OHL Playoffs: Go Big or Go Home

Andrei Svechnikov
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The Ontario Hockey League playoffs started with a bang on March 22nd. Big margins of victory were a recurring theme. The Mississauga Steelheads, Owen Sound Attack and Hamilton Bulldogs all emerged as big winners this weekend. But it was all mere child’s play compared to the Soo Greyhounds 8-0 shutout of the Saginaw Spirit.

OHL Playoffs

March 22: Turnabout’s Fair Play

Mississauga Steelheads 6, Barrie Colts 2

The Barrie Colts entered playoffs on a high note. They are the 2018 Central Division Champions. It’s easy to see why. NHL draft prospect Andrei Svechnikov was named the OHL Rookie of the Month for March, his fourth honour this season. He finished the regular season on a league-high 23-game point streak. Minnesota Wild prospect Dmitry Sokolov was named the OHL Player of the Month for March. He had 20 points in eight games. Sokolov was the first of two Colts to score 50 goals this season. The other was Aaron Luchuk.

NHL free agent frenzy

The Colts finished the regular season on top, but the Steelheads dominated them all season. Their first playoff match-up was more of the same. The Colts had goals from Aaron Luchuk and Lucas Chiodo. It wasn’t nearly enough to stop the Steelheads. Trent Fox and Florida Panthers prospect Owen Tippett both scored twice. Brothers Michael and Ryan MacLeod each had a goal and an assist.

Barrie Colts 5, Mississauga Steelheads 3

It’s not over ’til it’s over. The Colts rebounded nicely on Monday night. Goals came from many of the same names listed above. Lucas Chiodo, Aaron Luchuk, and Dmitry Sokolov all scored, along with Zachary Magwood. Chiodo had two goals and one assist. Luchuk three assists. Skolov added two assists to his point total. It’s how they scored that tells the story. After the Steelheads took a 2-1 lead into the third period, the Colts scored four times in just under 12 minutes. The Steelheads final goal was a formality. The series continues Tuesday.

March 23 – 24: Surprise Party

The Sarnia Sting finished at second place in the West Division, with a record of 46-17-4-1 and 97 points. The Windsor Spitfires finished a distant third, with a record of 32-30-42 and 70 points. It set the stage for an exciting playoff matchup.

Windsor Spitfires 6, Sarnia Sting 2 (Friday).

Stellar goaltending from Vancouver Canucks prospect Michael DiPietro helped the Spitfires take their first game by storm. The Spitfires were outshot 45-30 but they found a way to win. Cole Purboo scored twice. William Sirman, Igor Larionov, Zach Shankar and Jake Smith rounded out the scoring. You may recognize Larionov’s name. He is the son of Detroit Red Wings legend and Hall of Famer Igor Larionov. Larionov Jr. was born in 1998, the same year his father won his second Stanley Cup.

The Sting scored twice, but it was too little too late. By the time Anthony Salintiri scored the second goal at 15:36 in the third period, the Spitfires were already up 4-2.

Sarnia Sting 4, Windsor Spitfires 1 (Saturday).

Watch junior hockey long enough and you’ll learn that big 6-2 blowouts take a lot out of young players. That’s why complete turnarounds are commonplace in junior hockey. The first period tells the story. The Sting outshot the Spitfires 20-3. The final shot total was 52-22 in favour of the Sting.

Cole Purboo opened the scoring for the Spitfires. Never has the expression “one and done” been more true. The Sting then scored four unanswered goals. Sean Josling and Hugo Leufvenius scored less than three minutes apart in the final five minutes of the game. World Junior star Jordan Kyrou and Leufvenius added two empty netters to secure the win. Josling earned the first star for his goal and two assists. The series continues Tuesday night in Windsor.

March 25: Close the Door, It’s Cold in Here

The real question of the OHL playoffs is “can anyone stop the Soo Greyhounds?” They finished the regular season as the OHL’s best team, with a record of 55-7-3-3 and 116 points. They now lead their playoff series with the Saginaw Spirit 3-0.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 5, Saginaw Spirit 2 (Friday, March 23).

World Junior stars Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk stood out for the Greyhounds in this win. Raddysh had two goals, including the game-winner. Katchouck had two assists, including one on the game-winner. Other standouts were Mac Hallowell (1G, 2A) and Tim Gettinger (2A). The Spirit didn’t stand much of a chance, but they tried their best. After the Greyhounds took an early one-goal lead, Cole Coskey scored the game-tying goal at 6:14 in the second period. It was soon eclipsed by the Greyhounds four remaining goals. A noble effort by Spirit forward Danny Katic wasn’t enough to change their fate. The Greyhounds emerged victoriously. It was all just a warm-up compared to what came next.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 8, Saginaw Spirit 0 (Sunday, March 25).

Maybe it’s best to just list who scored all those goals:

Keeghan Howdeshell

Barrett Hayton

Boris Katchouk

Conor Timmins

Morgan Frost. Led the Hounds with two goals and one assist.

Jack Kopacka.  Also scored twice.

Saves: Goaltender and Los Angeles Kings prospect Matthew Villalta made 21 saves to record the shutout.

Shots on goal: The Greyhounds outshot the Spirit 44-21.

Power play goals: The Greyhounds went 4-for-7 on the power play.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 7, Saginaw Spirit 3 (Monday, March 26).

Playoffs are like a whole new season for most teams. For unstoppable teams, the playoffs are merely an extension of the regular season. So it is with the Soo Greyhounds. All of their usual suspects scored in this game.

Hats off to the noble effort by the three goal scorers for the Saginaw Spirit: Max Grondin, Mason Kohn and Nicholas Porco. Over the first two periods, Grondin and Kohn kept the game tied 2-2 going into the third period. That’s where their story ends.

The Greyhounds scored five times in the third period. Grondin got the Third Star of the Night. Porco should get a special honorary Fourth Star of the Night for his goal at 17:04 in the third period. The series may or may not come to a close on Wednesday. I wouldn’t give up on the Spirit yet. One way or another, Game 4 is going to be one for the record books.