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After a very emotional, tough series against the Oshawa Generals, the Niagara Icedogs now face the Brampton Battalion in the OHL's Eastern Conference semi-finals, a rematch of last year's first round series which the Icedogs swept in four straight.
Just to recap, your humble blogger nailed the Icedogs record at 24-5 from the trade deadline to the end of the regular season (that happened), then proceeded to predict a 6 game Niagara series victory over Oshawa (bingo!).
Let's look at the two teams for a moment. The Battalion are an extremely well-coached, disciplined, talented hockey club. You don't sweep the Sudbury Wolves in 4 straight without having something very good going on. They added some much need scoring punch after last season, their defence is still relatively young but deep and a year older, their goaltending is very good and they are the type of team that makes you earn everything, as they just don't make a lot of mistakes. They also may be peaking at just the right time, and there is not a better, more respected coach in the league than Stan Butler.
But the Icedogs, I think, learned from their series with Oshawa. They had a pretty good scare put into them by the Generals, and the dream of an OHL championship was in serious jeopardy when the series was tied at two games apiece. But in the end, they found a way to win.
This next series will lack a lot of the emotion of the Oshawa series for many reasons, there's not as much hatred, more of a mutual respect between the two clubs. The Niagara power play in all likelihood won't have that many opportunities against the Troops, but will again be key, and there is not a better power play, or penalty kill for that matter, in the Ontario Hockey League.
So as much as it pains me to say this, because I really like the Brampton Battalion, and the Icedogs from time to time have nights where not a lot of things go right or they face a goalie who stands on his head, as much as I think Brampton would have beaten Ottawa had they met in the semi finals, as much as I think just about every game is going to be close, I also think.........
NIAGARA IN 4
By the way, I was 6-0 last round in picking teams, the stupid coin I used on two series was 1-1 (it missed on the Saginaw/Sarnia series)
Elsewhere, first in the East, Ottawa in 7 over Barrie....
The loss of Tanner Pearson for the Colts could be the difference.
In the West, the Plymouth Whalers woke up after going down 2-0 to Guelph, and roared back with 4 straight wins, I'll take them in 5 over Kitchener, and in the other semi, I'll go with London beating Saginaw in 5, leading to the inevitable Knights/Whalers West final, to go along with the 67's/ Icedogs matchup in the East.
The streak is on the line.....
Don't forget, all Icedogs playoff games can be heard on LSNRADIO.COM and GIANTFM.COM