Prediction time again after a rather pedestrian 2/4 effort last round. I was on track for a perfect round until those dastardly Ottawa 67's stormed back from 3-1 down against an embattled Barrie Colts team and those plucky Kitchener Rangers came back from 3-2 down to upend the favoured Plymouth Whalers. I had Barrie in 6 and Plymouth in 7 in my original predictions. I also picked Niagara to win in six and pegged the London/Saginaw series bang on.
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
NIAGARA OVER OTTAWA IN 5
This is more of a celebration of the excellent play of the Ice Dogs rather than a condemnation of the Ottawa 67's. Ottawa has had to work hard for their series wins, beating Belleville in 6 tough games and carried to the limit by an undermanned Barrie Colts team. Despite the fact Ottawa is in the conference final, there is a feeling that Ottawa has not played their best hockey to this point. They will need it against the Ice Dogs, a team gathering momentum as the playoffs go on. The Ice Dogs have been chameleon like in that they adapt to the game that their opposition plays. They matched the aggression of the Oshawa Generals and won in six and then usurped the tight checking Battalion in a four game sweep. The Ice Dogs have no weaknesses in their lineup from roster members 1 through 20. Ottawa will need to be at their best to beat Niagara, and while the games will be hotly contested, the Ice Dogs will prevail.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
KITCHENER OVER LONDON IN 7
Kitchener showed a lot of intestinal fortitude in coming back against Plymouth last series. This was a very close checking series for the most part until the offences broke through towards the latter stages. To win a game 7 on the road against a favoured opponent speaks heavily the character and will of the your team. Kitchener has that, plus a boat load of talent anchored by John Gibson, a great goalie. London also showed a lot of heart as they were down 2-1 to Saginaw before reeling off three straight wins to close out the series. London has set the pace the whole season long in the Western Conference a boast an enviable talent level. Kitchener, this year, just seems to have that X factor though.
MUSINGS AND OBSERVATIONS
--TV Cogeco will step aside for Game 1 of the Ottawa series so the big boys from Sportsnet can invade the Jack. Make no mistake about it, broadcasters are competitors too and it's sort of like having someone come into your living room, grab the remote, kiss your wife and put your slippers on. That said, I'm happy that the Ice Dog players are getting the national exposure they so richly deserve
-- The Ice Dogs will have had an eight day layoff by the time the puck drop in Games 1. While conventional thinking is that the Ice Dogs might be rusty, a break at this juncture of the season is gold to heal up those bumps and bruises that accumulate over a long season
--Good for Greg Gilbert of Saginaw in winning the Coach of the Year. He really turned the fortunes of the team around, but the fact that the award did not go to Dale Hawerchuck is shocking. Barrie was awful last year, the three seed in the conference this year. Do not underestimate the difficulty that a coach has in instilling a winning attitude in his team
--Congrats to Andrew Agozzino, a deserving winner of OA of the Year in the OHL. It sure will be strange not to see #9 in an Ice Dogs uniform next year.
--The rough stuff that has plagued the NHL during the 1st round of the playoffs has not trickled down to the OHL yet. The hockey has been rough and aggressive at times, but not to the level that the NHL has.
--It was a finish for the ages in the Barrie/Ottawa series wasn't it? Ottawa scores with :25 left to take a 3-2 lead and then Barrie scores the tying goal with :09 left and then Remy Giftopoulos scores on a harmless shot to win it! Drama to the extreme...
We will have game two of the Ottawa/Niagara series live on TV Cogeco at 2pm Sunday.