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Bolts in the Pipeline: CHL playoffs preview, NCAA bracket set

Playoffs!

Terry Wilson / OHL Images

I’ll be brief in my introduction today. The OHL Coaches poll results were released this week and some Lightning prospects were given recognition. Anthony Cirelli was named best defensive forward, Boris Katchouk named best penalty killer, and Erik Cernak was named best defensive defenseman. For more solid prospect coverage, go check out Bolt Prospects.

Ontario Hockey League

Matthew Spencer (D) / Christopher Paquette (F) / Jonne Tammela (F)
0G, 2A / 0G, 1A / Did Not Play
Peterborough Petes - Series vs Niagara starts Friday

March 15th: @ Ottawa 67’s
W 2-0 - No Points / 0G, 1A, +1 / Did Not Play
March 16th: vs Hamilton Bulldogs
W 4-0 - 0G, 1A / 0G, 0A, +1 / Did Not Play
March 19th: @ Oshawa Generals
L 4-2 - 0G, 1A / 0G, 0A, -2 / Did Not Play

OHL Championships: 9 (2006, 1996, 1993, 1989, 1980, 1979, 1978, 1972, 1959)
Memorial Cups: 1 (1979)
Round one opponent: Niagara IceDogs
Season head to head: 3-1
Playoffs head to head: Never met in playoffs

The Peterborough Petes have long been a middling team. Never quite the contender, never really terrible. They’ve just been...there. Since winning the OHL Championship in 2006, they’ve made the playoffs 6 out of 10 years, and made it past the first round only once. This is the year they hope to push away the past and take control of the future.

Finishing on top of the Eastern Conference, they’ll have an easy path to the conference finals, where they will most likely face off with either the division rival Oshawa Generals or the Mississauga Steelheads, the Central division winner who rose fast from a bad start and is filled with young talent. They hope that if they make it to the OHL Championship Series, the western teams will have fought hard against each other, because the best of the west finished far, far, ahead of anyone in the East.


Mitchell Stephens (F) - 0G, 2A, -1
London Knights - Series vs Windsor starts Friday

March 14th: @ Erie Otters
W 3-2 - 0G, 0A, -2
March 17th: @ Flint Firebirds
W 7-3 - 0G, 2A, +1
March 18th: @ Flint Firebirds
W 3-2 - No Points
March 19th: @ Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
L 6-4 - Did Not Play

OHL Championships: 3 (2010, 2009, 1988)
Memorial Cups: 2 (2010, 2009)
Round one opponent: Windsor Spitfires
Season head to head: 3-2-1
Playoffs head to head: 7 series wins, 2 series losses

The London Knights kick off their defense of the OHL Championship & Memorial Cup against this year’s Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires. The Knights are looking to become the first back-to-back OHL & Memorial Cup champions since the 2009 and 2010 Windsor Spitfires. The Spitfires are looking to prove they deserve their spot in the Memorial Cup tournament this year, and after a mediocre season, they have a hard fight ahead of them — and starting against London is not the way they wanted this to go.


Taylor Raddysh (F) / Anthony Cirelli (F) / Eric Cernak (D)
2G, 2A, -1 / 2G, 2A, +2 / 0G, 0A, +1
Erie Otters - Series vs Sarnia starts Friday

March 14th: vs London Knights
L 3-2 - 0G, 1A, / 1G, 0A, / 0G, 0A, -1
March 17th: vs Kitchener Rangers
W 3-2 OT - 1G, 0A, -2 / No Points / 0G, 0A, -1
March 18th: vs Guelph Storm
W 5-2 - 1G, 1A, +1 / 1G, 2A, +2 / 0G, 0A, +1

OHL Championships: 1 (2002)
Memorial Cups: 0
First round opponent: Sarnia Sting
Season head to head: 3-1
Playoffs head to head: 3 series wins

Okay, THIS is the Otters’ year to win it all. The past three seasons have been marked as “the year the Otters win it all.” You can’t blame anyone, they had Connor McDavid on the team. However, the playoffs are not their friend, and they finished each playoffs with two conference final losses (2014 - Guelph Storm, 2016 - London Knights) and one OHL Championship loss (2015 - Oshawa Generals).

THIS year however, this has to be it. Hosting a record-breaking Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, who spent the start of the season in the NHL, and the Raddysh brothers, who put up a combined 181 points (Taylor - 105 at wing, and Darren 76 on D), the Otters are primed to take on whatever the OHL Western Conference can throw at them. The competition is fierce from a late season surging Owen Sound Attack, the ever competitive London Knights, and the stealthily good Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, but the Otters are more primed and ready than ever to get a ticket to Windsor and the Memorial Cup.


Boris Katchouk (F) - 2G, 1A, +1
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds - series vs Flint starts Friday

March 15th: @ Saginaw Spirit
L 2-1 - No Points
March 17th: vs Saginaw Spirit
W 3-1 - No Points
March 19th: vs London Knights
W 6-4 - 2G, 1A, +1

OHL Championships: 3 (1992, 1991, 1985)
Memorial Cups: 1 (1993)
First round opponent: Flint Firebirds
Season head to head: 3-1-1-1
Playoffs head to head: Never met in the playoffs.

The Greyhounds, as I mentioned last week, are stealthily heading for an OHL Championship. They aren’t bursting into the talk at the end of the season like the Owen Sound Attack, they don’t have the buzz like the Erie Otters, who have Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat, and they aren’t the centre of hatred like the London Knights, but the Greyhounds have been a solidly good team all season long. Sneaking up on the OHL Championship could play exactly the way they want it.


Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Otto Somppi (F) - No Points
Halifax Mooseheads - Series vs Rouyn-Noranda starts Thursday

March 15th: vs Charlottetown Islanders
W 6-5 OT - No Points
March 17th: vs Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
L 3-2 OT - Did Not Play
March 18th: vs Saint John Sea Dogs
L 2-1 - Did Not Play

QMJHL Championships: 1 (2013)
Memorial Cups: 1 (2013)
First round opponent: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Season head to head: 0-2
Playoffs head to head: 2 series wins

The Mooseheads are currently a rebuilding team, and aren't looking to make a big impact on the playoffs this year. They’re going to face off against last year’s QMJHL champions and Memorial Cup runners-up, so it will be a battle to take the series past a sweep.


Dennis Yan (F) - 3G, 1A, +2
Shawinigan Cataractes - Series vs Val d’Or starts Friday

March 15th: vs Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
W 3-2 - 2G, 0A, +1
March 17th: vs Sherbrooke Phoenix
W 7-2 - 1G, 1A, +1
March 18th: vs Val d’Or Foreurs
L 2-1 OT - Did Not Play

QMJHL Championships: 0
Memorial Cups: 1 (2012)
First round opponent: Val d’Or Foreurs
Season head to head: 3-0-1
Playoffs head to head: 3 series losses

Shawinigan lost the QMJHL finals to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies last season and are looking to make up for the lost opportunity this season. The Cataractes won the Memorial Cup once in 2012, but they were hosts then, and now they want to prove they can win the national championship the hard way. With both the Huskies and Cataractes sitting on top of the QMJHL standings (just below Saint John) revenge should be in the cards.


Mathieu Joseph (F) / Bokondji Imama (F)
1G, 1A, +1 / 3G, 0A
Saint John Sea Dogs - Series vs Rimouski starts Friday

March 15th: @ Moncton Wildcats
W 5-0 - 1G, 1A, +1 / No Points
March 17th: @ Charlottetown Islanders
L 6-3 - Did Not Play / 2G, 0A, -1
March 18th: @ Halifax Mooseheads
W 2-1 - Did Not Play / 1G, 0A, +1

QMJHL Championships: 2 (2012, 2011)
Memorial Cups: 1 (2011)
First round opponent: Rimouski Oceanic
Season head to head: 2-0
Playoffs head to head: 1 series win

The Sea Dogs begin the playoffs in a rematch of the 2012 Presidents Cup final, and just like with that series, this one looks to be a sweep as well. The Sea Dogs have been one of the most dominant QMJHL teams this year, and are favorites to represent the east in the Memorial Cup. There will be challenges, but they lie in the semi-finals and finals. The first two rounds should be a breeze, and the former home of Sidney Crosby won’t get in the ‘Dogs way.


Western Hockey League

Brett Howden (F) - 3G, 3A, +3
Moose Jaw Warriors - Series vs Swift Current starts Friday

March 14th: vs Prince Albert Raiders
L 3-2 OT - 0G, 1A, +1
March 15th: vs Brandon Wheat Kings
L 3-1 - No Points
March 16th: @ Swift Current Broncos
L 2-1 - 0G, 0A, -1
March 18th: vs Swift Current Broncos
W 10-5 - 3G, 2A, +3

WHL Championships: 0
Memorial Cups: 0
First round opponent: Swift Current Broncos
Season head to head: 3-1
Playoffs head to head: 2 series wins, 1 series loss

The Moose Jaw Warriors have a hard and long road ahead of them. First are the Swift Current Broncos. The Warriors won the seasons series, but the finish between these two teams was very close. If they get to round two, they’ll have to take on the juggernaut Regina Pats. The odds aren’t in the Warriors’ favor for a trip to the finals this year, but upsets do happen...


Libor Hajek (D) -0G, 0A, -1
Saskatoon Blades - Season Over

March 14th: @ Regina Pats
L 5-4 - No Points
March 17th: vs Prince Albert Raiders
W 5-3 - 0G, 0A, +1
March 18th: @ Prince Albert Raiders
L 5-1 - 0G, 0A, -2

WHL Championships: 0
Memorial Cups: 0
The Saskatoon Blades were below the wild card spots all season, never moving much, and couldn’t make that jump into the playoffs. They finished five points behind the Calgary Hitmen for the right to be destroyed by Regina in the first round. I suppose they saved themselves some embarrassment.

Not all is not over for Libor though, he’s signed a contract and will now report to the Syracuse Crunch!


Connor Ingram (G) - 35sv, 38sh, .921sv%
Kamloops Blazers - Series vs Kelowna starts Friday

March 17th: vs Prince George Cougars
L 3-1 - 35sv, 38sh, .921sv%
March 18th: @ Prince George Cougars
W 2-1 SO - Did Not Play

WHL Championships: 6 (1995, 1994, 1992, 1990, 1986, 1984)
Memorial Cups: 3 (1995, 1994, 1992)
First round opponent: Kelowna Rockets
Season head to head: 6-3-0-1
Playoffs head to head: 2 series wins, 3 series losses

The Kamloops Blazers had a very good season, and are looking to build off of Ingram’s excellent goaltending to push their way back into the WHL finals. Just over 20 years without a championship, fans are pining for the early 90’s dynasty team and a hard fought, exciting series vs Kelowna can give the Blazers’ fans their hope back.


NCAA

Ryan Zuhlsdorf (D) - 0G, 0A, -1
U. Minnesota Golden Gophers

W 2-1
March 18th: vs Penn State
L 4-3 2OT - 0G, 0A, -1

The Gophers lost in double overtime to Penn State, BIG 10 hockey champions. They did get a berth in the NCAA Frozen Four bracket, so in round one they’ll take on Notre Dame, and if they win that game they’ll play either Cornell or U-Mass Lowell for a shot at the final four.


Johnathan MacLeod (D) -No Points
Boston U. Terriers

March 17th: vs Boston University
L 3-2 - No Points

The Terriers didn’t win Hockey East — that was U-Mass Lowell — but they will be playing again. They’re matched up with North Dakota in the first round of the NCAA playoffs, and will face either Ohio State or Minnesota-Duluth in round two.


Ross Colton (F)
U. Vermont Catamounts

The Catamounts were eliminated in round two in Hockey East playoffs.


Ryan Lohin (F) - 1G, 2A, +3
U. Mass-Lowell River Hawks

March 17th: vs Notre Dame
W 5-1 - 1G, 2A, +3
March 18th: Hockey East Final
W 4-3 - No Points

Ryan Lohin, 2017 Hockey East Champion. One banner down for the River Hawks, and one to go. Cornell gets the honor of facing off against champions in round one, and we could see a meeting of prospects if Minnesota makes it past Notre Dame.


Kris Oldham (G)
U. Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks

Eliminated in round one in NCHC playoffs.


Playoffs are here, and it’s wonderful.

Go Baby Bolts!