OHL championship preview

By Jason Ahrens

The London Knights and the Ottawa 67s will square off for the Ontario Hockey League championship. After this series both teams will move on to the Memorial Cup, as London has already qualified as the host of the tournament. Ottawa finished as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and proceeded to defeat the Barrie Colts in six games, then the Sudbury Wolves in six games, and then swept the Peterborough Petes to reach the finals. The 67s have a veteran team with a balanced offense; they scored 244 goals in the regular season, a total that was good for third best in the OHL. They haven’t slowed down in the postseason as they have scored 63 goals in 16 games, just under four goals a game.

The Knights finished first in the regular season and beat the Guelph Storm and the Windsor Spitfires in the first two rounds before winning a tough five-game series with the Kitchener Rangers in the conference final. The Knights set numerous league records this season and boasted the league’s best offense and defense. Their power play can move the puck as well as a professional team and in each series they have exploded in at least one game, scoring four goals or more on the power play to win the game. The Knights will have a week off between their last game with Kitchener and their first one with Ottawa, and they will need that time to recover from a number of injuries.

For a recap of how the Knights reached this point and key players, see the OHL Western Conference Final review.

The Knights will be missing Josh Beaulieu for the first two games of the finals as he finishes off his five-game suspension for a stick infraction to the head of Kevin Henderson. Brandon Prust (CAL) will also miss game one of the finals as he serves the last of his three-game suspension he received for a check that put Matt Lashoff out of the series with a concussion.

Ottawa has been getting some solid goaltending from Danny Battochio and he will have to be sharp against the highly skilled Knights. Will Colbert (OTT) and Brad Staubitz anchor the defense corps and they will see a lot of ice and will be trying to contain the big guns of the Knights.

The 67s have a balanced offense with seven 20-goal scorers in the lineup and they have been spreading out the offense in the playoffs too. This is something that the Knights haven’t encountered yet, as so far they only had to focus on a couple of opposing forwards. Bryan Bickell (CHI) has had a quiet playoff run with only four goals and nine assists in 16 games and he is capable of putting up better numbers than that. When he plays like a power forward, he is extremely difficult to stop. The 67s will need him to be on the top of his game if they want to win this series. Lukas Kaspar (SJ) and Jakub Petruzalek are two other Ottawa forwards who can hurt you and they have 16 and 14 points respectively in the playoffs. Chris Hulit leads the team in playoff scoring with 20 points, followed by Julian Talbot with 17 and London native Mark Mancari with 16.

Few are giving the 67s much of a chance in this series, but they did take out a pretty good Peterborough team to make it here. They also have the advantage of not being as banged up as the Knights who will also be faced with their first serious travel of the playoffs and who may be not as mentally sharp given that they will for once not be playing a bitter rival. There is a lot of talent on both teams, so it should be a good match-up.

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