Tagged: Windsor Spitfires

The case for (and against) the Windsor Spitfires as Memorial Cup Champions

By: Bryan Thiel

On Sunday night the Canadian Hockey League season wrapped up in dramatic fashion.

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Despite a lengthy layoff, the Windsor Spitfires overcame rust an three league champions to claim the MasterCard Memorial Cup. (Aaron Bell / CHL Images)

The Ontario Hockey League champion Erie Otters and the host Windsor Spitfires were the last two teams standing in the hunt for the MasterCard Memorial Cup. It was the sixth time that the two had met this year, with four of those matchups coming in the OHL’s regular season, and the fifth deciding which of the two would get a bye to the final game.

While there was little doubt after two periods who would come away with that first matchup (Windsor led 3-0 after two), the teams traded goals throughout, entering the third tied 3-3 before Aaron Luchuk scored the clincher five minutes into the final frame.

After the final buzzer, emotions poured out and story-lines started to emerge. There was the obvious elation of the home-town team, bounced after seven hard-fought, first round games in their league’s playoffs redeeming themselves. There was disappointment for the Erie Otters, who surrounded the graduating Dylan Strome, their captain, as the Spitfires celebrated their championship in a heartfelt moment. The Otters also dealt with the ugliness of an emotional, stick-throwing outburst from goaltender Troy Timpano.

And then there was…a conversation. Continue reading

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Western Conference Playoff Preview: Spitfires and Knights highlight first round

By: Bryan Thiel


Entering the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, the Western Conference looks nearly unstoppable. The top five teams all have a realistic chance at going to the OHL Finals, and one of the top four could end up at the Mastercard Memorial Cup alongside the Windsor Spitfires.

This should be fun.

1) Erie Otters vs 8) Sarnia Sting

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DeBrincat and the Otters are prepared for a deep run.

Up front: Alex DeBrincat. Dylan Strome. Taylor Raddysh. Anthony Cirelli. That’s not even fair, because that’s only half of the truly dangerous firepower they offer. They were the second-highest scoring team in the CHL and one of just three teams across the nation to score more than 300 goals. Jordan Kyrou had an outstanding season for Sarnia and Drake Rymsha is just shy of a goal-per-game pace since coming over from Ottawa, but it’ll be hard for the Sting to keep up.

On the blueline: Kitchener Rangers Head Coach Jay McKee told me that Erie doesn’t get enough credit for how good they are defensively, and he’s right. Even if you ignore the fact that Darren Raddysh led all defencemen in scoring, they haven’t allowed more than 25 shots in any of their last six games (Which includes two against London, and one against both Peterborough and Windsor). Sarnia struggled to keep the puck out of their own net, finishing with 277 goals against (second-worst in the West). Continue reading

Summer Camp: OHL’ers at NHL Development Camps

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

OHL Announces Home Openers for OHL’s Opening Week

By: Bryan Thiel


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The OHL announced the home openers for all 20 teams on Tuesday (Courtesy: OHL).

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

Rest or Rust: The Recent History of 3-0 OHL Teams at the Memorial Cup

By: Bryan Thiel


The London Knights have crushed everyone in their path en route to the 2016 Mastercard Memorial Cup final.

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The London Knights have looked unstoppable at the Memorial Cup (Rob Wallator/CHL Images

Outside of an early stumble in the first round of the OHL playoffs against the Owen Sound Attack, the Knights have been dominant from start to finish: they’ve now won 16-straight games (13 in the OHL playoffs and three at the Memorial Cup), Mitch Marner is riding a 19-game point streak (44 points in the OHL playoffs and an astonishing 13 at the Memorial Cup), and just two of their last 12 games have been decided by one goal (Games 3 and 4 vs Niagara).

 

By all accounts, this team has earned every bit of rest they’ve received between the final horn of their 5-2 win over Rouyn-Noranda and the 4:30 puck drop of Sunday’s final (against those same Huskies).

While there’s no real reason to doubt the team that has scored a combined 423 goals this season, there is always one question that pops up whenever a team goes 3-0 in the round robin portion of the Memorial Cup: is the rest really beneficial?

It’s fair to wonder how rest can help or hurt a squad, even if it’s one that has outscored opponents 20-5 and features a player four points away from setting a new tournament record. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the last five OHL teams to go 3-0 in the round robin have fared.

Continue reading

Playoff Recap: Soo Stunner, Colts Don’t Cave, Battalion Win War

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

 

Honour System

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.

 

Playoff Recap: Spits Survive, Wild One at the Bayshore, IceDogs Thrill in Ottawa

By: Bryan Thiel


 

Kitchener Rangers @ Windsor Spitfires

Brendan Lemieux had been active for all of 19 minutes this series. 18:56 into the first period of Game 1, Lemieux was hit with a questionable slew footing call, landing him a two game suspension. The Jets’ prospect watched his team fall behind 3-0 in the series, but was rightfully fired up as he returned to the lineup for Game 4.

Things didn’t start out quite the way Lemieux had hoped however, as just over a minute in Adam Mascherin had the visiting Rangers out to a 1-0 lead, and Mascherin had made it 2-0 by the first intermission. While the first belonged to Mascherin, the second belonged to Lemieux. The veteran forward scored a natural hat-trick, all off of one-timers, all in the second period, and all on the power play to give the Spits a 3-2 lead. Bradley Latour would score his second of the series 8:29 into the third to put the Rangers down by two, but Kitchener wasn’t done. David Miller and Gustaf Franzen scored just under two minutes apart to tie things at four and send them to overtime for the third time this series. This time, however, it was the Spitfires coming out on top as Latour scored his second of the game, sending the series back to Kitchener and giving Windsor their first win, 5-4. Michael DiPietro wasn’t too busy in this one, making just 17 saves, while Dawson Carty was busy for Kitchener, making 30 stops. Connor Hall and Mascherin both ended up with multiple points for the Rangers, while Latour and Lemieux had three-points nights and Logan Brown added four assists, as the Spits went an astounding 4-for-5 on the power play.

Kitchener leads series 3-1

Next Game: Friday, April 1st @Kitchener

Niagara IceDogs @ Ottawa 67’s

In every game so far this series, the winning team had scored at least four goals. That changed Wednesday night, as both Alex Nedeljkovic and Leo Lazarev stood on their heads. Nedeljkovic finished with seven saves in the first, while Lazarev had 12, as Pavel Janys back-handed home a Josh Ho-Sang feed with just 56 seconds left to make it 1-0. The teams skated through a scoreless second (Ottawa out-shot Niagara 12-5), and it wasn’t until a third period power play that we’d see our next goal. After Ho-Sang took a hooking penalty at 15:30, Nathan Todd continued his red-hot play, scoring his fourth of the series and sending things to overtime. Overtime wouldn’t last very long however, as Jordan Maletta converted with a beautiful move on a breakaway pass from Vince Dunn to send Niagara home with a 2-1 win and a 3-1 series lead. Nedeljkovic made 30 saves in the win, while Lazarev had 28 saves in a losing effort. Todd has been a force for the 67’s in these playoffs with nine points in four games, while Janys has scored in each game for the IceDogs and Ho-Sang has seven assists in the series.

Niagara leads series 3-1

Next Game: Friday, April 1st @Niagara

London Knights @ Owen Sound Attack

It doesn’t matter what the Knights do, the Attack seem to find a way to stick with them whether it’s a tight game, or a high-scoring one like last night. Things started out well for the Attack, as Petrus Palmu got them out to a 1-0 lead, and after Robert Thomas tied it up, Josh Sterk got the lead back for the Attack. That was all in the first, and in the second the Knights took over. Matt Tkachuk and Cliff Pu put the Knights up 3-2, but Bryson Cianfrone tied it up again. After that, it was all Knights: Mitch Marner scored his fourth of the series, while Tkachuk added a pair for the hat-trick, and Cliff Pu added his second (shorthanded). Kevin Hancock and Nick Suzuki would pull Owen Sound within two, but Tkachuk’s fourth of the game into an empty net put a bow on an 8-5 win. Tkachuk added an assist for a four-point night, Marner had a goal and four assists, and Christian Dvorak added three assists. Ethan Szypula chipped in with three assists for Owen Sound, while Palmu finished with three points and Cianfrone had two points.

London leads series 3-1

Next Game: Friday, April 1st @London

 

Keep Your Eye On…

Max Jones’ status. Jones laid a vicious hit on Justin Brack during the second period of last night’s game and it rightfully ended his night. Jones has had a few instances of this in his first OHL season, and now it’s up to the OHL when his next playoff game is.

Who starts for the Barrie Colts. Word is that it was a bruised tailbone that led to MacKenzie Blackwood’s exit Tuesday night in Mississauga. He skated yesterday and will be a game-time decision.

Travis Konecny may be good to go for Game 5. He made a trip to Philadelphia and got clearance to return to the Sting. He’ll miss Game 4 but could return for Game 5.

 

Three Stars:

First Star: Matthew Tkachuk, London Knights: 4 Goals, 1 Assist, 1 GWG, 2 PPG

Second Star: Brendan Lemieux, Windsor Spitfires: 3 Goals, 3 PPG, 7 shots

Third Star: Alex Nedeljkovic, Niagara IceDogs: 30/31 saves, OT win

 

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.

Playoff Recap: Nylander Returns, Marner Sinks Attack, Rangers Eye 2nd Round

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

Notable Quotable:

“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

Three Stars

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

 

Playoff Recap: Fireworks in Kitchener, IceDogs Prevail, Barrie On Hold

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.

 

Quarterfinal Quick Pix: 2016 OHL Playoff Predictions

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.

Eastern Conference

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
Western Conference

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


 

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.