Quite clear, no doubt, the Oshawa Generals are formidable favourites to fend off the North Bay Battalion in the Ontario Hockey League, Eastern Conference finals.
Oshawa put up 108 points during the regular season, which was just one back of the league-leading Soo Greyhounds and a whopping 23 more than North Bay.
Which makes the Generals a safe bet to shut down the Battalion in the Eastern Conference finals.
Even North Bay coach Stan Butler is conceding that beating Oshawa would be a tall order for his Troops.
“We have a chance,” Butler told me via telephone interview on Monday night. “Oshawa is a tough opponent that we lost all four games to during the regular season.”
As if having 40-goal scorer Michael Dal Colle and 30-goal men Matt Mistele, Tobias Lindberg and Cole Cassels isn’t enough, Oshawa also boasts the number-one ranked goalie in the OHL, Ken Appleby.
And just to add more incentive to Oshawa’s aspirations, Appleby’s hometown happens to be North Bay.
While the Battalion does represent ‘David’ in this clash with General Goliath, the Troops are fresh from winning back-to-back playoff battles with the Kingston Frontenacs and Barrie Colts.
In fact, the Battalion is 8-1 thus far in the playoffs — with a 4-1 record on the road.
And while Oshawa’s Appleby has been tagged as the “best goalie in the OHL” by those who make such assessments, North Bay’s Jake Smith is a prime puckstopper in his own right.
Smith has played every minute of every North Bay playoff game this spring and has a record of 8-1 with a 2.03 goals against average and .923 save percentage — stats that are actually slightly better than Appleby’s 8-2, 2.32 and .918 numbers.
Butler believes that any notion of the Battalion upsetting the Generals begins with Smith between the pipes.
“For us to win, I think Jake has to be our best player,” Butler told me. “I am not trying to put added pressure on Jake but we will need him to keep us in games.”
As for scoring goals, the Battalion may not be as prolific as the Generals but the Troops do have nose-for-the-net notables such as Mike Amadio, Nick Paul and Ryan Kujawinski.
So, I suppose I should go with the flow and pick Oshawa to oust North Bay in five or six games.
But what fun would that be?
While I do think that this series will go the seven-game distance — six at least — I have this thought that the Troops are going to going to win this epic battle against the favoured Generals.
PHOTO: North Bay Battalion goalie Jake Smith.