If you had asked most people in the preseason which two teams would meet for the J. Ross Robertson Cup and the Ontario Hockey League Championship, most would have predicted this outcome.
It’s a best-on-best as the Hamilton Bulldogs, tops in the Eastern Conference meet the Sault Ste Marie Greyhound, the top team in the Western Conference and the top ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League for most of the season.
The schedule is as follows:
Game 1, Thurs., May 3 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 pm
Game 2, Sat., May 5 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 pm
Game 3, Mon., May 7 at Hamilton, 7:00 pm
Game 4, Wed., May 9 at Hamilton, 7:00 pm (Sportsnet)
Game 5, Fri., May 11 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 pm*
Game 6, Sun., May 13 at Hamilton, 2:00 pm* (Sportsnet)
Game 7, Mon., May 14 at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:07 pm*
The two squads met just twice during the regular season. On February 11, 2018, the Bulldogs defeated the Greyhounds 5-2 on home ice. Five days later in The Soo, the Greyhounds pasted the Bulldogs 10-0.
It will be Kaden Fulcher in the crease for the Bulldogs while Matthew Villalta will man the cage for the Greyhounds. Head-to-head, Fulcher has a 4.50 goals against average and .870 save percentage versus the Greyhounds while Villalta has a 3.00 goals against average and .878 save percentage.
Head-to-head, MacKenzie Entwistle and Matthew Strome led the Bulldogs with a goal and three assists each while Hayden Verbeek led the Greyhounds with four goals and an assist.
In the last five season, which includes two seasons as the Belleville Bulls before moving to Hamilton, the Greyhounds hold a 7-2-1-0 record with a 5-0-0-0 record on home ice.
The two teams took different routes to the finals. The Bulldogs took care of the Ottawa 67’s, Niagara IceDogs and Kingston Frontenacs all in five games. They are the rested team. The Greyhounds however, took the difficult route. After sweeping the Saginaw Spirit, they were pushed to the limit by the Owen Sound Attack and the Kitchener Rangers, with the Western Conference Final going to double overtime.
Both teams made some additions throughout the season for this run. The Bulldogs added adding Nicolas Mattinen (Erie Otters), Robert Thomas (London Knights), Riley Stillman (Oshawa Generals), Nicholas Caamano and Ryan Moore (Flint Firebirds) and Kade Landry (Barrie Colts). The Greyhounds loaded up by adding Taylor Raddysh and Jordan Sambrook (Erie Otters).
Here’s a look at how the two teams stack up:
|Sault Ste. Marie||Hamilton|
|Goals for (regular season)||317||252|
|Goals for (playoffs)||77||66|
|Goals against (regular season)||186||207|
|Goals against (playoffs)||63||36|
|Powerplay (regular season)||24.8%||24.6%|
|Penalty kill (regular season)||82.0%||77.1%|
|Penalty kill (playoffs)||76.4%||78.3%|
|PP vs opponent||30.0%||0%|
|PK vs Opponent||100.0%||70.0%|
|Leading scorer (regular season)||Frost (42-70-112)||Thomas (24-51-75)|
|Leading scorer (playoffs)||Katchouk ((15-12-28)||Thomas (8-17-25)|
|Leading after 2nd||39-0-0-0||33-2-0-2|
|Trailing after 2nd||5-6-1-3||6-15-2-0|
|Last 10 games||6-3-1||8-1-1|
Both squads carry a wealth of experience. Hamilton’s backup goaltender Nick Donofrio is draft eligible. The Greyhounds have a pair of projected first rounders in Barrett Hayton and Rasmus Sandin. Isaac Nurse and Brandon Saigeon of the Bulldogs and Mac Hollowell of the Greyhounds are re-entering the draft.
It hasn’t been my best season for playoff predictions as you can see.
As for my finals prediction? My heart and my head are picking one team while my gut is picking the other. I’m going to go with my gut.
Prediction: Hamilton in 7 games