WESTERN CONFERENCE SEMI-FINAL
(4) London Knights at (1) Erie Otters – Series tied 3-3
The Otters sent the Knights packing in 2015 before coming up short in the OHL Final. The Knights returned the favour last spring before being crowned OHL and Mastercard Memorial Cup Champions.
Now, two great Western Conference powers that are both set to lose a number of key players to graduation will settle the score between them in Game 7 tonight in Erie.
The Knights already pulled off a Game 7 thriller in the first round, storming back from a 3-1 series deficit to successfully defend their title against the 2017 Mastercard Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires. This time, the Knights will have to pull out a Game 7 win on the road.
Unlike last year’s run of 17 straight victories, the Knights have had more of a battle on their hands as goaltender Tyler Parsons remains a big reason why they’ve reached a seventh game against Erie after the Otters outshot them 226-152 in the opening six.
Carolina Hurricanes prospect Janne Kuokkanen, Anaheim Ducks first rounder Max Jones and Tampa Bay Lightning pick Mitchell Stephens have provided a bulk of London’s offence in the series while 2017 NHL Draft prospect Robert Thomas, who set up the overtime winner in Game 6, has also been a presence.
The Knights have lacked secondary scoring, something that will be sorely needed with the Otters holding last change on Tuesday. Veterans Dante Salituro, JJ Piccinich, Owen MacDonald, standout centreman Cliff Pu and 37-goal scorer Sam Miletic have yet to score in the series as the London power play has gone just 1-for-15.
Despite a lack of production, those players have found other ways to contribute for London.
“Twenty guys in that room are playing well right now,” Mitchell Stephens told Ryan Pyette of the London Free Press after scoring Sunday’s Game 6 overtime winner. “Some guys are not scoring, but they’re doing different things. That’s why we’re having success in big games like this. They’re blocking shots, penalty killing, doing little things to free up time and space.”
While historical Game 7 scenarios haven’t been kind to the Otters, they return to home ice where Erie Insurance Arena has gained a reputation for being one of the OHL’s loudest buildings.
The Otters have had no problem starting fast in the series, outscoring the Knights 7-1 in first periods.
As he has at various points in the series, the Otters will need goaltender Troy Timpano to provide timely saves despite the lack of activity that has come his way. Timpano rebounded from being pulled in Game 5 with a 24-save effort in Sunday’s overtime loss.
The big trio of Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Taylor Raddysh has spent time apart throughout the series, with Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Anthony Cirelli and Carolina Hurricanes draftee Warren Foegele being thrown into the mix.
DeBrincat leads the OHL Playoffs in scoring with 20 points (5-15–20) over 10 games. Detroit Red Wings prospect Jordan Sambrook has stepped up offensively on the back end, scoring in each of the past two games.
This record-setting group of Otters, several of whom have contributed in great ways to the franchise’s four straight 50-win seasons, are missing just one thing – an OHL Championship.
The London Knights stand in their way, looking to become the first repeat OHL and Mastercard Memorial Cup Champion since the Windsor Spitfires in 2009 and 2010.
Having featured current day NHL stars like Connor McDavid, Connor Brown, Mitch Marner, Max Domi and Christian Dvorak in their many clashes over the past three years, the London Knights and Erie Otters will write the final chapter in their OHL Playoff trilogy tonight in Erie.
The Series so far:
GAME 1: LDN 2 @ ER 0 (Highlights/Game Centre)
GAME 2: LDN 1 @ ER 5 (Highlights/Game Centre)
GAME 3: ER 3 @ LDN 1 (Highlights/Game Centre)
GAME 4: ER 2 @ LDN 4 (Highlights/Game Centre)
GAME 5: LDN 3 @ ER 6 (Highlights/Game Centre)
GAME 6: ER 1 @ LDN 2 OT (Highlights/Game Centre)
London Game 7 history (8-7-1):
2017 – defeated Windsor in first round / 2013 – defeated Barrie in OHL Final / 2010 – lost to Kitchener in second round / 2004 – lost to Guelph in Western Conference Final / 2003 – defeated Windsor in first round / 2003 – lost to Plymouth in second round / 1999 – defeated Plymouth in second round / 1999 – lost to Belleville in OHL Final / 1998 – defeated Erie in first round / 1993 – defeated Kitchener in first round / 1991 – lost to Windsor in first round / 1989 – defeated Guelph in first round / 1989 – defeated North Bay in second round / 1989 – lost to Niagara Falls in semi-final / 1979 – tied Windsor 3-3 — lost to Windsor 3-2 in protest game — both teams advanced due to protest
Erie Game 7 history (0-3-0):
2011 – lost to Windsor in first round / 2000 – lost to Sault Ste. Marie in second round / 1998 – lost to London in first round
Total Votes: 665