OHL: Who will join Knights at Mem Cup?

January 26, 2014

The Canadian Hockey League is holding its annual Memorial Cup dance in London this year.

It’s the Ontario Hockey League’s turn to play host to the four-team tournament and the restless hands of time are clicking towards the May 16-25 event.

As hosts, the Knights of London have automatic entry into the 2014 Memorial Cup tourney and will be joined by a second OHL team as well as the champions from the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League and the Western Hockey League.

But while London’s ticket is already punched, which will be the second OHL team to gain entry into the Mem Cup as either league champion or finalist?

From the Western Conference, which London is a part of, the prime-time contenders are Erie Otters, Guelph Storm and Soo Greyhounds.

From the Eastern Conference, which doesn’t have the substance of the Western sandwich, Oshawa Generals and Sudbury Wolves are the prime cuts.

Of Erie, Guelph, the Soo, Oshawa and Sudbury, safe bets say it will be the Otters or Storm that join the Knights as “O” teams on the Mem Cup stage.

Two old warhorse general managers, Erie’s Sherry Bassin and Guelph’s Mike Kelly, have put their teams in strong positions for a run at Mem Cup glory with London.

Combined, Bassin and Kelly have been managing OHL teams for about 60 years and the game has certainly not passed either of them by. Not only have Bassin and Kelly assembled high-performance teams but they have management and coaching staffs in place that are second to none in the OHL.

Both teams also have at least five star forwards.

Connor Brown, Dane Fox, Connor McDavid, Andre Burakovsky and Brendan Gaunce lead the way in Erie and Scott Kosmachuk, Brock McGinn, Kerby Rychel, Robby Fabbri and Tyler Bertuzzi are the pilot lights in Guelph.

If there is an advantage that one has over the other it’s that Erie has two tried-tested-and-true goalies in Oscar Dansk and Devin Williams while Justin Nichols is the solo starter in Guelph.

What about the Dogs of Houndtown?

Do they have what it takes to go through four rounds of playoffs and then book a flight to London?

Has Greyhound GM Kyle Dubas put the Soo in the same grade with Erie and Guelph, not to mention London?

Is Greyhound coach Sheldon Keefe as capable as Erie’s Kris Knoblauch, Guelph’s Scott Walker and London’s Dale Hunter?

Is Greyhound goalie Matt Murray of the same calibre as Dansk and Williams in Erie, Nichols in Guelph and Anthony Stolarz in London?

Ah, so many questions.

And perhaps we are asking and expecting too much of Erie, Guelph or the Soo to make it to the dance with London.

Maybe it will be Oshawa or Sudbury that will make it through the back door and onto centre stage.

Afterall, the Generals can motor, the Wolves have howl and games are won on the ice, not in websites, newspapers or on radio.

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