A rare "Ice Accretion Day" has given me a little more time to pontificate and ruminate on the OHL playoffs, which start tonight. I'm normally lousy at predictions, as past records in NCAA Tournament pools would attest. As I did not follow college basketball at all this year (Thank you mediocre Georgetown!),consequently I did not fill out a pool. Upon hindsight, the usual trend is the more I know the worse I do, so maybe I should have filled one out this year.
Predicting the OHL playoffs can be just as fraught with angst as trying to fill out an NCAA bracket. You're dealing with roughly the same age range, though the NCAA's are a one off, and subject to upsets, while the OHL playoffs CAN be a little more predictable as over a long series the better team can usually prevail. That said, making assumptions is when you start to get in trouble.
Before the predictions, a little aside. I took my 4 year old daughter to the Hershey Centre for the IceDogs season finale vs Mississauga. Post-Game I was able to get pictures of my daughter with Josh Burnside, Sean Day, Alex Nylander and of course 'Sauga the mascot. Many thanks to the players who were kind and gracious and helped make a little girl's day. Apologies to all players though as Josh HoSang remains far away #1 in her heart. She watches the game for the sole purpose of seeing HoSang either on the ice or on the bench. Also, I am sure that those chatting with Alex Nylander were likely a little confused when I approached Alex for a picture as I was , at my daughters request, wearing a Hamilton Bulldogs cap, while she had on an IceDog cap and a Steelhead t-shirt, thanks to me leaping with a vertical beyond my years to snag a free t-shirt. It may not have worked out quite that way, but it's my blog and I get to spin the narrative and stretch the truth when it suits me.
On to the predictions, which I will keep brief.
KINGSTON OVER OSHAWA IN 5. Kingston will finally get to exercise their post-season demons that have seen them not win a playoff round since the late 90's. Last year's Memorial Cup winners get credit for making the post-season after losing a good portion of their core due to graduation and trades
BARRIE OVER MISSISSAUGA IN 5: A month ago, I might have played this differently. Barrie has been very good and is playoff savvy. Mississauga, at times, has spun their wheels. Next year is the Steelhead's time . X factor could be Mississauga G Jack Flynn, who has been outstanding this year while maintaining a heavy workload. He could steal a game or two.
NORTH BAY OVER PETERBOROUGH IN 7. I almost had this as an upset special until I realized that the past couple of years, I have shown no faith in North Bay in the post season and have been burned by it. I like the Petes as they're a veteran laden team, but North Bay and their veteran G Jake Smith, outstanding all around player Mike Amadio, and super OHL rookie Cam Dineen will ultimately win out.
NIAGARA OVER OTTAWA IN 5. With the IceDogs inconsistency, I am surprised myself that I am picking this squad in 5, but I am heavily relying on the fact that Ottawa is not as good as a team as they were last year, and on paper the IceDogs are a better team.
ERIE OVER SAGINAW IN 4. Saginaw may steal a game and Erie had some eyebrow raising curious results down the stretch (an 8-0 drubbing vs Owen Sound being one of them). Too much talent, and firepower for the Spirit to overcome.
SARNIA OVER SAULT STE MARIE IN 6. Sarnia, like Kingston, has some playoff demons to exorcise. To my recollection they have not advanced past the first round since 2007-2008 when Steven Stamkos led them to the second round, where they promptly got blown out by Kitchener. They will get a scare from the Soo, and will be better for it the rest of the playoffs.
LONDON OVER OWEN SOUND IN 5. London lost out to Erie for 1st in the conference the last day of the season, and thus becomes a highly touted 3 seed. If I base Owen Sound on the two games in which they owned the IceDogs, I might predict a longer series. London has a wealth of talent, and depth though I could see their highly undisciplined play be a factor at some point in the playoffs
WINDSOR OVER KITCHENER IN 7. Kitchener too owned the IceDogs sweeping them in the season series, while the IceDogs swept Windsor. I am throwing that small sample size out the window. This should be a whale of a series. Though the Rangers have home ice advantage, I'm going with Windsor, led by mercurial Brendan Lemieux in a minor upset.