OHL Playoffs: Conference Finals Preview

Eight wins down, eight wins to go for four teams in the OHL. The second round saw some shorter and easy series for some, and for others it was tight and exciting series that went deeper than most thought. The teams are so close to the J. Ross Robertson Cup, they each can taste it. Which team will make it through and continue their quest to the Memorial Cup?

Eastern Conference

(1) Ottawa 67’s vs. (3) Oshawa Generals

In a series that expected minimal goal scoring due to the two that manned the nets, the series between Ottawa and Sudbury was anything but. Despite the series only going four games, the 67’s scored 18 goals on the Wolves’ Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Michael DiPietro had an interesting series in net. Thankfully the offencive support was there, as the Canucks prospect allowed 12 goals in the four games, but did earn a shutout in game two. Tye Felhaber, who finished tied for third in league scoring during the regular season, only tallied three assists in their first round series against Hamilton. Against, Sudbury, the Dallas prospect broke out for nine points in the series, including a hat trick in game one, and the series-clinching goal in the third overtime of game four. Kyle Maksimovich has been solid since being suspended for the first two games of the playoffs. After scoring four points in games three and four against the Bulldogs, the Hamilton-native led the 67’s with 10 points in round two.

The Generals make it to the conference finals for the first time since 2015, the year they won the Robertson and Memorial Cup. They did so by upending one of the best offences in the OHL, as Oshawa eliminated the favoured Niagara IceDogs in six games. After the IceDogs won the first two games at home, the Generals reeled off four straight, much thanks to the play of Kyle Keyser in net. After allowing eight goals in games one and two, the Boston prospect only allowed seven the rest of the series. Along with Brandon Saigeon, Kyle MacLean helped lead the offence against Niagara, as he got on the score sheet in five of the six games, with his seven points leading the Generals in the series.

The 67’s are looking extremely confident heading into this series. They dominated the first two series, but they now meet their toughest foe yet. Oshawa, with the help of Keyser, were able to shut down the IceDogs attack. This sets up another goaltender-friendly matchup as Keyser goes up against DiPietro. DiPietro did look shaky at some moments in that second round, but his offence bailed him out. With the momentum Oshawa built against Niagara, DiPietro will have to be at the top of his game, while Keyser will have to be exceptional to stop the outstanding 67’s scoring attack. The 67’s won three of the four games in Oshawa during the regular season, while the teams split the four games in Ottawa. 

My Pick

Generals will make it interesting, but the 67’s will pull it out in the end. Ottawa in seven.

Western Conference

(2) Saginaw Spirit vs. (4) Guelph Storm

The Saginaw Spirit had a rather compelling series against the Soo in the second round. After taking game one, the Spirit lit the Greyhounds up for 10 in game two, followed by a 7-5 barn burner win. After the Greyhounds won games four and five to avoid the sweep and make things interesting, Saginaw settled down to win game six to make it to their first ever conference final. Owen Tippett continued to impress, scoring nine points against the Greyhounds, all in the first three games of the series. Ryan McLeod had a total of six points in the second round, with two goals and two assists in game two of the series.

Guelph comes in after completing an improbable comeback, I’m not just talking about coming from behind in game seven. The Knights went up 3-0 in the series, before Guelph stormed back with three wins. Despite the Knights being up 3-1 in game seven, the Storm never gave up. After Nick Suzuki made it a one-goal game, back-to-back goals from Isaac Ratcliffe gave the Storm a lead they would not relinquish, and would move on to their eighth conference final. Suzuki was incredible in the second round. After being held pointless in the first two games, the Habs prospect exploded for 12 points in the next five. Ratcliffe ended with seven points from the blueline, six in final three games of the series, including the two big tallies in game seven.

This series has offence written all over it. Tippett, McLeod and Brady Gilmour up against Suzuki, Ratcliffe and Nate Schnarr. Ivan Prosvetov and Anthony Popovich are going to look more like shooting targets than goaltenders. The games are going to be fast and wide-open with scoring chances galore. The tough part for these two teams is going to keep their emotions in check. Saginaw have the most penalty minutes of any team in the playoffs. Both teams power plays have not been staggering considering the firepower they possess, with Guelph having a slight advantage with a 21.4% power play compared to Saginaw’s 18.6%. The waves of momentum will be important as well throughout this series, as each team can score in bunches. Saginaw and Guelph split the four games between the two during the regular season, with each earning a win on the road.

My Pick

Guelph has a lot of emotion heading in following the comeback against London, but that emotion will wear them out, Spirit in six.

All statistics and records are from the OHL and Elite Prospects.

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Author: Tyler Kuehl

Born in Michigan, Tyler was bred in Red Wings home. However, through many trips to Ontario, he developed a love for the Leafs and Canada itself. Tyler does hockey play-by-play around Michigan. As a former player, he can give insight inside the locker room and minds of players. He’ll be covering the Canadian Hockey League, as junior hockey is one of his passions. You can also catch Tyler on his hockey show, The Kuehl Podcast.