The OHL's Eastern Conference Final is about to start between the Belleville Bulls and the Barrie Colts.
Expect for fans of the Oshawa Generals this match up, is a surprise to no one. The Bulls and Colts are the very best the OHL's Eastern Conference has to offer. Belleville was the first seed after the regular season with a record of 44-16-5-3 good for 96 points. Barrie wasn't far behind with 92 points and a record of 44-20-2-2. In the regular season Belleville and Barrie only met twice. Belleville shutout the Colts 3-0 on Family Day at home and the Colts answered back with a 3-2 overtime win on March 9th in Barrie. Even in limited games played Vs the Colts, George Burnett and his club know that it won't be a cake walk to the OHL Final, saying "We've been able to see a lot of video of what they're bringing in different situations and I think this upcoming series will be a hard fought series of games between two honest, hard working teams."
Colts Coach Dale Hawerchuck thinks goaltending will play a huge part in this series saying that "Goaltenders on both sides have played big roles in their team's success this season,". Both Malcolm Subban and Barrie's Mathias Niederberger have both been as good as it gets in the OHL almost matching each other step for step. Subban in 46 games played had a record of 29-11-4. In 56 games played Niederberger had a record of 35-12-2. Here's their stat pack - GAA : Subban 2.14 (1st in the OHL), Niederberger 2.34 (3rd in the OHL), SV% Malcolm .934 (1st in the OHL), Mathias .933 (2nd in the OHL), Shutouts : Subban 5 (3rd in the OHL), Niederberger 4 (4th in the OHL). Both goalies have also been outstanding in the 2013 playoffs, Malcolm Subban is coming in the reining OHL player of the Week and the Canadian Hockey League Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week for the playoff week ending April 14 with a perfect 2-0 record posting two shutouts with a goals-against-average of 0.00 and save percentage of 1.000. Subban, a 19-year-old is a first round pick of the Boston Bruins Subban has an 8-2-0-0 record so far in the 2013 OHL Playoffs and leads the league with three shutout victories along with a goals-against-average of 1.31 and save percentage of .951. Niederberger isn't far behind with a 1.87 goals against average, .948 save percentage and leading Barrie to an 8-0 record. Goaltending is an area where Coach Hawerchuck doesn't believe that home ice is that big of deal saying "A lot of goaltenders have to make a big adjustment going into Belleville to play on the large ice surface, but Mathias grew up playing on the Olympic ice in Germany and shouldn't have too much of an adjustment to make come Friday." It's far to say that both Subban and the overaged Niederberger will be at the top of their game and both will be hard to beat.
Belleville native Zach Hall hopes to return from an injury suffered in round two vs Oshawa. The former Quinte Red Devil had 81 points in 63 games played this season and was Barrie's leading scorer. An other former Red Devil and Wellington native Alex Yuill patrols the Colts blue line . Since Ryan O'Conner was suspended on March 23rd for 10 games Yuill has really picked up his game. Speaking of suspensions, Bulls Forward Carter Sandlak has been suspended for games one and two, thanks to a late fight he had with Danny Desrochers of the Sudbury Wolves in game 4 of that series. Neither injury or suspension has really slowed the Colts down "Barrie has overcome stretches where they've missed big contributors in Scheifele and Camara this season," added Burnett. "The absence of O'Connor doesn't make them any less dangerous. We'll need to be ready from the outset."
Belleville is hopeful that Scott Simmonds will he ready to return to the line up for game one after missing games three and four vs Sudbury.
With a 25.3% power play the Colts are tops in the playoffs, Belleville's number one 85.9% penalty kill will have to be as strong as it can be. Burnett thinks it will come down to execution saying that "When you have two teams that are this skilled and hard working, you know both will have their chances. It's going to be who can take advantage of those that will make the difference. We've worked hard for home ice advantage all season, and now it's time for us to make the most of it.". Captain Brendan Gaunce knows that the Bulls have a strong penalty killing unit but he and he's mates also know that they can't risk giving up power play chances saying "Keeping our head on straight is as important as it's ever been," he said. "We need to work hard during the play and be smart between the whistles in this series. I think both teams have guys who can dish out the physical game and we'll be looking to do so in a clean fashion."
This is the fourth time in history that the Bulls and Colts have met in the post season. In the 2000 playoffs a year after the Bulls won their first OHL Championship the Colts defeated Belleville four games to one in the Eastern Conference Final and went on to win the league title. In the 2002 playoffs it was Barrie winning again this time in six games in the Conference semi-finals. The last time was 2008 when the Bulls swept the Colts in the Conference semi-finals.
Prediction : Belleville in 5
Get your game face on for the Eastern Conference Finals and stop by the Bulls' Playoff Pep Rally on Friday! Beginning at 5:30pm in the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre Gymnasium, fans can enjoy free food and drinks as well as musical entertainment from "The Far Side", a local band that is known for Tragically Hip covers.
Join other Bulls fans in preparation for an epic series with the Barrie Colts and participate in games, contests and giveaways in the Quinte Sports & Wellness Centre Gymnasium!
Game time on Friday is 7:05pm. Fans attending the Pep Rally must have tickets to game one to be permitted entry. Tickets can be purchased at the Bulls Box Office between 10:00am and 5:00pm on Friday and all day Saturday. To order by phone, call 613-966-8338.
Series Schedule : Game One Friday April 19th in Belleville at 7:05, Game Two Saturday April 20th in Belleville at 7:05, Game Three Monday April 22nd in Barrie at 7:30, Game Four Wednesday April 24th in Barrie at 7:30, Game Five Friday April 26th in Belleville at 7:05, Game Six Saturday April 27th in Barrie at 7:30, Game Seven Monday April 29th in Belleville at 7:05