It was a series that was pegged as a ‘David vs Goliath’ as a young Kingston Frontenacs team with virtually no playoff experience, matched up against the veteran powerhouse that is the Barrie Colts.
The Colts were favoured heavily, having finished the regular season in second place in the Eastern Conference and rounding out the year on an 8-2 run.
Meanwhile the Fronts struggled in the second half of the year and had to battle for their playoff lives right down to the final buzzer, limping into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
The two teams met four times in the regular season, the Colts winning three of the four but the Frontenacs could have easily been the team with the 3 and 1 record as they outplayed the Colts in three of those games.
Kingston came into this series with nothing to lose and everything to gain. The young squad has the potential to be an OHL contender in the next couple of seasons with three 16 year olds leading the charge.
Roland McKeown, Spencer Watson and Sam Bennett have been exceptional this season to say the least and give Frontenac fans something to look forward to next season when they are one year older and have that year of experience under their belts.
For the Colts, their time is now. Built for a deep playoff run and a shot at the Memorial Cup, Barrie boasts seven, 50 point scorers, a stud in Aaron Ekblad on the blueline and arguably the best goaltender in the league in Mathias Niederberger.
The Colts also entered the playoffs 100 percent healthy and with a full roster.
Game 1 saw the Fronts jump out to an early lead when Ryan Kujawinski blew past the Barrie defence and beat Niederberger on the first shot of the series.
The Colts would respond with two goals early the second period by Steven Beyers and Mark Scheifele and never looked back after that.
Game 1 was certainly a goaltending battle as both overagers stood on their heads in this low scoring contest. Mike Morrison kept Kingston alive in the third period but Niederberger would not be beaten again and Anthony Camara iced the victory with an empty netter as the Colts took game one at home 3-1.
Game 2 in Barrie was the most exciting game of the series. Barrie jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead after Camara scored 17 seconds into the game and Mitchell Theoret scored under a minute later.
Kingston battled hard and a very undisciplined Colts team allowed the Frontenacs to tie the game with two powerplay goals.
The Colts then ramped up the energy and scored four unanswered goals to take a commanding 6-2 lead. Camara, Scheifele, Andreas Athanasiou and Devin Rymarchuk picked up the goals.
Once again the Colts allowed the Fronts back into the game with their undisciplined play as the parade to the penalty box continued. Kingston scored two more powerplay goals to cut the lead to 6-4 early in the third period. The Frontenacs finished the game 4 for 9 with the man advantage.
Throughout the parade of penalties the Colts were handed two game misconducts. The first was given to Anthony Camara after he flipped the puck into the crowd after the whistle had blown on a delayed penalty call.
Camara received a three game suspension for his actions and picked up his third suspension of the season.
The second Colt to hit the showers early was Captain Ryan O’Connor. Spencer Watson crossed the Colts blueline and tried to split O’Connor and Alex Lepkowski. The 16 year old lost control of the puck and as he looked at his feet for it, O’Connor hit him with a devastating check. Watson was sent flying through the air and as he landed his chin bounced off the ice twice.
The forward stayed down for a few moments and O’Connor was given a five minute major for checking to the head and a game misconduct.
The Colts Captain was then slapped with a ten game ban for the hit and Watson sat out the rest of the series with what was said to be a concussion.
Steven Beyers added a late powerplay goal for Barrie as they took game two, 7-4 and headed to Kingston up two games to none but were now without two of their star players.
The series then shifted to Kingston for game three and the Frontenacs were trying to get back into the series with a win on home ice.
Theoret would open the scoring early in the second period to give the Colts a 1-0 lead. Theoret was moved up to the top line with Mark Scheifele and Zach Hall in the absence of Anthony Camara.
Kingston scored two goals before the period was out and had just their second lead of the series.
The Frontenacs were playing well and were keeping the Colts big name players quiet but the young squad could only contain the big guns for so long.
Barrie has been known all season long as a third period team that can score goals in bunches and they did exactly that.
Athanasiou scored with 3: 58 remaining to tie the game then it was Scheifele beating Morrison to give Barrie the lead with 1:22 on the clock. Theoret buried an empty netter for his second goal of the game and the Colts escaped a scare from the Frontenacs and took game three, 4-2 and now had a strangle hold on the series up three games to none.
The Colts received the news of the length of Ryan O’Connor’s suspension just prior to game time of game number four. The team was not pleased with the 10 games handed down to their captain and best defenceman. It was another hurdle that this team would have to overcome.
The Colts were looking to finish off the Frontenacs and complete the sweep on Wednesday night.
Kingston was coming off their best effort of the series in game three and Barrie knew they would not go down without a fight. The Frontenacs were looking to extend their season a little bit longer and give their fans something to cheer about.
However in this game it would be all Colts as the visitors silenced the crowd rather quickly.
Just 10 seconds into the game, Mitchell Theoret beat Mike Morrison to give the Colts the early lead. Erik Bradford would double up the lead on a delayed penalty minutes later.
Kingston had been targeting Mark Scheifele all series long, trying to get under the Winnipeg prospects skin but every check thrown at Scheifele, he brushed it off and played even harder.
Scheifele was hit twice on the same shift but quickly picked up the puck, skated with a full head of steam down the ice before unleashing his deadly wrist shot to score his 4th goal of the series and make it 3-0 Barrie.
Athanasiou rounded out the scoring in the first period before adding another highlight reel goal in the second and the Colts took a 5-0 lead into the third period.
Kingston finally gave their fans something to cheer about when Darcy Greenaway scored two goals in 20 seconds to cut the lead to three.
The Colts quickly silenced the crowd again when Theoret scored his second goal of the game and picked up his 4th point of the evening. Aaron Ekblad then blasted home his first of the series on a powerplay to make it 7-2.
The Colts were on their way to the second round as the bench was all smiles but no one on the team had a bigger smile than 19 year old rookie Cody Brown. At the 19:00 minute mark of the third period, Brown found a loose puck in the Kingston zone and fired home his first career OHL goal.
The former Stayner Siskin had been snake bitten all season long through his 34 games played but finally buried one to get the monkey off his back.
The Colts swept the Frontenacs in four games as they cruised to an 8-2 win in game four.
Barrie will now wait for their second round opponent as the other three series are still underway.
News and Notes:
Anthony Camara is eligible to return for game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Final.
Ryan O’Connor has 8 games remaining in his suspension and will not be eligible to return until at least the Eastern Conference Final.
Mark Scheifele led all scorers in the series with 4 goals and 10 points in 4 games.
Mitchell Theoret had an outstanding series picking up 5 goals and 8 points in 4 games. Theoret had only 7 goals in 25 games in the season after being traded to Barrie from Niagara.
Mathias Niederberger went a perfect 4-0 in the series and posted a 2.25 GAA and a 0.936 save percentage.
Barrie’s powerplay in the first round went 6/18 33.3%
Barrie’s penalty kill went 21/26 80.8%
Mark Scheifele was one of the three stars in all four games. 2nd star game 1, 3rd star in game 2, 1st star in game 3, 2nd star in game 4.
Andreas Athanasiou was the first star in games 1 and 2 and was the third star in game 4.
Barrie will start the Eastern Conference Semi-Final at home on Thursday April 4th at the Barrie Molson Centre. Game 2 will be Saturday April 6th.