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OHL Playoff Race Goes Down to the Wire

By Iain Colpitts on March 22, 2017

OHL leading scorer Alex DeBrincat and the Erie Otters finished atop the powerful Western Conference and are preparing for a long playoff run. (Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

It took until the final game of the OHL season to solidify the playoff picture.

While the regular season was supposed to conclude on March 19, there was a rescheduled game that still had to be played between the Mississauga Steelheads and Sudbury Wolves two days later.

The Wolves pulled off an important 4-2 victory to surpass the Ottawa 67’s for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

It helped set the stage for what should be a very exciting playoffs. Here’s a look at all of the matchups.

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Erie Otters vs. (8) Sarnia Sting (Erie won season series 3-1)

OHL leading scorer Alex DeBrincat had a storybook season, becoming the first player in four decades to record three straight 50-goal seasons and the Otters became the first team in the OHL to win 50 games four seasons in a row. 

Standing in their way of their first OHL championship since 2002 are the Sarnia Sting, a club that watched three players eligible to return (Travis Konecny, Pavel Zacha and Jakob Chychrun) move onto the NHL instead.

Jordan Kyrou did his best to make up for that deficit with a 94-point season, as well as a league-best 30-game point streak.

Prediction: Erie in four

 

(2) Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. (7) Flint Firebirds (Sault Ste. Marie won season series 5-1)

An all-around solid attack has led the Greyhounds to second place in the Western Conference and their second 100-point season in the last three years.

Bobby MacIntyre and Zach Senyshyn have guided one of the league’s best offences while rookie Matthew Villalta has stabilized the Greyhounds between the pipes.

On the other side of the ice will be the Firebirds, who were expected to be the laughing stock of the OHL following last year’s shortfalls on the ice and controversy off the ice.

The trio of Ryan Moore, Kole Sherwood and Nicholas Caamano leads a potent attack.

Prediction: Sault Ste. Marie in five

 

(3) Owen Sound Attack vs. (6) Kitchener Rangers (Owen Sound won season series 7-1)

Goaltender Michael McNiven has been a linchpin for the Attack and should be considered for the Red Tilson Trophy.

He was a vital piece during the Attack’s league-best 15-game winning streak while Petrus Palmu and Nick Suzuki each came within five points of the 100-point plateau to finish among the league’s top five scorers.

Not to be outdone, Kitchener boasts a 100-point man in Adam Mascherin while eight rookies have helped keep the Rangers in the middle of the pack in the West. 

Goaltending has been an issue as Luke Opilka had a solid first-season in the OHL last year, but has struggled since coming back from hip surgery.

Prediction: Owen Sound in five

 

(4) London Knights vs. (5) Windsor Spitfires (Season series tied 3-3)

In September, many expected them to meet in the OHL final, but instead they’re going head to head in the first round.

Both teams are built similarly, starting with strong goaltending from Windsor’s Michael DiPietro and London’s Tyler Parsons.

Jeremy Bracco, Windsor’s biggest trade acquisition, recorded points in 26 straight games with Kitchener prior to winning World Junior gold with the United States.

For London, Cliff Pu has led the offence with 86 points and was among the league’s top five scorers for a good chunk of the season.

Prediction: London in six

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Peterborough Petes vs. (8) Niagara IceDogs (Peterborough won season series 3-1)

The standings show a 33-point differential in Peterborough’s favour, but there’s one glaring similarity between these teams.

Niagara’s Stephen Dhillon and Peterborough’s Dylan Wells have faced more shots than anyone in the league, although Dhillon has faced almost 500 more than his Petes counterpart. They both have save percentages around the .915 mark as well.

Nikita Korostelev, acquired midway through the season by Sarnia, finished the season as Peterborough’s leading scorer and defenceman Matthew Timms was one point behind.

For Niagara, veterans Johnny Corneil and Ryan Mantha were the top scorers while the youth movement, led by rookie Akil Thomas, is heading in the right direction.

Prediction: Peterborough in six

 

(2) Mississauga Steelheads vs. (7) Ottawa 67’s (Season series tied 2-2)

It should be a fast-paced series as both teams wield a number of weapons up front.

Owen Tippett, Michael McLeod and Spencer Watson have been lethal for Mississauga while Ottawa can counter with 85-point scorer Artur Tyanulin as well as young teammates Austen Keating and Sasha Chmelevski.

The Steelheads have the edge in defence with six strong rearguards, led by Vili Saarijarvi and Nic Hague. As well, Matt Mancina and Jake Ingham have been a strong tandem in goal.

However, the 67’s have pulled off two overtime wins against Mississauga, one in which they overcame a 3-1 deficit in the final five minutes.

Prediction: Mississauga in six

 

(3) Oshawa Generals vs. (6) Sudbury Wolves (Season series tied 2-2)

The Generals sat atop the Eastern Conference in January before they traded stars Anthony Cirelli and Mitchell Vande Sompel in an attempt to add pieces that will make them stronger next year.

Backed by Jeremy Brodeur in goal and led by Domenic Commisso and Medric Mercier among others, they didn’t miss much of a beat and finished just four points back of Peterborough in the East.

Sudbury is known for playing a gritty, hard-hitting kind of game, but can pack some punch offensively, most notably from 48-goal scorer Dmitry Sokolov.

Prediction: Oshawa in seven

 

(4) Kingston Frontenacs vs. (5) Hamilton Bulldogs (Season series tied 3-3)

This has the potential to be the closest series in the opening round as these teams were separated by just one point in the middle of the conference.

Even though Kingston finished last in the league in terms of offence, Jason Robertson, Linus Nyman, Jacob Paquette and Eemeli Rasanen have emerged as strong prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft. In goal, Kingston’s Jeremy Helvig and Hamilton’s Dawson Carty have both been more than stable options to turn to.

Hamilton has a lot of offence to speak of with 2017 NHL Draft prospect Matt Strome leading the way among six Bulldogs who have scored 20 goals or more.

Prediction: Kingston in seven

 

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By Iain Colpitts| March 22, 2017
Categories:  Major Junior
Keywords:  OHL

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