Who will win the Ontario Hockey League final?
Ask any Barrie Colts fan and they’ll tell you that it doesn’t take much to get fired up for a series against the London Knights.
Maybe it’s their recent success, or the casual arrogance that goes with it, but I think every team in the OHL would claim some sort of bitter rivalry with the Knights.
Fans in Barrie are already upset about London’s selfish bid for the Memorial Cup next year. Didn’t you guys just host it a few years ago? Have you not heard of a thing called sharing?
But don’t worry, that will just make beating the Knights even sweeter. So, here’s why the J. Ross Robertson Cup will be enjoying life along the sandy shores of Kempenfelt Bay this summer.
1) Mark Scheifele: The Winnipeg Jets prospect was sent back to junior to win a title. And he’s played with that sense of motivation all year. Look for him to be the best player in the series.
2) Coaching: Dale Hawerchuk is worshipped by his players, and they will do anything for their bench boss.
3) Adversity: Bad calls and a bunch of suspensions these playoffs have the Colts playing with a chip on their collective shoulder. They have something to prove, and a hunger that will only be satisfied by an OHL title.
It’s certainly going to be a battle. But by the end of it, the damage inflicted on the Knights by this determined Colts squad will make Dylan Hunter’s black eye look like a paper cut.
Mike Speers is associate managing editor of night production for Metro News Canada, and a proud resident of Barrie.
As early as training camp, pundits considered the London Knights to be the odds-on favourite to capture the 2013 OHL title, to repeat its successes from the 2011-12 campaign.
Then, they went on a two-month, 24-game winning streak to close out the calendar year. By mid-March, the Knights had finished the regular season with a better record than the other 19 teams in the OHL.
And to get through three rounds in the post-season, they’ve needed just 14 games.
Looks like things have gone as planned, eh?
Anyway, here’s London’s x-factors versus the Barrie Colts.
1) Scott Harrington: I see your Mark Scheifele and raise you one better, Mr. Scott Harrington. The Knights captain may not be as far along in the Pittsburgh Penguins system as Scheifele is in Winnipeg’s, but he’s a more impactful player right now. In fact, many would argue he is currently the benchmark for shutdown defencemen in junior hockey.
2) Clutch scoring: A pair of Knights forwards, Max Domi and Chris Tierney, have a combined seven game-winning goals this post-season. They don’t appear to be done.
3) Three-trip potential: If London wins this series and is awarded the 2014 Memorial Cup — two very real possibilities — they will be in line to compete in three straight national championships.
Last May, the Knights lost the Memorial Cup final in overtime to the Shawinigan Cataractes. They literally couldn’t have gone any further without winning.
How’s that for having a chip on your shoulder?
John Matisz is a digital reporter for Metro London. He typically covers the London Knights objectively but pushed that aside for this column.