The Mississauga IceDogs and Guelph
Storm met in the OHL championship best-of-seven series beginning Wednesday,
April 28 in Guelph.
The IceDogs earned their way to
their first OHL championship final by defeating the Toronto St. Michael’s
Majors in six games. The final win was a 4-2 victory and came on Sunday at the
Hershey Centre in Mississauga. Previously, the IceDogs knocked off the Oshawa
Generals and Barrie Colts in seven games each, while the Majors had gotten by
the Sudbury Wolves in seven, and Wojtek
Wolski’s Brampton Battalion in five games.
The Storm, second place overall in
the regular season with 103 points earned, are coming off a huge game seven
victory over division rival London Knights who were ranked number one in the
CHL entering the playoffs. In the first round they defeated the Owen Sound
Attack in seven and followed that up with a four game sweep of the Plymouth
Whalers and OHL Defenseman of the Year, James
Wisniewski of the Chicago Blackhawks.
IceDogs leading scorer Patrick O’Sullivan is fourth overall in
OHL playoff scoring with 19 points (10 goals, 9 assists) in 20 games played.
The Minnesota Wild center has been a force for the IceDogs and a factor in most
of the wins along the way, stepping up as one of the team’s leaders in more ways
than just on the score sheet. The Majors in particular seemed to give
O’Sullivan more attention than he was perhaps accustomed too, but he responded
with 5 goals and 3 assists in the seven game series. He is occasionally drawn
into bad penalties, but he has taken more than he’s given in these 2004
playoffs, and has been a key forward for the team playing on both the power
play and penalty kill, and has often been double shifted at even strength by
Coach Greg Gilbert.
Another factor that has helped the
IceDogs’ performance has been the productive line of rookie Chad Painchaud, Lukas Grauwiler and Tomislav
Zanoski. With the IceDogs down 3-2 in the series versus the Colts in the
second round, that line came alive and collected 9 points between them in the
final two games to move the team on to their meeting with the Majors. The
speedy Painchaud, a rookie right wing ranked 41st for North American
skaters in the Central Scouting Service mid-term report released earlier this
season, was awarded first star for both of those games. Grauwiler, a center who
hails from Zurich, Switzerland, is having an excellent playoff campaign and is
tied for second in team scoring with 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists) in 20
games after a mediocre regular season in which he collected 28 points in 57
games. Left winger Zanoski is fourth in team scoring with 13 points (7 goals, 6
assists), and Painchaud has 9 points thus far (4 goals, 5 assists).
On the blue line Ryan Stokes has been a force, while
Detroit Red Wings prospect Kyle Quincey as
well as Anthony Butera have been
successful on the power play.
Stokes has been trusted with a large
amount of minutes, including the end of close games, and has played very well
overall. On April 6th in a game against the Barrie Colts Stokes had
one of his few gaffes this season when he coughed the puck up to Colts’
standout Cory Stillman. Stillman
shuffled in a few strides towards the net and scored the winner. For the
21-year-old center it completed a superb game in which he scored all three of
the Colts goals in the win. Coach Gilbert didn’t lose faith in Stokes, however,
and has continued to pile the responsibility on the 6’ 4” defenseman who
currently has 2 goals and 10 assists in this playoff.
Quincey is a fairly reliable
defender as well, but it’s his play on the power play that has impressed the
most. He is third in power play assists for the playoffs with 7 (12 assists
total), and one of his two goals came on the power play as well.
Butera, a 19-year-old native of
Woodbridge, Ontario, is in a many-way tie for third in power play goals in the
league with 3, and 2 of his 3 assists have come on the power play as well.
Third year IceDogs right wing Blair Jarret is also having a good
playoff run and is fifth in team scoring with 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists).
The final key for the IceDogs has
been the continued strong play of goaltender David Shantz. Ranked second for North American goalies by the CSS
and a sure bet to go in the first round in the 2004 entry draft, Shantz out
dueled CSS’s fourth ranked goalie from the Majors, Justin Peters.
In twenty games played, Shantz has
12 wins, a 1.69 GAA, a .940 save %, and 5 shutouts to lead all OHL goalies in
this playoff run. He’s been a rock for the team and kept the IceDogs in some
games where they were badly out shot, giving them an opportunity to get the
win. And in other games he has simply given himself a chance to stop every last
shot. His 570 shots faced is also the most faced by any goalie with the next
closest being Peters who faced 98 fewer shots through the first three rounds,
but also appeared in two fewer games.
Peters earned 10 wins in the 2004
playoffs and had a 2.00 GAA, a .922 save % along with 4 shutouts. Peters also
scored an empty net goal on March 30th in the series clinching win over
the Sudbury Wolves in the first round. He was the first goalie to score in the
OHL playoffs in eleven years, with Freddy Brathwaite being the last.
Both Shantz and Peters have great
numbers at one and two in the OHL for playoff goalie statistics, and both look
to have bright NHL futures ahead. Both are capable of making huge saves when
called upon. Peters is very mobile and makes himself a big target in the net.
His movements are smooth and he is fundamentally sound. Shantz occasionally
plays too far back in the crease, but his reflexes and flexibility allow him to
make a key save no matter how much his positioning might handicap him, at least
at the OHL level. He has made several unbelievable stops on sure goals, often
times with his quick glove hand.
Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect Tim Brent was once again solid for the
Majors in his fourth season with the team. He is currently ninth in playoff
scoring and was the tops on the Majors with 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists).
With his 2004 playoffs in the books, the 20-year-old center finished with a
career mark of 70 points in 69 playoff games. His play was extremely strong in
this playoff campaign and the Majors called on him often to help lift the team.
Center Tyler Haskins, ranked 54th for North American skaters
by the CSS, followed up his 45 point (18 goals, 27 assists) season with 9
playoff points (5 goals, 4 assists). The feisty center was acquired from the
Guelph Storm nine games into the 2003-04 season and was a burr in the skate for
each of the teams the Majors faced in the 2004 playoffs. He’s not overly large,
but at 6’ and 185 pounds, this 17-year-old should be able to adjust to the NHL
after some more time in junior, and subsequently the AHL or ECHL.
For the Guelph Storm this will be
their fourth appearance in the OHL championship game. Like the IceDogs, they
have received superior goaltending. Adam
Dennis, who is eligible for the 2004 entry draft but was unranked by the
CSS at the mid point of the season, has had a fantastic playoff run and has 11
wins and only five losses, a 2.05 GAA, a .921 save percentage, and one shutout.
Rookie puck stopper Daniel Taylor,
ranked number ten by the CSS, has not performed well in this playoff. He has 1
win, a 3.40 GAA, and a .857 save percentage in only three appearances.
OHL veteran center Martin St. Pierre leads all scorers in
this playoff year by a large margin. He’s collected 29 points (5 goals, 24
assists) in just 18 games. Second place in scoring so far in the playoffs is
the regular season points leader from the Knights, Corey Perry, who had 22
points in 15 games played. St. Pierre, a talented playmaker who holds the Storm
all time assist record, attended the Flyers’ training camp in 2002 and the
Rangers rookie camp in 2003, but is currently a Free Agent in his final season
of OHL play. The 20-year-old won the overage player of year award this season
after finishing third in the regular season scoring race.
Nashville Predator defenseman Kevin Klein went to the Storm from the
Majors in exchange for Haskins and Colin
Power near the beginning of this season and is currently fifth best in the
league with 18 points (9 goals and 9 assists).
In addition to St. Pierre and Klein,
the Storm has three others in the top ten in playoff scoring.
With depth like that, and a
goaltender who has performed nearly as well as Shantz, the IceDogs will have to
play much better than they have thus far in their three long and hard fought
series if they hope to continue on to the Memorial Cup in what has become their
coming out party.