And then there were four.
The Ontario Hockey League Western Conference Final has been set after the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds eliminated the Owen Sound Attack in game 7 last night. If you missed the Eastern Conference Preview, you can find it here.
The Canadian Hockey League’s top ranked Greyhounds got here by eliminating the Saginaw Spirit in four games before dispatching the Attack. The Kitchener Rangers will meet the Greyhounds beginning in Sault Ste Marie by defeating the Guelph Storm and Sarnia Sting by identical 4-2 margins.
Here’s how the two teams stacked up this season:
|Sault Ste. Marie||Kitchener|
|Powerplay (regular season)||24.8%||20.7%|
|Penalty kill (regular season)||82.0%||82.9%|
|Penalty kill (playoffs)||78.3%||83.3%|
|PP vs opponent||21.4%||25.0%|
|PK vs Opponent||75.0%||78.6%|
|Leading scorer||Frost (42-70-112)||Mascherin (40-46-86)|
|Leading after 2nd||39-0-0-0||30-2-1-0|
|Trailing after 2nd||5-6-1-3||6-14-2-0|
|Last 10 games||7-3-0||6-3-1|
The schedule for the series is as follows:
Game 1, Fri., April 20 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 Game 2, Sat., April 21 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 Game 3, Mon., April 23 at Kitchener, 7:00 Game 4, Wed., April 25 at Kitchener, 7:00 Game 5, Fri., April 27 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07* Game 6, Sun., April 29 at Kitchener, 2:00* Game 7, Mon., April 30 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07* *if necessary
Just like their Eastern Conference counterparts, both squads added some major pieces throughout the season. The Rangers added Kole Sherwood (Flint Firebirds), Givani Smith (Guelph Storm), Logan Brown and Austin McEneny (Windsor Spitfires) and Mario Culina (Sudbury Wolves).
The Greyhounds also added some major pieces, acquiring Taylor Raddysh and Jordan Sambrook (Erie Otters).
The rangers have a trio of draft eligible players to keep an eye on: Giovanni Vallati, Riley Damiani and Adam Liska. The Greyhounds have a pair of projected first rounders in Barrett Hayton and Rasmus Sandin.
The season series wasn’t as dominating as the Greyhounds’ sweep suggest with three of the four games ending as one-goal games. The Greyhounds hold a decisive advantage in the goals-for and goals-against department.
The Greyhounds hold the advantage with the extra man, but the Rangers do better then the Greyhounds down a man. But head-to-head, the Rangers hold the advantage in both categories. Both teams are very good at protecting the lead.
There’s a big part of me that wants to pick the Rangers, but I have been on the Hamilton versus The Soo Final, so I can’t change my mind now.
Prediction: Sault Ste Marie in 6 games