OHL Championship Series Finals Preview
Two of the OHL’s top teams during the regular season continued their dominance throughout the playoffs and are set to face-off in the Roger’s OHL Championship Series starting on Wednesday. The Windsor Spitfires were the top ranked team from the West and defeated Owen Sound, Plymouth and London on their way to winning the Wayne Gretzky Trophy and claiming their spot in the finals.
The Brampton Battalion sat second in the East after the regular season and outlasted Peterborough, Mississauga St. Michaels and the east’s top ranked Belleville Bulls to take home the Bobby Orr Trophy and advance to the finals.
A trip to the finals and the OHL’s centre stage will be relatively new territory for both of these teams. The Spitfires will be making their first appearance in 21 years, while the Battalion are making their first trip during their 11 year franchise history. However both teams took a similar route through the playoffs thus far. Each swept their opening round series 4-0 and followed that up with 4-2 series wins in the second round.
As the OHL’s top ranked seed, Windsor has earned the right to host Game One at the W.F.C.U. Centre. In the Western Finals, Windsor came out of a hard fought battle against John Tavares and the London Knights with a 4-1 series win. However the games were much closer, featured several lead changes and comebacks and all five needed overtime to decide a winner.
In a high scoring series, the Spitfires prevailed by outscoring London 23-20. During game five, Windsor outshot London 53-44 and Eric Wellwood, brother of NHLer Kyle, tallied his second game-winning goal of the series to eliminate the Knights.
Brampton needed one extra game to come out of the East Finals as they put away the Bulls 4-2. Brampton got out to a quick 2-0 lead in the series and eventually went up 3-1 until Belleville staved off elimination with 3-2 double overtime victory in Game 5.
The Bulls made a valiant effort in Brampton during Game 6 by taking a 3-2 lead into the third period, but five goals by the Battalion resulted in a 7-4 Brampton win and the elimination of the East’s top team during the regular season. Battalion forward Matt Duchene recorded a hat trick and the game’s winning goal to avoid a potential Game 7 back in Belleville.
During the regular season Windsor got the best of the Battalion winning both games between the two, by 5-3 and 6-3 scores. Each team allowed twenty goals during the Conference round and Brampton recorded three more goals then Windsor by scoring 26. Finding much of a difference between the two teams may end there though.
Both squads are heavily represented in the top ten point getters during this years playoffs. The top seven scorers are either from Windsor or Brampton, with 8-10 being occupied by London Knights. Tied atop the leaders are Spitfires Taylor Hall and Ryan Ellis, as well as Battalion captain Cody Hodgson, all with 27 points.
Between the pipes neither team gives up much either as both starting goalies have posted similar stats. In 16 appearances Brampton’s Thomas McCollum has faced 436 shots, allowed 44 goals, has one shut out, a 2.62 GAA and a .899 save percentage. On the Windsor side Andrew Engelage has played in 15 games, faced 419 shots, allowed 43 goals, owns a 3.18 GAA and .897 save percentage.
In addition to taking home the J. Ross Robertson Cup as the winners of the Championship series, the winners will also represent the OHL at the 2009 MasterCard Memorial Cup. The Memorial Cup will kick off in Rimouski, Quebec starting on May 16 against the champions from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
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