When Dale Hunter talked about the Barrie Colts during Wednesday’s media call previewing the Ontario Hockey League final series, he noted they were “kind of built like us.”
Not many people will argue that notion.
Both teams boast fairly balanced lineups filled with immense skill up front and reliable defencemen and hot goalies on the backend. Overall, the Knights are likely deeper, but the Colts probably have better special teams units.
Hunter’s captain, Scott Harrington, thinks the ace up London’s sleeve is its edge in the familiarity department.
“We’ve got some experience from last year — guys that went through this and made it this far, and are used to playing hockey this late in the season,” said the 20-year-old blueliner. “We’ll be leaning on those guys to help the new guys out.”
A guy to lean on, Knights utility man Tyler Ferry, concurs.
“The guys are a lot calmer,” he said, comparing the general feeling going into this year’s final to last year’s. “Even against Plymouth (last round), they were bobbling pucks in the first game (when we weren’t).”
London hoisted the J. Ross Robertson Cup on May 11 last year, following a Game 5 victory over the Niagara IceDogs.
The Colts swept both Kingston and Oshawa, and then took down Belleville in seven games, to win the east this time around. The 2013 OHL final series kicks off Friday at Budweiser Gardens.
The juggernaut Knights are relatively new territory to Barrie, with the squads finishing its two-game season series Nov. 30. The Knights won both.
“We have to clean up our D zone … to limit their scoring opportunities,” Colts captain Ryan O’Connor said, picking a key to victory.
Expect a coaching chess match, too, since Hunter, for one, is a devoted line-matcher who rarely strays from his plan. Barrie bench boss Dale Hawerchuk doesn’t shy away from head games either, something O’Connor emphasizes.
“We’ve identified their top players and (who will be) out there on the ice (against them),” he said, talking specifically about London’s Max Domi-Alex Broadhurst-Chris Tierney line.
Let the games begin.
Battle of non-Canadians between the pipes
- German Mathias Neiderberger (Barrie) — 12-3 record, .940 save percentage, 2.08 goals-against average
- American Anthony Stolarz (London) — 12-1-1 record, .935 save percentage, 2.26 goals-against average