Soo Greyhounds and North Bay Battalion both scored easy wins in their Ontario Hockey League playoff openers on Friday…Second place is still at stake in the North Division of the North American Hockey League…Soo Thunderbirds and Elliot Lake Wildcats resume their Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League playoff series tonight.
EASY DOES IT
It was no surprise that the top-seeded Greyhounds cruised to a 5-1 win over the eighth-ranked Saginaw Spirit in their best-of-seven, Western Conference playoff opener.
What was surprising was the manner in which third-seeded North Bay bombarded the sixth-ranked Kingston Frontenacs 8-0 in their Eastern Conference opener.
Playing at home, the Battalion chased goaltending stalwart Lucas Peressini from the Kingston net en route to a one-sided drubbing of a Frontenacs team that had closed out the regular season with an 8-2 record.
And not only did North Bay out-shoot Kingston 42-18 but Frontenacs scoring leaders Sam Bennett and Lawson Crouse were both minus-4 on the night.
Game 2 in the Soo-Saginaw series goes tonight at the Essar Centre.
Game 2 in the North Bay-Kingston set is slated for Sunday afternoon in the Gateway City.
EAGLES EYE SECOND
Soo Eagles head into the final game of the NAHL regular season against the visiting Michigan Warriors tonight tied with the Keystone Ice Miners for second place in the North Division with 65 points apiece.
Keystone closes out its schedule tonight at Johnstown against the Tomahawks.
Should the Eagles and Ice Miners finish in a second-place tie, the Soo would get the nod based on more regular-season wins.
The games also carry meaning for both Michigan and Johnstown.
Going into tonight’s action, the Tomahawks lead the Warriors by a single point for the fourth-and-final playoff spot in the North Division.
BIRDS IN WILDCAT COUNTRY
With a 1-0 lead in its NOJHL semi-final set, the Soo is at Elliot Lake tonight where a huge crowd is expected at Centennial Arena.
The Thunderbirds took Game 1 of the series, a 5-2 come-from-behind win over the Wildcats.
PHOTO: Flag-waving, mask-adorned Soo Greyhounds superfan Chris Sierzputowski urges on the Essar Centre faithful on Friday night against the Saginaw Spirit. (Photo by Ali Pearson.)