Tuesday, May 1, 2012
THE FINAL PREDICTION: LONDON VS NIAGARA
It was another up and down round of predictions, as I correctly predicted Niagara over Ottawa in 5, but being way off on London/Kitchener. I had the Rangers in 7, and we all know that London quickly dispatched Kitchener in 4 straight. This series will mark the first time that the Ice Dogs did not have home ice advantage in the playoffs, but it is important to note that 2 of the 3 Ice Dog losses in these play-offs were on home ice. They are a stellar 6-1 on the road in the play-offs.
NIAGARA OVER LONDON IN 6
This pick is part roster analysis and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the squads and part desire for the storybook ending. Hey, I'm a romantic at heart! When I analyze the two playoff runs, the one thing that is being said about both teams is that London might have been a year early, while Niagara is a team that is built for the presence. It's true to a certain extent but London did acquire Austin Watson and Greg McKegg at the trade deadline, showing that they believed a deep run was a strong possibility. The Ice Dogs added the key and necessary pieces of Jamie Oleksiak, Tom Kuhnhackl and Brett Ritchie, all from the Western Conference for the run. The goaltending match up of Michael Houser vs Mark Visentin is a tantalizing one as we have the two reigning OHL goalie's of the year matching up. Houser has been outstanding, but give me Visentin in a pressure packed situation any day of the week. He is a curious mix of hyper-focus, intensity and attention to detail before the game, but possesses a cool, unflappable demeanour during the game. Plus, his excellent puck handling is a difference making asset. On defense, London boasts Jared Tinordi, Scott Harrington and Ollie Maata as a top three. Maata has proven to be uber-talented and his stock has skyrocketed during these playoffs. The Ice Dogs counter with Oleksiak, Dougie Hamilton and Brock Beukeboom as a top three. Call the D match up a wash. Same goes for the forwards. The Ice Dogs run four lines deep and each has contributed at some point during the playoffs. The overage production of Alex Friesen, David Pacan and Andrew Agozzino has been unmatched so far in these playoffs. London boasts the likes of Jared Knight, crafty Vladimir Namestnikov, Greg McKegg, Austin Watson, Bo Horvat Max Domi, the list goes on and on and on. Their maybe a very, very slight edge to London on this one, but it is the scantest of margins. The coaches are also very evenly matched. London had to deal with their coach, Dale Hunter leaving in the middle of a very successful season. No problem, as brother Mark stepped in and the Knights did not miss a beat. The Ice Dogs have the lead by example Marty Williamson. You rarely see Williamson lose it on the bench, but he has the attention of everyone in the room and has had success at every level, save for the elusive OHL title and a Memorial Cup appearance. This series could very well go seven games and London may use home ice advantage to propel them over the top, but the old sentimentalist in me sees the storybook finish of the Ice Dogs celebrating in front of a raucous sold out Gatorade Garden City Complex.
Enjoy the series everyone!