After ousting the Mississauga Steelheads in six games the Belleville Bulls move on to the OHL's Eastern Conference semi-final to face the 5th seeded Sudbury Wolves. The Wolves defeated the Brampton Battalion in 5 games in the playoffs opening round.
Belleville owned the regular season matchup winning 3 out of 4 Vs the Wolves. Sudbury was the winner is the first match up this season winning 3-1 at home on October 19th. After that it was all Belleville, they had victories of 7-5 on February 16th at the Yardman, then it was back to the Nickel City on March 8th and a 6-2 win. The final game was the Bulls by a score of 5-2 on March 16th in Belleville.
The Bulls and Wolves have meet only three times over the years in the OHL playoffs. The first time was in 1998-99 when Belleville was on route to their first and only J. Ross Robertson Cup. That season the Bulls made quick work dispatching Sudbury in 4 games. Next time it was the Wolves turn. In 2006-2007 in what would be the first of three straight appearances in the Eastern Conference Final for the Belleville Bulls. Sudbury defeated Belleville in six games. The series clinching game ended in Triple OT. PK Subban was in the box for interference and Matt Dias beat Kevin Lalande to send the Wolves to their first Championship Final in franchise history. The Wolves had former Bulls Andy Self and Sebastian Dahm on their roster that season. Mark Staal was outstanding as was Justin Donati. On the other side in 06-07 Belleville was lead by their Donati, Justin's twin brother Tyler. Belleville had a lot of talent that season that would become the leaders of the team for years, guys like PK, Shawn Matthias, Matt Beleskey, Bryan Cameron, Shawn Lalonde, Eric Tangradi. The list could go on. In 08-09 it was Belleville winning in six games. with a lot of those same guys still on the team. Mike Murphy was in goal, PK was still there along with Cameron, Lalonde, Tangradi and some other guy a rookie named Stephen Silas. That season Sudbury had a rookie of their own a guy you might know he plays for Belleville now his name is Jake Cardwell.
Series Breakdown :
Home Ice : The Yardman Arena holds around 3257 fans with room for about 500 more standing room. It was built in 1978 and has an international sized ice surface of 200 ft. length by 100 ft. width. It is the largest ice surface in the Ontario Hockey League and on some nights it really works in Belleville's favour. In the 1st round Vs Mississauga the Cowbell's could be heard and the fish could see red. The Yardbarn came alive and as the series went along the crowds got bigger and louder. We don't see that changing in this series.
The Sudbury Community Arena is in the downtown core of Sudbury. It was built in 1951 and has an ice size of 200' x 85', with a capacity of 4,600 seated and will hold over 5000 with standing room. Its a classic Jr hockey Barn, it has lots of charm. I mean the Wolf on a pulley thing that comes out and howls at the other teams bench when the Wolves score, who doesn't love that ?
Advantage : Even. Belleville gets the tie based on the fact that they start with Home Ice, Sudbury gets the tie based on atmosphere and the Wolf on the wire.
Coaches : Trent Cull is in his 3rd year as Head Coach of the Sudbury Wolves. Coach Cull is quoted as saying "...our teams will not be outworked because that is something I demand and that is something the fans will see and that is something any team can have no matter how skilled you are, so that's what I expect". He view is a popular one. like the saying goes “Hard Work Beats Talent, When Talent Doesn't’t Work Hard“. To prepare for the Bulls Coach Cull has his Team watching video and using the Gerry McCrory Sports complex that also has a Olympic sized Ice surface. He knows that a lot of things have to go right to pull off the upset but he has his club believing in the system, its a team-first approach and he rolls all of his lines and defensive parings almost equally and each player is given responsibility leading to a strong group mentally with each kids feeling like their involved.
The Belleville Bulls have shown that they can be outworked but not for long, Coach Burnett also has a mentally strong group who are really hard to keep down. The longest losing streak that the Bulls had this season was 3 games and that was best in the OHL. If Belleville does have a have a set back they are very capable of recovering. Burnett must keep his team pushing, using players in roles that they will strive, he will be happy rolling everyone if that is what the matchups call for, he has built teams using guys in roles where they might not be scoring lots of goals but are doing everything else. George knows his roster and he uses everyone very well.
Advantage : Belleville. Has a deep team and its hard to match up against them because if you roll four lines, they have four lines they can roll and if you wanted to play a two or three line game they also have the horses and the depth.
Special Teams : After the first round Belleville's power play is ranked 10th and looked as strong as it can against the Steelheads but it also had some turns where it looked as weak and momentum killing has it can. The penalty killing unit is ranked 6th and is rarely out of sync.
Sudbury PK is ranked 15th and the Wolves will have to be better shorthanded then they were vs Brampton, Belleville has way more guns then the Battalion and yes I just said it can be weak but it can also be very strong. Sudbury's power play can score and will make the Bulls PK unit work.
Advantage : Belleville. Their penalty killers are as good as the OHL has and the power play will improve if Jordan Subban finds a way to become more involved.
Forwards : The line of Brendan Gaunce (3G 6A), Tyler Graovac (2G 8A) and Scott Simmonds (2G 5a) was Belleville's top line vs Mississauga. If the Bulls second line of Alan Quine, Daniil Zharkov and Joseph Cramarossa can hit a consistent stride that gives Belleville two very capable scoring lines. Every forward that has played has picked up at least one point minus rookies Niki Petti and Aaron Berisha, who to be fair were used in very limited roles in series one.
Sudbury will look to Mathew Campagna who had 6 points (2G 4A), Dominik Kahun (5A) and Nicholas Baptiste (3G 1A) to lead the charge, Captain Michael Kantor and former Kingston Frontenace Nathan Cull and other will need to provide more on the score sheet and when it comes to shutting the Bulls down.
Advantage : Belleville. Bulls is to deep, and can roll line after line that can hurt you.
Defencemen : Jake Cardwell had 3 goal in the opening round, and Stephen Silas is plus 9. Belleville will look for Jordan Subban to skate more with the puck. Jordan wasn't bad in the 1st round but he played it safe and didn't really produce the way he can registering only 1G in 6 games.
Charlie Dodero was the Wolves top scoring D-Man vs Brampton with 3 points.
Advantage : Belleville.
Goalies : Malcolm Subban was good vs the Steelheads and when the Bulls needed him to really step up his game he did, posting a shut out in Game Five and was named the games 1st star in Game Six. He played in all six games for Belleville and put up great numbers with a 1.51 GAA and a .944 save %. If Malcolm is settled in, he is and will be very tough to beat. Malcolm has the rare bad game but one of his trademarks is how well he always bounces back.
In Sudbury the Wolves have the Rodney Dangerfield of the OHL in Franky Palazzese, because he gets little respect, but make no mistake he is one of the best the OHL has. He played well vs Brampton and also had a shut out. With a 2.43 GAA and a .926 save % his numbers aren't has gaudy as Subban's but for Sudbury to win Franky will need to be at his best.
Advantage : Belleville. Subban gives Belleville the advantage over just about any team.
Predictions : If Sudbury wants to win they have to come at Belleville as hard as they can, out work the Bulls and make them pay for any mistakes they make. Palazzese has to out duel Subban and that's not easy but Franky is ready. During the series Vs the Steelheads Belleville learned a lot, the main thing being that you can't let up or ever take anyone lightly, every game the Bulls have to play at top speed and full out.
Belleville in 5
Notes : SERIES SCHEDULE
GAME ONE - at Belleville - Friday, April 5th (8:00pm)
GAME TWO - at Belleville - Sunday, April 7th (5:00pm)
GAME THREE - at Sudbury - Tuesday, April 9th (7:30pm)
GAME FOUR - at Sudbury - Thursday, April 11th (7:30pm)
GAME FIVE - at Belleville - Saturday, April 13th (7:05pm)*
GAME SIX - at Sudbury - Monday, April 15th (7:05pm)*
GAME SEVEN - at Belleville - Tuesday, April 16th (7:05pm)*
With the Quinte Home builder's Association also at the Yardman Arena this weekend parking could be tight so the City of Belleville and the Bulls will offer shuttle bus service to and from the Yardman for Game One. The bus will leave from the Northeast corner of the Zellers parking lot on Bell Boulevard, the shuttle will be making trips from 6:00pm until 11:30pm to the bus stop in front of the Quinte Sports & Wellness Centre on Friday night prior to the 8:00pm game. The SEE RED shuttle will also be back for round two bringing fans from the Madoc area free of Charge.