WesternConference Preview - #1 London Knights vs. #8 Windsor Spitfires

How they got here

The Knights busted out of the gates and were quick to jump to the top of thestandings.  Many waited for them to ‘comeback to earth’ but they never returned. At the trade deadline many armchai rGM’s thought that they would sell some veteran pieces, but that was not thecase. They acquired Leafs’ prospect Greg McKegg from the Otters and were ableto get Austin Watson from Petes for a good price. They were challenged at theend of the season by the Whalers for top spot in the West (and were actually in second place for a few days) but they were able to wrestle the top seed away from the solid Whalers team.

 The Spitfires hovered near the middle of the standings for most of the season. They really tailed off in the past 2 weeks with a record of 3 wins and 5 losses to close out the season.  In losing their last 2 games ofthe regular season they ‘backed into’ the playoffs and only squeezed out the Greyhounds by 1 thin point for this final playoff entry.  Besides the Otters (169) they have the next lowest total of goals scored this season (213).  The blockbuster trade of Jack Campbell left anopening for the newly acquired Pavelka to challenge for the top spot in the nets.  He was acquired in a big trade thatwas made with the Icedogs – sending Kuhnhackl their way and a boat load of drafts picks towards the 519 area code. Veteran John Cullen has been with 4 different teams in this league but does not have any playoff appearances.   This team is young and will be looking to get some experience for the bright seasonsthat lie ahead.

Head to Head

Of the six games played vs. each other, both teams have 3 wins and both teams have won in each other’s buildings.  The most recent contest was on March 15 at Windsor where the Spits and Knights would each come out of the game with 29 shots on goal. The Spits would score a goal late in the first period and then hang onto win 2-0. Only 4 minor penalties (and no major penalties) were called all game.

Players to Watch

Michael Houser has been the workhouse in the nets –compiling an impressive (franchise record) 45 wins – his record of 4 wins and 3losses in the month of March is a little concerning, as well as only having experienced 6 full OHL playoff games .  Seth Griffin accumulated 85 points in 68 gamesthis season (#9 in the league) – and has 14 points in 16 playoff games from thepast 2 seasons with the Knights.  Aforementioned McKegg has 41 points in 30 games with London this season – he has 11 playoff points from 16 games with theOtters from the past 3 seasons.  Fiveother players had 20 goal seasons.

Pavelka seems to the goalie of choice in Windsor – he has arecord of 3 wins and 2 losses in the month of March – and zero playoff game experience in the OHL.  Windsor is without  one of their offensive weaponsin the form of Alexander Khokhlachev who scored 20 points in 18 playoff games last season (lacerated kidney – done for the year).  Sophmore Kerby Rychel had a solid team-leading season with 74 points in 65 games – in last year’s playoffs he notched 6 points in 18 games.  Brady Vail will likely chip a few in as well (52 points this season – 8 points in his last4 games of the season).

Prediction

Hard to go against the solid Knights team – the Spits might surprise the Knights and steal one win. We will see some convincing London scores in this series though.          London in 5 games.