By the time the OHL final begins on Thursday, the Eastern Conference champion Hamilton Bulldogs will have gone through seven days since their last game, certainly enough time to rest up and nurse any bumps or bruises.
On the other hand, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds will be operating on only three day’s rest, and it might feel like even less since they played the equivalent of three games in two days to win the Western Conference final.
Game 7 against the Kitchener Rangers went through double overtime before Jack Kopacka sealed the Soo’s spot in the final. That was a day after Kitchener tied the series up with an overtime win in game six. And to top it off, both teams had to make the long trek from Kitchener to the Soo in between.
If you wanted the classic tale of rest or rust in the OHL final, you’ve got it.
Hamilton enters the championship series after disposing of their previous three opponents each in a five-game series.
It’s been a much tougher road to the finals for the Greyhounds, who went through a seven-game Western Conference semifinal as well.
This is the first time the number one seeds in both conferences have reached the league final since 2012, when the London Knights defeated the Niagara IceDogs in five games.
Led by OHL coach of the year Drew Bannister, the Greyhounds have been the cream of the crop in the league for most of the season and have often been ranked atop the CHL Top 10 too.
One would think going through two game sevens in the playoffs so far will have given them the adversity needed to persevere through yet another tough test.
For the Bulldogs, it didn’t take the front office long to see they could be a serious contender for the OHL, and they acted accordingly with their trade deadline strategy, going all in on a number of star players.
Here’s what you need to know about each team.
Hamilton Bulldogs (43-18-4-3, 93 points in regular season)
Road to the final: Five-game series wins over the Ottawa 67’s (first round), Niagara IceDogs (second round) and Kingston Frontenacs (third round)
Key players: Robert Thomas, Brandon Saigeon, Matt Strome, Nicholas Caamano, Ryan Moore
Major trade deadline additions: Thomas, Caamano, Moore, Ryan Stillman, Nicholas Mattinen
Top rookie: Arthur Kaliev
Last OHL finals appearance: 2008 (as the Belleville Bulls) – Fell 4-3 to the Rangers, but advanced to the Memorial Cup that season since the Rangers hosted the tournament.
Fun fact: Seven players scored at least 20 goals this season. Included in that group was Kaliev, the first 16-year-old rookie to score 30 goals in a season since 2011.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (55-7-3-3, 116 points in regular season)
Road to the final: Sweep against the Saginaw Spirit, followed by seven-game series wins over the Owen Sound Attack and Kitchener Rangers
Key players: Morgan Frost, Taylor Raddysh, Boris Katchouk, Conor Timmins, Matthew Villalta
Major trade deadline additions: Raddysh, Jordan Sambrook
Top rookie: Rasmus Sandin
Last OHL finals appearance: 1993 – Lost 4-1 to the Peterborough Petes, but hosted the Memorial Cup and defeated the Petes to win the tournament that year. Current coach Drew Bannister played for the Greyhounds that year.
Fun fact: The Greyhounds won 23 consecutive games from Oct. 28 to Dec. 30. That’s two games shy of the league record, set by the 1983-84 Rangers.
Thursday, May 3 in Sault Ste. Marie – 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 5 in Sault Ste. Marie – 7 p.m.
Monday, May 7 in Hamilton – 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 9 in Hamilton – 7 p.m.
Friday, May 11 in Sault Ste. Marie – 7 p.m.
Sunday, May 13 in Hamilton – 2 p.m.
Monday, May 14 in Sault Ste. Marie – 7 p.m.
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