The second round of the OHL playoffs kicks off on Wednesday with the Eastern Conference matchup between the Belleville Bulls and Barrie Colts. The Oshawa Generals and Niagara IceDogs start the other Eastern Conference matchup and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Guelph Storm kick off their Western Conference semi-final on Thursday. The Kitchener Rangers and Sarnia Sting start their series on Friday in Kitchener.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (2) vs. Guelph Storm (5)
The season series was tied 2-2.
The Greyhounds squeezed out a pair of one-goal wins at home to open their first round series against the Saginaw Spirit and then finished the sweep with a pair of wins on the road. Mid-season pick-ups Matt Caria (three goals, eight points) and Wayne Simmonds (two goals, six points) paid big dividends in the opening round.
World Junior defenceman Josh Godfrey scored three goals, including a pair of game-winners while veteran defenceman Andrew Campbell was an outstanding plus-8 against Saginaw. Overage netminder Kyle Gajewski was solid in the opening round and has the composure to backstop an extended playoff run.
The Storm had a balanced attack in their five-game opening series win against the London Knights. Six players scored at least two goals with standout sophomore Brandon Buck leading the way with three. Captain Rafael Rotter had a team-high eight points while all-star defenceman Drew Doughty had five points and was plus-4 in a solid two-way performance.
Guelph had a suffocating penalty killing unit against the Knights, allowing just one goal on 35 man-advantage situations. Their big three defenceman – Doughty, Michael Caruso and Corey Syvret – were solid against London while sophomore goalie Thomas McCollum closed out the series with a 31 save shutout performance on the road.
Game 1 – Thu Apr 3 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:00
Game 2 – Fri Apr 4 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:30
Game 3 – Mon Apr 7 at Guelph, 7:00
Game 4 – Tue Apr 8 at Guelph, 7:00
Game 5 – Thu Apr 10 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:00 *
Game 6 – Sat Apr 12 at Guelph, 7:00 *
Game 7 – Mon Apr 14 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:00 *
Belleville Bulls (1) vs. Barrie Colts (7)
Belleville won the season series 2-0-0-0.
After cruising to franchise records for wins and points, the Bulls knocked off the Peterborough Petes in five games in the first round despite missing star centre Shawn Matthias and stalwart defenceman Nick Pageau. Unfortunately for the Bulls, neither player is expected back in the lineup for their second round match-up against the up-start Colts.
World Junior defenceman P.K. Subban was the Bulls’ top scorer in the first round with three goals and eight points while veteran forwards Matt Beleskey and Andy Self each had two goals and six points and overager Adam Perry brings an outstanding work ethic to every game. Rookie centre Stephen Johnston helped fill the void left by Matthias by scoring three goals, including two game-winners against the Petes. Goaltender Mike Murphy was solid in the opening round win.
The Colts have become the Cinderella story of the 2008 playoffs so far, knocking off the second-seed Brampton Battalion in five games. Goalie Michael Hutchinson put in a heroic performance that gave the Colts a chance in every game. Rookie forward Daniel Michalsky scored three goals, including two overtime winners, in the opening round and is one of several young Colts that are brimming with confidence under coach Marty Williamson’s effective system.
Captain Tomas Marcinko had four points against Brampton while Alex Hutchings added three assists and they will welcome back forward Cory McGillis, who is coming off a suspension from the final game of the regular season. The Colts’ defence is a solid, if unheralded, group that includes Dalton Prout, Ryan Gottschalk, Tyson Aitcheson and Kyle van de Bospoort. They all played effectively against Brampton`s deep offensive club and will look to do the same against Belleville. Veteran Brett Halstead has been out of the lineup with an injury since the first game of the opening round.
Game 1 – Wed Apr 2 at Belleville, 7:15
Game 2 – Thu Apr 3 at Barrie, 7:30
Game 3 – Sat Apr 5 at Belleville, 7:15
Game 4 – Tue Apr 8 at Barrie, 7:30
Game 5 – Thu Apr 10 at Belleville, 7:15 *
Game 6 – Sat Apr 12 at Barrie, 7:30 *
Game 7 – Mon Apr 14 at Belleville, 7:15 *
Oshawa Generals (3) vs. Niagara IceDogs (4)
Oshawa won the season series 1-0-0-1.
After limping into the post season with just one win in their final eight regular season games, the Generals cruised past the Ottawa 67’s in four straight in the opening round of the playoffs. The dynamic duo of Brett MacLean (one goal, five assists) and John Tavares (two goals, three assists) terrorized goalies all season and did most of the damage against the 67’s.
Overage defenceman Ryan McGinnis, who was picked up after helping the Plymouth Whalers win the OHL championship last season, was outstanding in the first round, scoring a goal and five points to go along with a plus-6 plus-minus rating. Captain Eric Regan was a shutdown presence on the Generals blueline helping hold Ottawa snipers Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn to four goals. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth was solid in looking for his second straight OHL championship.
The IceDogs are also coming off of a four-game sweep of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors and with their healthiest lineup in months, they are gearing up for an extended playoff drive. Stefan Legein had an all-world performance against the Majors, scoring four goals (including three shorthanded) and nine points in four games while veteran forwards Michael Swift and Luca Caputi continued their standout seasons with six points each.
Alex Pietrangelo has emerged as one of the top prospects available for the NHL draft in June and his performance in the playoffs to date has done nothing to hurt that status. He scored four goals and eight points and posted a plus-4 rating. Goaltender Sebastian Dahm helped the Sudbury Wolves to an unlikely playoff run last year and looks like he is in the same form again this year. He allowed just one goal in the first three games of the opening round series.
Game 1 – Thu Apr 3 at Oshawa, 7:05
Game 2 – Sat Apr 5 at Niagara, 7:05
Game 3 – Sun Apr 6 at Oshawa, 6:05
Game 4 – Tue Apr 8 at Niagara, 7:30
Game 5 – Fri Apr 11 at Oshawa, 7:35 *
Game 6 – Sun Apr 13 at Niagara, 2:00 *
Game 7 – Mon Apr 14 at Oshawa, 7:05 *
Kitchener Rangers (1) vs. Sarnia Sting (6)
Kitchener won the season series 4-0-0-0.
To say that the trio of Justin Azevedo, Nick Spaling and Matt Halischuk are happy to be back together is a massive understatement. The trio was awesome at the start of the season but Spaling and Halischuk were derailed by injuries in the second half. Azevedo went on to win the regular season scoring title and racked up a goal and 13 assists in their four game sweep of the Plymouth Whalers in the opening round. Spaling finished the opening round with four goals and 11 points and Halischuk scored six goals and nine points.
One of the keys to Kitchener’s regular season championship was their depth and the Memorial Cup hosts showed that against Plymouth as well with Mikkel Boedker adding eight points while Nazem Kadri and defenceman Yannick Weber each chipped in with six for the Rangers, who scored 11 times in the powerplay in the opening round. The defensive pairing of Robert Bortuzzo and Ben Shutron were a plus-9 in the series while Steve Mason and Josh Unice put up nearly identical numbers in splitting the goaltending duties.
Top draft prospect Steven Stamkos scored nine times in Sarnia‘s emotional five-game win over the Windsor Spitfires in the opening round. Forwards Matt Martin and Jared Gomes scored three goals each and Justin DiBenedetto added a pair. The Sting will need to continue to spread the scoring around to compete against Kitchener‘s outstanding defensive style.
Captain Ryan Wilson is one of the top two-way blueliners in the league. He had six assists and was plus-5 in the opening round and can be a difference maker against Kitchener‘s top line. Overage defender Steve Whitely earned championship experience with the Whalers last year. Andrew Perugini was solid in net, including a 51-save overtime performance in the series clincher against Windsor that pushed the Sting to the second round for the first time in 10 years.
Game 1 – Fri Apr 4 at Kitchener, 7:30
Game 2 – Sat Apr 5 at Sarnia, 7:35
Game 3 – Tue Apr 8 at Kitchener, 7:30
Game 4 – Wed Apr 9 at Sarnia, 7:35
Game 5 – Fri Apr 11 at Kitchener, 7:30 *
Game 6 – Sun Apr 13 at Sarnia, 6:00 *
Game 7 – Mon Apr 14 at Kitchener, 7:30 *