, leading the team in goals and power play goals.
Erie Otters vs Saginaw Spirit
Bryan said: Otters win 4-1
What actually happened: Otters won 4-0
AtO Series MVP: Alex DeBrincat/Dylan Strome: Both DeBrincat and Strome finished with nine points in the series, as Strome tied for the team-lead in goals and DeBrincat tied for the team-lead in assists. DeBrincat also lead the team with six power play points.
Sarnia Sting vs Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Bryan said: Sting win 4-2
What actually happened: Greyhounds won 4-3
AtO Series MVP: Brandon Halverson: Halverson faced a lot of rubber this series, seeing the most shots (261) and stopping the most (236) in the OHL. The 3.36 GAA isn’t an eye-popping number, nor is the 0.904 SV%, but when you consider the offence on the other side even without Travis Konecny, he was the rock that made the upset possible.
London Knights vs Owen Sound Attack
Bryan Said: Knights win 4-1
What actually happened: Knights won 4-2
AtO Series MVP: Matthew Tkachuk: I won’t lie…I’m pretty mad. The whole time I had ‘Knights in six’ written, and a late edit changed it to Knights in five. Tkachuk tied Mitch Marner for the team lead in points, but a bulk of his production came from a four and five point game. Cliff Pu got serious consideration here (five goals, one assist and was in on two GWG) but I don’t think his numbers were quite strong enough.
Kitchener Rangers vs Windsor Spitfires
Bryan Said: Rangers win 4-3
What actually happened: Rangers won 4-1
AtO Series MVP: Brandon Robinson: The veteran forward stepped up in a big way for the Rangers, who lucked out by barely having to deal with Brendan Lemieux en route to a 3-0 series lead. Two game-winning goals for Robinson is a big reason he wins here, but he was huge in other key situations too.
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.
A typically busy Friday night in the OHL as five series got underway in the playoffs.
8. Oshawa Generals @ 1. Kingston Frontenacs
The top team in the Eastern Conference didn’t have a problem with the defending champions on Friday night. The Frontenacs hit double-digits in shots every period on Friday night, out-shooting the Generals 16-8 in the first, 14-4 in the second, and 11-6 in the third for a three period total of 41-18, en route to a 6-0 win. Jeremy Helvig got the start for the Frontenacs and didn’t have much to do for his first career playoff shutout (third this season), as five different players scored for Kingston. After a scoreless first period, Warren Foegele’s first OHL playoff goal got things started for the Fronts who wouldn’t look back. Foegele would add an assist for a two-point night, while Roland McKeown (2G/1A), Spencer Watson (1G/1A), Lawson Crouse (1G/2A), and Jared Steege would all chip in with goals. In his first playoff matchup against his former team, Michael Dal Colle was held off the scoresheet with a +1 rating.
Frontenacs lead series 1-0
6. Peterborough Petes @ 3. North Bay Battalion
In North Bay, the Battalion did things the Stan Butler way. After surrendering a power play goal to Logan DeNoble 11:39 in to the opening period, Michael Amadio came back with a shorthanded goal three minutes later. The teams skated through a scoreless duel for the next period-and-a-half before Brett Hargrave scored the game-winning goal at 7:09 of the third. For the North Bay native, it was his first career post-season goal in his sixth game for the 2-1 win. The North Bay made it an easy night for Jake Smith, who made just 20 saves, while Peterborough’s Matthew Mancina turned aside 30 of 32.
Battalion lead series 1-0
8. Saginaw Spirit @ 1. Erie Otters
Erie’s offence showed up in Game 1 against Saginaw, but it was keyed by their secondary scorers. Kyle Maksimovich started things off for the Otters six minutes in, when the 27-goal man notched his fourth-career playoff goal. Nick Betz (19 regular season goals) and Kyle Pettit (10 regular season goals) followed that up, giving Erie a 3-0 lead through one. Travis Dermott added a power play goal and Pettit’s second chased Evan Cormier from the Saginaw net after just 29:19. Cameron Zanussi came in and stopped all 10 shots he faced, but Erie was well on their way, holding on for a 5-1 win. Jesse Barwell’s first-ever playoff goal was Saginaw’s lone of the evening (shorthanded), as Devin Williams made just 15 saves. Betz and Dermott both added a pair of assists for three-point nights, while Jake Marchment added a pair of helpers. Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat combined for 1 assist and a -2 rating.
Otters lead series 1-0
7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds @ 2. Sarnia Sting
The Sting came into this series as heavy favourites, but the Greyhounds were able to prove that the standings don’t matter much when it’s time to play. Things started out pretty predictably for Sarnia: Travis Konecny and Kevin Spinozzi had power play goals twenty-eight seconds apart before the game was five minutes old. Then the ‘Hounds flipped a switch. Hayden Verbeek scored to send things to the second at 2-1 Sting, before Gabe Guertler (on the power play) and Bobby MacIntyre gave the Soo the lead. Playoff veteran Matt Mistele tied things up on the power play, Guertler’s second a minute later gave the ‘Hounds a lead they’d never relinquish. Blake Speers and Boris Katchouk would chip in for a 6-3 win as Sault Ste. Marie takes game one. Brandon Halverson stopped 33 shots for the win, as six Greyhounds chipped in with multiple points.
Greyhounds lead series 1-0
6. Owen Sound Attack @ 3. London Knights
Many thought that in order for Owen Sound to steal a game (or two), London would have to get themselves into penalty trouble. Last night the Knights gave the Attack six chances with the man advantage, but Owen Sound could only manage one goal. After a scoreless first, Max Jones and Cliff Pu scored three minutes apart in the second, before Aaron Berisha made it a three-goal lead in the third. Petrus Palmu finally got the Attack on the board during their fifth power play of the night, but they’d never get closer. Mitch Marner chipped in an empty-netter for a 4-1 Knights win. Pu’s goal was the first of his playoff career, while Jones added an assist for a two-point night, and Tyler Parsons made 27 saves for the win.
Knights lead series 1-0
The league handed down a two-game suspension to Windsor’s Brendan Lemieux for his slew-foot on Frank Hora in game one between the Spitfires and Rangers. There was some optimism that Lemieux wouldn’t miss Games 2 and 3, but the Jets prospect will have to sit.
“Our character has been tested all year,” Spitfires head coach Rocky Thompson said Friday. “We’ve been dealing with situations from the start of the year. This is just par for the course.” – Windsor Star
“Before the game, I was pretty nervous and excited but after a couple of shifts it just felt like a normal game,” – The Kingston Whig-Standard
First Star: Gabe Guertler, SSM: 2 Goals, 1 PPG, 1 GWG, +1
Second Star: Roland McKoewn, KGN: 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 1 Power play point, +1
Third Star: Kyle Pettit, ERIE: 2 Goals, +3
By: Bryan Thiel
On Thursday night the OHL playoffs will kick off and the countdown to the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup can truly begin. The West has a pair of powerhouses that battled it out to the very end for conference supremacy, while Kingston ran away with the East as Kevin Labanc had a season to remember for the Barrie Colts.
Now it’s all on the line, as teams battle it out to hoist the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
1. Kingston Frontenacs vs 8. Oshawa Generals
These two got together around the trade deadline for one of the bigger deals, sending Michael Dal Colle to the Frontenacs. Now Dal Colle, who has 55 points in 30 games with the Fronts, has a chance at back-to-back OHL and Memorial Cup Championships. The first step on that journey could come at the expense of his former team, who fought to hold on to the final playoff spot in the East. Kingston played well down the stretch (7-2-1-0) and surrendered the fewest goals-against in the conference. Oshawa’s goaltending will need to be great if they want to stick around in this series because Kingston will try to grind them down.
Kingston wins series 4-1
2. Barrie Colts vs 7. Mississauga Steelheads
While the draft-eligible triplets in Mississauga form a formidable trio, the question will be whether Alex Nylander, Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian can go toe-to-toe with Kevin Labanc and Andrew Mangiapane. Bastian was a goal away from giving all three Steelheads a 20/40 year, and the three of them have done fairly well against the Colts (Nylander: 5GP / 3G / 3A ; McLeod: 5GP / 3G / 3A; Bastian 6GP / 2G / 5A), but it will come down to depth. After the 100 point seasons of Labanc and Mangiapane, the Colts had four players with 60 or more points, including defensive scoring leader Rasmus Andersson. Add in the fact that there’s Mackenzie Blackwood between the pipes, and there’s no question that regular season success needs to continue for the triplets if the Steelheads want to stick around.
Barrie wins series 4-2
3. North Bay Battalion vs 6. Peterborough Petes
There are things to really like with both of these teams. Michael Amadio’s 50-goal/98-point season was the best since names like Cody Hodgson and Wojtek Wolski graced the ice in Brampton. You also can’t say enough about the year that Cam Dineen had (13G / 46A, second in scoring by defensemen) for North Bay. Jake Smith has always been a good fit with the Battalion as well, and always seems to play his best come playoff time (0.916 SV% in the post-season vs. 0.899 SV% in the regular season). On the other side, Hunter Garlent had a 40/40 campaign and Eric Cornel had his best year in the OHL setting career-highs across the board. Stan Butler’s style always plays well come playoff time, but the Petes could be ready to play spoiler.
Peterborough wins series 4-2
4. Niagara IceDogs vs 5. Ottawa 67’s
The IceDogs have a wealth of talent that’s good enough to get them to at least the conference finals, but they’ll have to get past red-hot Ottawa first. The 67’s wrapped up their season with six straight wins, which included victories over Barrie and Kingston, and Dante Salituro has been electric since January 10th. All this after the team traded away Travis Konecny and Sam Studnicka to Sarnia. For Niagara, their big moves came sprinkled across the last few years. Josh Ho-Sang led the team in scoring during the regular season, but a huge post-season could mean a lot for the mercurial forward. Mix in the acquisition of Josh Wesley and Alex Nedeljkovic from Flint and the IceDogs have added a key piece at every level to augment the talent they already had (and that’s ignoring the acquisition of Stephen Harper). The talent puts them in a position to push for a championship, but the big guns can’t afford to let up for a second if they want to do it.
Niagara wins series 4-2
1. Erie Otters vs 8. Saginaw Spirit
It took right up until the final buzzer of the regular season, but the Erie Otters held off the London Knights to claim the number one seed in the Western Conference. The Otters had a bit of an uneven run to end the regular season, dropping games to Niagara and Flint while ending up with some closer-than-expected results against Guelph and Saginaw, so the hope is they shake off the cobwebs quickly. Overall this is still one of the best teams in the CHL, and a team with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome upfront, Travis Dermott on the blueline, and Devin Williams in net so they should be able flip the switch now that it’s playoff time…but I wouldn’t be surprised if Saginaw finds a way to steal a game off of them along the way.
Erie wins series 4-1
2. Sarnia Sting vs 7. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
The Sarnia Sting loaded up at the trade deadline, and in a year where it looked like the West will be won by Erie or London, it raised some eyebrows. Sarnia has played its best hockey down the stretch, winning six in a row before dropping the season-finale to Windsor (their last loss before that was against the Greyhounds). The Sting are playing with a lot of confidence and know that bigger challenges lie ahead, but the Greyhounds can’t be overlooked. The first three matchups were lopsided Sting wins, but the last matchup was a 5-2 Soo win, and the other two were one-goal victories for the Sting. This will be an interesting series but ultimately, the Sting should be off to the second round for the first time since 2007/08.
Sarnia wins series 4-2
3. London Knights vs 6. Owen Sound Attack
London is 1B in the Western Conference and get a Midwest Division slugfest for their troubles. There may be a 30-point difference between these two in the standings (and 100+ goals), but the Attack will put up a fight. There has been a lot written about Christian Dvorak, Mitch Marner and Matthew Tkachuk this year, and for good reason: 121 goals, 223 assists and 344 points makes them a scary trio. London has depth too, as their next three leading scorers all finished with more points than Owen Sound’s leading scorer (Bryson Cianfrone finished with 50 points). The Attack will have their work cut out for them but they’ll give London all they can handle. Plus, this division always gives us great playoff series anyways.
London wins series 4-1
4. Kitchener Rangers vs 5. Windsor Spitfires
While the other three series may lack drama, this one makes up for it. While the Rangers can trot out Ryan MacInnis, Jeremy Bracco, and over-looked draft prospect Adam Mascherin, the Spitfires have Christian Fischer, Brendan Lemieux, and highly-touted draft eligible Logan Brown. As Luke Opilka gets set to embark on his first OHL playoffs, rookie Michael DiPietro has taken the OHL by storm in his first year and has his eyes set on being the next Alex Nedeljkovic – not only is he the rare rookie goalie that can start in the OHL, but he’s the rare rookie goalie who isn’t scared of the Aud or the Rangers (He won two of the three games he played against them, both in overtime). While they weren’t quite neck-and-neck in the standings (eight points separated them), they’re neck-and-neck on special teams and pretty much every other category. This one will be tight and will go the distance. It’ll be a must-watch.
Kitchener wins series 4-3