And then there eight.... No first round series went seven games, but there sure were some entertaining six game series, along with some excitement, surprises and controversy abound. Oh yes there were some Melrose Place like moments for sure. I went 7/8, picking Ottawa/ Belleville and Saginaw/Sarnia bang on, while misfiring badly on the Sudbury/Brampton series as I had Sudbury in six. The other series I picked correctly but was off on the number of games it would take.
Round 2 awaits, and without further ado...
NIAGARA OVER BRAMPTON IN 6
Niagara had one heck heck of a battle with Oshawa in the first round. Most pundits would agree that Oshawa was sort of like a wolf in sheep's clothing, and not a true indicator of a #8 seed. The Ice Dogs in the end were full value for their series victory, but the Generals gave them all they could handle and then some. Brampton had a surprisingly easy 1st round as they dusted off Sudbury in four straight. Niagara beat Brampton 4-2 in the season series, and were 3-0 vs Brampton at home. However, Brampton were one of the few teams to shutout Niagara during the season, winning 3-0. That game became something of a epiphany for the Ice Dogs as Marty Williamson ripped his team in the press after the game and the Ice Dogs were much better for it down the stretch. Brampton was right in the thick of things with Niagara for the division crown until the team went 1-7 during Stan Butler's suspension. Brampton will have to play their usual composed and rigid two way game to best the Ice Dogs. In the end the Ice Dogs depth and home ice advantage will prevail. Niagara had players get at least two goals in all six games of the Oshawa series and scored 30 goals over the course of the six game series. I'd rate the defenses one through six pretty close, give a slight edge to the Ice Dogs in net and a more decided advantage to the Ice Dogs up front.
BARRIE OVER OTTAWA IN 6
I really like this Barrie team. They were very hot down the stretch and got pushed to the limit by a very, very game Mississauga squad in round one before prevailing in six games. Despite not having Tanner Pearson up front, they still have Mark Scheifle, Colin Behenna returned from suspension and provided a boost, Anthony Camara is a good power forward while stalwarts such as Ivan Telegin and Daniel Erlich provide good offensive depth. Mattias Niederberger was also very good in goal in the 1st round . Ottawa really got pushed in round one by Belleville, who like Oshawa were a team that ran hot and cold during portions of the season. Lots of offensive depth is featured on Oshawa in Tyler Toffoli, Shane Prince, and Sean Monahan. Future 1st round pick Cody Ceci anchors a solid back end while Petr Mrazek is a tried and true playoff veteran. This pick is no disrespect to Ottawa. I just like Barrie's overall game and the momentum they have been building through the playoffs.
LONDON OVER SAGINAW IN 6
I was very impressed with Saginaw's six game victory over a Sarnia team loaded with talent. The Spirit, who were challenged just to make the playoffs at one point in the season are a team that is peaking at the right time. Unfortunately the London Knights have maintained a superior level of consistency all season long and have a line up brimming with talent, not limited to Michael Houser, Jared Tinordi, Greg McKegg, Jared Knight, Seth Griffith, Vladimir Namestnikov. Saginaw also did not play well vs London during the regular season, including losses of 8-0 and 6-0. Take the Knights and their depth in this one.
PLYMOUTH OVER KITCHENER IN 7
Arguably the best match up in terms of goaltenders with Plymouth's Scott Wedgewood and Kitchener's John Gibson. Plymouth got a real eye opener in the first round as they spotted Guelph a 2-0 series lead before roaring back to take four straight in a series that had its share of controversy featuring an accusatory finger being pointed at the Whalers for their alleged embellishment of certain infractions. Kitchener survived a rough and tumble 1st series vs a battling Owen Sound Attack team. Plymouth is a lot of people's pick to go to the final and might just have hit their stride. Kitchener though has been very good and it would surprise me if a Game 7 went their way. This one is a bit of a pick 'em.