OHL Eastern Conference Championship Series Preview

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The top two seeds have emerged out of the Eastern Conference to do battle for the Bobby Orr Trophy in a series that begins Friday in Hamilton.

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(1) Hamilton Bulldogs (51-12-3-2) vs. (2) North Bay Battalion (43-18-3-4) – #HAMvsNB

There’s no hotter team than the Hamilton Bulldogs, who hit the ice on Friday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Championship Series on the heels of 18 consecutive wins.

The Bulldogs come off consecutive series sweeps of the Peterborough Petes and Mississauga Steelheads to reach the third round as blueliner Arber Xhekaj was the overtime hero to push the Bulldogs past the Steelheads in Game 4. Winning this year’s Hamilton Spectator Trophy with the OHL’s best regular season record, the Bulldogs remain the team to beat as they haven’t lost on home ice since December 30th, a run of 22 consecutive wins at FirstOntario Centre.

Hamilton is backstopped by reigning OHL Goaltender of the Week Marco Costantini who leads the OHL Playoffs with a 1.87 goals-against average. The Bulldogs don’t have trouble scoring goals either, with Logan Morrison leading the squad with with 16 points (9-7-16), while Anaheim Ducks prospect Mason McTavish (9-5-14) follows closely with 14.

The Central Division champion North Bay Battalion first eliminated the Ottawa 67’s and then the Kingston Frontenacs to reach the Eastern Conference Championship Series for the first time since 2015. Closing out the five game series on Saturday, the Battalion have been a force, winning eight of their nine playoff outings.

The Troops are fuelled by the overage duo of Mitchell Russell (11-11-22) and San Jose Sharks prospect Brandon Coe (5-13-18), while Kyle Jackson (9-5–14) comes off a big series against Kingston that saw him score six times in the five-game set. Big 6-foot-5 winger Kyle McDonald had a strong showing in Round 2, finishing things off with a three-point (2-1–3) showing in Game 5.

The Battalion went back-and-forth between goaltenders against Kingston, with Montreal Canadiens prospect Joe Vrbetic starting the series before an abbreviated Game 2 start. Rookie Dom DiVincentiis took over in Games 3 and 4 before the Troops went back to Vrbetic, who improved to 6-0 to eliminate the Frontenacs.

The Troops have shown they can win at FirstOntario Centre, doing so by a score of 5-2 back on December 3rd. They’ve only lost twice in regulation in their last 27 games, and both those losses came against Hamilton. The two clubs split the season series with two wins apiece. Now it’s time to see who who the true beast of the East really is when the puck drops on Game 1 Friday night in Steeltown.

Season Series:
Series tied 2-2
Oct. 21 – HAM 2 at NB 4
Dec. 3 – NB 5 at HAM 2
Feb. 25 – NB 2 at HAM 7
Mar. 24 – HAM 6 at NB 3

Playoff History:
This marks the first time the Bulldogs and Battalion have met in the OHL Playoffs. The two franchises last met in the 2009 Eastern Conference Championship Series as the Brampton Battalion eliminated the Belleville Bulls in six games.

Series Schedule:
Game 1, Fri., May 20 at Hamilton, 7:00pm
Game 2, Sun., May 22 at Hamilton, 7:00pm
Game 3, Wed., May 25 at North Bay, 7:00pm
Game 4, Fri., May 27 at North Bay, 7:00pm
Game 5, Sun., May 29 at Hamilton, 7:00pm*
Game 6, Tues., May 31 at North Bay, 7:00pm*
Game 7, Wed., June 1 at Hamilton, 7:00pm*
*if necessary 

Who will win the Eastern Conference Final between #HAMvsNB?


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