OHL Finals Preview

By Brad Coccimiglio

The OHL finals are slated to open up Thursday night in Barrie at the Molson Centre as the Plymouth Whalers and the Barrie Colts fight for the right to be called OHL champs and a Memorial Cup berth.

Firstly, here is a look at the schedule for the series:

Game 1 Thurs., May 4 at Barrie 7:30 pm
Game 2 Sun., May 7 at Plymouth 7:00 pm
Game 3 Mon., May 8 at Plymouth 7:30 pm
Game 4 Wed., May 10 at Barrie 7:30 pm
*Game 5 Fri., May 12 at Plymouth 7:30 pm
*Game 6 Sun., May 14 at Barrie 6:00 pm
*Game 7 Tues., May 16 at Plymouth 7:30 pm
*-if necessary

Now here is a look at the series breakdown:

Offense: The offense of both teams has been hot and cold at best throughout the playoffs. Just when you think they’re going to break out they hit a slump. With the likes of Sheldon Keefe and Michael Henrich the colts averaged just under 3 goals a game in 18 playoff games. The Whalers meanwhile, boast the likes of rookies Stephen Weiss and Tomas Kurka as well as Justin Williams. The Whalers boast a very potent offense that has looked pretty good throughout the playoffs averaging nearly 4 goals a game. Plymouth has faced some tough goaltending throughout the playoffs as well.

Advantage: Plymouth

Defense: The Plymouth defensemen are all fairly young and inexperienced. With the exception of veteran Shuan Fisher the rest of them do not have much playoff experience. The Colts on the other hand have a good mix of experience and youth on their point. With the likes of Shawn Cation, Ryan O’Keefe and Nick Robinson as well as youngsters Aaron Power and Eric Reitz the Colts defense seems to be pretty solid.

Advantage: Barrie

Goaltending: Here’s a spot where both teams are very evenly matched. Between the pipes for the Whalers is OHL goaltender of the year runner-up Rob Zepp. Zepp had a great season considering he was playing behind a fairly young club. In the playoffs, however, Zepp, who has a pretty good GAA has not faced teams with high power offenses. Brian Finley, the Colts starter, has faced a tougher test in the playoffs facing the Belleville Bulls in the Eastern Conference Semi-finals although he has a higher GAA with a 2.30 GAA in 18 games. Finley has played great in the second half of the season.

Advantage: Barrie

Home Ice: Both teams have very solid home-ice records thus far in the playoffs. Plymouth sits at 8-1 at home while the Colts are 8-2 on home-ice. Keep in mind that the Whalers faced competition that was a little weaker then what the Colts faced in the first three rounds.

Advantage: Barrie

Play on the Road: The Whalers come into the finals with a 2-3 record on the road. The Colts record isn’t much better at 4-4. Both teams road play is suspect at best and the team who plays best on the road will win this series.

Advantage: Barrie

Miscellanous: The Colts tend to play series’ that run long so if this series drags on the Colts will have an advantage. In the first three rounds the Colts faced North Bay (won 4-2), Sudbury (won 4-3) and Belleville (won 4-1). The Whalers had a little bit easier time getting to the finals as they faced Guelph (won 4-2), Windsor (won 4-1) and Sault Ste Marie (won 4-1).

Overall, this series should be a good one as both teams are playing good hockey. I like the chances of Barrie taking the OHL title this year. If I had to make a prediction I’d have to say I like the Colts in 6 games.