#OHLChampionship canine clash down to best-of-three
Those looking for a closely-matched, fast-paced and entertaining Rogers OHL Championship Series got just what they asked for as the Western Conference champion Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Eastern Conference champion Hamilton Bulldogs enter Game 5 of their best-of-seven series tonight in Sault Ste. Marie tied at two wins apiece.
It’s the first time since 2011 that an OHL Final has entered Game 5 tied at two, marking the eighth series destined for at least six games in the past 20 years.
Hamilton drew first blood, opening the series with a 4-3 overtime road win in Game 1 on a difference-maker from MacKenzie Entwistle. The Greyhounds responded two nights later in Game 2, scoring twice on the power play and once shorthanded while goaltender Matthew Villalta made 36 saves in a 4-2 triumph. The Bulldogs prevailed in a high-scoring Game 3 back on home ice, taking a 6-5 decision behind a pair of goals from Brandon Saigeon while Ryan Moore and Riley Stillman each had three assists. Game 4 presented another overtime scenario as overage defenceman Noah Carroll emerged as the unexpected hero, making good on a breakaway opportunity as the Hounds won 3-2 despite being outshot 47-31 in front of 8,603 at FirstOntario Centre.
The dog fight continues tonight at the Essar Centre as the Greyhounds, who have scored first in three of the four games thus far, look to regain an edge at home where they are 10-2 in these playoffs.
While a win for either team tonight would be monumental, recent history shows it doesn’t always make-or-break a series. The 2000 (Plymouth vs. Barrie), 2001 (Plymouth vs. Ottawa), 2007 (Plymouth vs. Sudbury) and 2011 (Owen Sound vs. Mississauga) Rogers OHL Championship Series featured 2-2 scenarios entering Game 5. In those four instances, the Game 5 winner went on to win the series just twice.
Thus far, the 2018 finale has most resembled the 2000 OHL Final where the Plymouth Whalers took Game 1 on the road in overtime followed by a Barrie win in Game 2. Plymouth won Game 3 at home before Barrie responded by tying the series up at two. The Whalers would take Game 5 before a Colts squad led by Sheldon Keefe and Michael Henrich stormed back to hoist the Robertson Cup with wins in Games 6 and 7. The Colts went on to lose in the Mastercard Memorial Cup Final to a Brad Richards-led Rimouski Oceanic club.
Back to the future though, the Hounds and Bulldogs are writing their own championship tale, one that continues tonight when the puck drops at 7:07pm in Sault Ste. Marie.
Fans can tune in live in Sault Ste. Marie on Shaw TV, on Cable 14 in Hamilton, across the province on the OHL Action Pak or anywhere in the world live online at OHLLIVE.com.