OHL Western Conference Semi-Final Preview
The Western Conference playoff field has been narrowed down to four teams as the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Owen Sound Attack, Kitchener Rangers and Sarnia Sting are left standing. Here’s a look at what looks to be two very competitive second round playoff series.
SAULT STE. MARIE GREYHOUNDS (1) vs. OWEN SOUND ATTACK (4) – #SSMvsOS
Two teams coming off first round sweeps clash in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Semi-Final as the CHL’s top-ranked Soo Greyhounds look for a different outcome after being eliminated by the Owen Sound Attack in six games last spring.
With superior numbers on paper, the Greyhounds open the series on home ice where they’ve lost just three games all season. Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Boris Katchouk powered the Hounds past the Saginaw Spirit with six goals, three assists and nine points over four games while Jack Kopacka (4-2–6) and Taylor Raddysh (4-2–6) also frequented the scoresheet.
Hounds netminder Matthew Villalta faced just 86 shots over the four-game first round series but should be prepared for more action in round two as Owen Sound outshot opponents in 61 of 68 games this season.
Star centreman Nick Suzuki (1-5–6) enters play with points in 11 of his last 12 games for the Attack while overage centreman Brett McKenzie has been Owen Sound’s MVP of the post-season thus far, leading the club with seven points (4-3–7) including an overtime winner and four points in Game 3 against London.
Strong down the middle, Owen Sound also boasts the faceoff prowess of Kevin Hancock (3-3–6) who was voted the Western Conference’s second-best faceoff man and best defensive forward in the recent 2017-18 OHL Coaches Poll.
While the Attack boasts the skill and experience to give the Greyhounds a challenge, goaltender Olivier Lafreniere will be tasked with keeping his club in the series against the OHL’s top offence. The Sault Ste. Marie power play embarks on the series red hot after going 10-for-19 (52.6%) against Saginaw and registering the league’s third-ranked man advantage (24.8%) during the regular season.
The Bayshore Boys are facing a considerable challenge in this series, but if they can get off on the right foot in Games 1 and 2, things could get interesting down the stretch.
The Greyhounds have exemplified consistency, losing no more than twice consecutively throughout the season. The playoffs are a different animal though and anything can happen in a seven game series.
This marks the sixth time that Sault Ste. Marie and Owen Sound have met in the OHL Playoffs.
– 2017 – OS def. SSM 4-2 – 2nd round / 2014 – SSM def. OS 4-1 – 1st round / 2013 – OS def. SSM 4-2 – 1st round / 1999 OS def. SSM 4-1 – 1st round / 1993 – SSM def. OS 4-0 – 2nd round
Game 1,Thurs., April 5 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 p.m.
Game 2, Fri., April 6 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 p.m.
Game 3, Mon., April 9 at Owen Sound, 7:00 p.m.
Game 4, Wed., April 11 at Owen Sound, 7:00 p.m.
Game 5, Fri., April 13 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 p.m.*
Game 6, Sun., April 15 at Owen Sound, 7:00 p.m.*
Game 7, Tues., April 17 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 p.m.*
Total Votes: 389
KITCHENER RANGERS (2) vs. SARNIA STING (3) – #KITvsSAR
Two closely-matched Western Conference contenders prepare to do battle starting in Kitchener on Friday as the Rangers host the Sarnia Sting in Western Conference Semi-Final action.
Each requiring six games to eliminate their first round opponents, the Rangers and Sting line up in a series that features some of the premier talents in the Ontario Hockey League this season as big names in Adam Mascherin, Logan Brown and Kole Sherwood are pitted against the likes of Jordan Kyrou, Cam Dineen and Adam Ruzicka in a best-of-seven showdown.
Kitchener got past the rival Guelph Storm, putting an exclamation mark on the series with 10-2 and 5-2 wins in Games 5 and 6 after dropping a pair of road games. Brown leads OHL playoff scoring with 13 points (2-11–13), serving as an offensive catalyst between trigger-men Mascherin (4-7–11) and Sherwood (7-3–10). Diminutive forward Joseph Garreffa (5-2–7) continues to play his signature high-speed game while big bodies in Givani Smith (4-3–7), Connor Bunnaman (2-3–5) and 6-foot-7 defender Logan Stanley (1-4–5) bring a physical presence.
The Sting comes off a six-game series triumph over the defending Mastercard Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires. Sarnia sent an average of 42 shots-per-game on Spits standout Michael DiPietro, finally finding a way past the elite netminder as Swedish forward Hugo Leufvenius (5-3–8) led the way in the goal-scoring department while well-rounded two-way winger Sean Josling (3-6–9) was also involved throughout the series.
The Rangers will pose a test for the Sting, a team that showed an ability to get hot throughout the season as evidenced by a franchise record 14-game run throughout the month of October.
With several players including fifth-year goaltender Justin Fazio looking at what could very-well be their last shot at an OHL title, Sarnia will leave it all out on the ice in this series as the Sting looks to get past the second round for the first time in franchise history.
Past Mastercard Memorial Cup champions Brown, Stanley, Sherwood and goaltender Mario Culina know what it takes to win. Jay McKee’s Rangers look to their experience as they aim to take the next step in this second round series.
Kitchener won season series 3-0-0-1
Sept. 23, 2017 – KIT 3 @ SAR 1 (KIT: Damiani 1G, 1A)
Feb. 27, 2018 – SAR 3 @ KIT 6 (KIT: Brown 2G, 2A)
Mar. 6, 2018 – SAR 2 @ KIT 5 (KIT: Hugg 1G, 1A)
Mar. 14, 2018 – KIT 3 @ SAR 4 SO (SAR: Kyrou 1G, 1A)
This marks the fourth time that Kitchener and Sarnia have met in the OHL Playoffs.
– 2008 – KIT def. SAR 4-0 – 2nd round / 2007 – KIT def. SAR 4-0 – 1st round / 1997 KIT def. SAR 4-3 – 2nd round
Game 1, Fri., April 6 at Kitchener, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2, Sun., April 8 at Kitchener, 7:00 p.m.
Game 3, Tues., April 10 at Sarnia, 7:05 p.m.
Game 4, Thurs., April 12 at Sarnia, 7:05 p.m.
Game 5, Fri., April 13 at Kitchener, 7:30 p.m.*
Game 6, Sun., April 15 at Sarnia, 5:00 p.m.*
Game 7, Tues., April 17 at Kitchener, 7:00 p.m.*
Total Votes: 334