The 2018 Rogers OHL Championship Series is set as the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Hamilton Bulldogs will battle for the J. Ross Robertson Cup and a berth in the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup in Regina, SK.
Here’s a look at the upcoming series.
(1) SAULT STE. MARIE GREYHOUNDS vs. (1) HAMILTON BULLDOGS – #SSMvsHAM
Two first place teams put it all on the line in the Rogers OHL Championship Series as the Western Conference’s top dog the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds take on the Eastern Conference-leading Hamilton Bulldogs.
The Greyhounds went wire-to-wire atop the OHL standings, finishing the season as the top-ranked team in the CHL after a franchise-best 55-7-3-3 finish. They proceeded to sweep the Saginaw Spirit before requiring consecutive Game 7 victories to dispatch the Owen Sound Attack and Kitchener Rangers, claiming their first West title since 1993.
The 43-18-4-3 Bulldogs have proven to be a worthy challenger, taking three-straight five game series triumphs over Ottawa, Niagara and Kingston to earn the Bobby Orr Trophy in just their third season.
The battle for the J. Ross Robertson Cup is going to be a dog fight.
“For us I think the first two games are really important here on home ice,” said Greyhounds head coach Drew Bannister. “We’ve been really good at home so far in the playoffs and throughout the regular season and we worked hard to gain home ice advantage, so we need to make sure we take advantage of that.”
The Bulldogs defeated the Greyhounds 5-2 at FirstOntario Centre on February 11th, but their most recent trip to the Essar Centre just five days later ended in a 10-0 blowout as the Greyhounds struck back in a big way.
Hamilton head coach John Gruden says his team left that game behind them the moment they left Sault Ste. Marie.
“When you’ve been punched in the mouth and knocked down, you’ve got two choices and you can lay down or you can get up and keep playing and that’s been our M.O. all season long,” he said. “This group has had a few times where we’ve been hit with adversity but they always find a way to rebound.”
Both teams enter the series with players at less than 100 percent. The Greyhounds are without the services of veteran forward Hayden Verbeek who has been limited to 11 games in the postseason while blueliner Anthony DeMeo continues to work his way back from injury.
“At this time of the year everybody is kind of banged up,” said Bannister. “You don’t get to this part of the season without ultimate sacrifice from your players and blocking shots and taking hits and playing every second night. It’s part of playing hockey in May and we’ve embraced that.”
Bannister was a member of the last Hounds dynasty that won back-to-back OHL Championships in 1991 and 1992 before hoisting the Memorial Cup on home ice in 1993.
“For our organization and our fan base it’s been 25 years since we’ve had the opportunity to be here and there’s a lot of excitement and energy in the city right now. You could see that in the rink after we were able to win that hard-fought series against Kitchener in double overtime. A lot of happy people in the stands and certainly a lot of happy people within our organization to be able to get to this point.”
Sault Ste. Marie and Hamilton have had past OHL playoff encounters, including 1985 when the Greyhounds eliminated the Hamilton Steelhawks in a five game semi-final series before advancing to claim the Robertson Cup. The two cities met again in 1991 when the Hounds swept the Dukes of Hamilton in first round play.
The City of Hamilton has experienced OHL Championships on two separate occasions including 1976 when the Bert Templeton-coached Hamilton Fincups went on to hoist the Memorial Cup. The 1962 Hamilton Red Wings were also Robertson Cup and Memorial Cup champions.
“It’s going to be an extremely exciting series for both teams,” added Bulldogs coach Gruden.
“At the end when you play seven games, usually the better team wins. That’s the nice things about having that kind of format in this great league.”
Be sure to catch the Rogers OHL Championship Series in Sault Ste. Marie on Shaw TV, in Hamilton on Cable 14 as well as on the Rogers OHL Action Pak and live online at OHLLIVE.com.
Season Series: Teams split season series with one win apiece
Feb. 11, 2018 – SSM 2 @ HAM 5 (HAM: Strome 1G, 3A)
Feb. 16, 2018 – HAM 0 @ SSM 10 (SSM: Verbeek 3G, 1A)
Series Schedule: Game 1, Thurs., May 3 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 pm (Shaw TV/Cable 14)
Game 2, Sat., May 5 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 pm (Shaw TV/Cable 14)
Game 3, Mon., May 7 at Hamilton, 7:00 pm (Cable 14/Shaw TV)
Game 4, Wed., May 9 at Hamilton, 7:00 pm (Sportsnet)
Game 5, Fri., May 11 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 pm* (Shaw TV/Cable 14)
Game 6, Sun., May 13 at Hamilton, 2:00 pm* (Sportsnet)
Game 7, Mon., May 14 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 pm* (Shaw TV/Cable 14)
Who will win the 2018 Rogers OHL Championship Series?