Up in the OHL north country

April 22, 2015

Of the 20 teams that comprise the Ontario Hockey League, only three — Soo Greyhounds, North Bay Battalion and Sudbury Wolves — are based in the northern part of the province.

Still, two of the northern Ontario teams — the Soo and North Bay — are among the four clubs that remain in the quest for the 2014-2015 OHL championship.

The Greyhounds and Erie Otters will meet in the Western Conference finals and North Bay will try to upset the Oshawa Generals in the Eastern Conference finals.

As the top seed in the Western Conference — and first overall in the OHL — the Soo will have home-ice advantage for its series with second-ranked Erie.

And as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, Oshawa will have home-ice advantage on third-ranked North Bay.

Who do I think will win?

I am going to go with the best in the OHL and call for the Greyhounds to defeat Erie in five games.

Erie may have National Hockey League star-in-waiting Connor McDavid leading the way but the Otters are so-so in goal and besides, they just do not have the skilled depth of the Greyhounds.

With all of those high NHL draft picks in their lineup — forwards Jared McCann, Nick Ritchie and Justin Bailey, defencemen Darnell Nurse and Anthony DeAngelo and goalie Brandon Halverson among them — the Soo is as good a team as the OHL has had since those London Knights powerhouses of a few years back.

As for the other series — as noted in Tuesday’s column — I am going to go with the upset and take North Bay to win in six or seven games.

North Bay is a team that is made for the playoffs and I happen to think that Stan Butler is the best, most-effective coach in the OHL.

Plus, the Battalion has a couple of good old northern Ontario boys on its roster in top-scoring forwards Mike Amadio of Sault Ste. Marie and Ryan Kujawinski of Iroquois Falls.

Here’s to a Soo-North Bay OHL championship series.

What you think about “Up in the OHL north country”

  1. The existing three is likely the maximum number of northern Ontario-based OHL clubs we’ll ever see. The argument made is that the time of travel to potential markets like Timmins and Thunder Bay makes them too costly to consider – and yet we have several examples in the WHL and the Q of very long distances being taken for granted. Is Timmins to Windsor that much worse than say, Brandon to Portland? – or how about Val D’Or to Cape Breton? Somehow the schedulers and the accountants in those leagues have made it work. We often hear that the southern-based O clubs don’t even like coming up to the existing three, but we also know that northerners love their junior hockey. Maybe, someday, the right people will make the required effort and that three could move up to four or five.

  2. I would have to think that an all-North final would make the powers to be at the OHL office cringe with the possibility! I can see coin flips of best 4 out of 7 to decide who HAS to come up and present the Robertson Cup! (You lost, you have to go!) Go Battalion, Go Hounds!

    1. we all discuss this regularly at games, always underestimated and undervalued. The north plays with heart and it if evident in the fan support and the outcomes of top players, wish it could be televised more often but then….its nice to surprise them with the outcomes every now and then. North Bay who???? 3 hours North of Toronto is not a long way people!

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