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.