The fourth and fifth seed matchups of the first round of the 2017 OHL Playoffs didn’t disappoint as both series head to a decisive Game 7 tonight.
Injuries, great goaltending and special teams performances have swung the momentum of each series from one side to another, bringing the encounter down to one game to decide it all.
Here’s a look at tonight’s games.
(5) Windsor Spitfires at (4) London Knights
Down 3-1 in the series, the London Knights have charged back for back-to-back wins to bring the series back to London for Game 7 tonight. Carolina Hurricanes prospect Janne Kuokkanen and 2017 NHL Draft prospect Robert Thomas have steered the Knights offensively with seven points each while Tampa Bay Lightning second round pick Mitchell Stephens has stepped up with four goals and a number of strong defensive plays throughout the series.
Goaltenders Tyler Parsons and Michael DiPietro have battled each other shot-for-shot throughout the series, both putting forth impressive performances.
The Spitfires missed out on an opportunity close the series out on home ice on Sunday as the Knights outshot them 44-28 in a 5-3 decision despite Jeremiah Addison’s hat-trick for Windsor.
Can the Knights push forward with their title defence, or will the Mastercard Memorial Cup host Spitfires take the torch from London with a hard-fought win on the road?
Windsor Game 7 history (7-3-1):
2011 – defeated Erie in first round / 2010 – defeated Kitchener in Western Conference Final / 2006 – lost to Plymouth in first round / 2005 – defeated Sault Ste. Marie in first round / 2003 – lost to London in first round / 2000 – defeated Sarnia in first round / 1992 – lost to Kitchener in first round / 1991 – defeated London in first round / 1980 – defeated Brantford in semi-final / 1979 – tied London 3-3 — defeated London 3-2 in protest game — both teams advanced due to protest /
London Game 7 history (7-7-1):
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
(5) Hamilton Bulldogs at (4) Kingston Frontenacs
The Hamilton Bulldogs took a 2-0 series lead with a pair of road wins to open the series before the Frontenacs hit the road and promptly returned the favour in Hamilton. Kingston took a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 on home ice before the Bulldogs returned home on Sunday to send the series to Game 7 with a 5-2 victory.
The OHL’s lowest scoring team, the Frontenacs have managed to open things up a little and score 19 times over six games. Rookies Nathan Dunkley and Linus Nyman have joined sophomores Jason Robertson and Brett Neumann in leading the attack.
A much older, more experienced group, Hamilton has relied on veterans Niki Petti, Matt Luff and Will Bitten who have three goals each while 2017 NHL Draft prospect Matthew Strome leads the team with eight points (1-7–8).
Petti and fellow veteran Michael Cramarossa prepare for the second Game 7 of their five-year careers after being part of a run to the Eastern Conference Final with the Belleville Bulls in 2013 before falling in Game 7 to the Barrie Colts.
Fast starts are often imperative in Game 7 scenarios. The Frontenacs are on home ice and have outscored Hamilton in first periods 9-2 in the series. Make of that what you will as these two closely matched Eastern Conference opponents settle things once and for all tonight in Kingston.
Hamilton Game 7 history (2-0):
1985 – the Hamilton Steelhawks defeated North Bay 9-7 in points in a first round eight game series / 1978 – Hamilton Fincups lost to Peterborough in the OHL Final
The Belleville Bulls defeated the Kingston Frontenacs in their lone Game 7 meeting in 1990. In that series, the Bulls and Frontenacs played the longest game in OHL history, lasting four overtimes and a total of 123:51 before Belleville’s Ken Rowbotham scored the game winner.
Kingston Game 7 history (1-3):
2014 – lost to Peterborough in first round / 2010 – lost to Brampton in first round / 1998 – defeated Oshawa in first round / 1990 – lost to Belleville in first round