Through the first two rounds, the Peterborough Petes have been my nemeses having predicted two losses for them and they’ve won both. That makes four incorrect picks for me – a lifetime worst. And here we are trying again. So, let’s get to it.
WESTERN CONFERENCE (2) LONDON KNIGHTS VS (3) SARNIA STING – WAYNE GRETZKY TROPHY
|LONDON KNIGHTS||SARNIA STING|
|Regular season record||45-21-2-0||41-18-5-4|
|Goals scored (regular season)||269||298|
|Goals scored (playoffs)||43||41|
|Goals against (regular season)||214||224|
|Goals against (playoffs)||17||23|
|Powerplay (regular season)||21.3%||26.0%|
|PP at home (regular season)||23.0%||27.2%|
|PP away (regular season)||19.7%||24.6%|
|PP at home (playoffs)||29.6%||27.8%|
|PP away (playoffs)||28.6%||4.8%|
|Penalty kill (regular season)||78.9%||81.4%|
|PK at home (regular season)||76.9%||82.5%|
|PK away (regular season)||80.4%||80.3%|
|Penalty kill (playoffs)||75.0%||91.7%|
|PK at home (playoffs)||68.8%||94.4%|
|PK away (playoffs)||81.3%||88.9%|
|Powerplay vs opponent||15.0%||32.3%|
|Penalty kill vs opponent||67.7%||85.0%|
|Leading after 1st (playoffs)||5-0||4-0|
|Leading after 2nd (playoffs)||7-0||5-0|
|Trailing after 1st (playoffs)||3-0||2-1|
|Trailing after 2nd (playoffs)||0-1||0-2|
|1-goal games (playoffs)||2-0||3-1|
|2-goal games (playoffs)||0-0||1-1|
|3 goal games (playoffs)||0-0||1-0|
It’s a historic year for the Sting, who are into the Western Conference Championship Series for the first time in their history.
Sarnia comes off a sweep of the fourth-seed Saginaw Spirit in which they conceded just four goals, with Ben Gaudreau making franchise history with his second and third shutouts of the playoff run. After going up 2-0 over the eighth-placed Kitchener Rangers in the previous round, the Knights responded to a 6-1 Game 3 loss with consecutive Brett Brochu shutout wins in Games 4 and 5.
Following a spell in which they won the J. Ross Robertson Cup three times in five seasons, London has not reached the Western Conference Final since their last championship in 2016.
There was plenty of changeover in London this season, with 17-year-old newcomers Easton Cowan, Jacob Julien, Oliver Bonk, and Zach Bowen, as well as 2022 fourth-overall pick Sam Dickinson playing big roles.
The team began to find a rhythm after adding Bulldogs teammates Ryan Winterton and Ryan Humphrey at the trade deadline.
The Sting boast a powerhouse offence but showed an ability to grind out results in the series against Saginaw. Their defensive trade-deadline acquisitions were a subject of discussion ahead of Game 1.
The Sting’s blueline spent much of the season riddled with injuries but with Ethan Del Mastro, Christian Kyrou, Ryan Mast, Nolan Dillingham, and Ethan Ritchie all available, Sarnia’s defence has looked steady in front of Gaudreau.
Not to be overlooked, Sarnia’s offence was a force throughout the season as they put together the OHL’s top power play, guided by one of the league’s top playmakers in Ty Voit. Factor in 50-goal scorer Nolan Burke and mid-season additions Sasha Pastujov and Luca Del Bel Belluz, and Sarnia isn’t a team London can afford to get into penalty trouble against.
PREDICTION: Sarnia in 6 games
EASTERN CONFERENCE (2) NORTH BAY BATTALION VS (4) PETERBOROUGH PETES BOBBY ORR TROPHY
|NORTH BAY BATTALION||PETERBOROUGH PETES|
|Regular season record||48-17-2-1||35-29-2-2|
|Goals scored (regular season)||285||247|
|Goals scored (playoffs)||49||34|
|Goals against (regular season)||183||207|
|Goals against (playoffs)||33||25|
|Powerplay (regular season)||22.9%||21.7%|
|PP at home (regular season)||25.0%||22.1%|
|PP away (regular season)||20.9%||21.3%|
|PP at home (playoffs)||23.3%||8.0%|
|PP away (playoffs)||36.8%||15.8%|
|Penalty kill (regular season)||87.1%||81.3%|
|PK at home (regular season)||90.3%||80.2%|
|PK away (regular season)||84.4%||82.4%|
|Penalty kill (playoffs)||81.3%||88.5%|
|PK at home (playoffs)||79.3%||85.7%|
|PK away (playoffs)||84.2%||91.7%|
|Powerplay vs opponent||20.0%||11.1%|
|Penalty kill vs opponent||88.9%||80.0%|
|Leading after 1st (playoffs)||4-1||2-1|
|Leading after 2nd (playoffs)||6-2||5-1|
|Trailing after 1st (playoffs)||2-1||3-0|
|Trailing after 2nd (playoffs)||2-1||0-0|
|1-goal games (playoffs)||2-3||4-1|
|2-goal games (playoffs)||1-1||4-1|
|3 goal games (playoffs)||2-1||0-0|
Two of the league’s top goaltenders in Michael Simpson and Domenic DiVincentiis, will go head-to-head.
The Petes are in search of their first trip to the OHL Championship Series since they were last champions in 2005-06. Captain Shawn Spearing and assistant captains Tucker Robertson and J.R. Avon were all members of the 2019-20 team that was poised to make a deep playoff run before the season came to a premature end. The group has been preparing for another one ever since.
The Battalion were on the receiving end of a sweep in last year’s Eastern Conference Final, falling to the eventual champions: the Hamilton Bulldogs. With much of the same core returning, the Troops have been a contender since the season began and added the requisite depth.
Picked first overall in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection and CHL Import Draft respectively, Ty Nelson and Matvey Petrov have developed into two of the most talented players in the league. Alongside overage forward Kyle McDonald, they sit tied for first in scoring among remaining players (18 pts.). Not fair behind in fourth is centreman Kyle Jackson (13 pts.).
The Battalion are ranked first in the postseason with 49 goals for, and much of that is to do with how seamlessly trade additions Pasquale Zito (5-9-14) and Josh Bloom (2-5-7) have fit into the team.
Fellow newcomers Luc Brzustowski and Brayden Hislop have also rounded out the defence with their veteran presence.
After acquiring 50-goal man Brennan Othmann from the Flint Firebirds in November, the Petes went after the big fish at the trade deadline, too. GM Mike Oke prioritized championship pedigree, dealing for Hamilton Bulldogs overage pair Avery Hayes and Gavin White. They have proven themselves to be instrumental for Peterborough thus far.
The Petes finished the season with a 5-6-1-0 record in March, which evoked questions about whether they were ready to take the next step in the postseason. Internally, however, the focus was on being prepared to flip the switch for Game 1.
PREDICTION: North Bay in 7 games
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