Minor League Hockey

OHL Playoff Roundup: Generals, Majors roll

By Mackenzie Liddell, Contributing Editor

Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - The opening weekend of Ontario League playoff action was a mixed bag of predictable dominance and underdog triumph.

Following Sunday's action, the Oshawa Generals and Mississauga Majors both sit one win away from advancing to the second round, but they have reached this point by taking polar-opposite paths.

The Generals came out firing in the first three games against the Kingston Frontenacs, outscoring them 22-7 and riding the hot play of OHL sniper supreme Christian Thomas.

After picking apart opposing goaltenders in the regular season, Thomas has been an unstoppable force in the playoffs as well.

He kicked the second season off with a three-assist game in Oshawa's 7-3 opener, tuned up the Frontenacs with a two-goal, four-point night in Friday's 10-1 win and chipped in another goal and an assist in Sunday's 5-4 victory.

The New York Rangers prospect leads the league in playoff scoring with nine points, three more than teammates Nicklas Jensen, Andy Adreoff and Alain Berger.

Mississauga, meanwhile, also has taken a commanding 3-0 series lead over the far inferior Belleville Bulls, but it hasn't been the cakewalk many expected.

Despite coming into the postseason as the third-ranked team in the country, the Majors had trouble putting down the lowly Bulls over the weekend.

They opened the series with a decisive 4-1 win Thursday, but struggled to fill the net the following two games, as they squeaked by 1-0 and 2-0 thanks to the solid presence of netminder J.P. Anderson and strong defensive zone play.

Goaltending was also the story for the Bulls, who shut down the Tyson Teichmann experiment after Game 1 and turned to the statistically superior Malcolm Subban to try to salvage the series.

And give the kid credit: holding the league's most potent offensive group to a pair of goals in his first taste of playoff hockey is a remarkable feat.

For the Majors' sake, they better hope this is a case of running into near- flawless netminding because similar pop-gun production won't be enough to overcome what awaits them in the second round.

UNDERDOGS WON'T LIE DOWN

After limping into the postseason as losers of seven straight games, it's not all that surprising the Kitchener Rangers dropped their first two games to the pesky Plymouth Whalers.

Despite what many might see as a colossal upset in the making, the Rangers are far from finished and battled hard against an unheralded Plymouth squad.

They pelted Whalers goaltender Scott Wedgewood with 51 shots on Friday, but still fell 6-5 thanks to third-period goals by Dario Trutmann and Tyler Brown.

The following night, in what appeared to be a perfect rebound game, the Rangers were holding a 2-0 advantage with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period and appeared to have the game locked up.

But a shorthanded goal by Tyler Brown at 13:42 followed by Mitchell Heard's tying marker just over a minute later turned the tide and set the table for Robbie Czarnik's overtime winner only 2:33 into the extra period.

Despite receiving capable goaltending from Brandon Maxwell and scoring from the big guns up front, the Ranger's complacency was their undoing in what should have been the even-up game Saturday.

With Game 3 slated for Wednesday, the Rangers have plenty of time to shake themselves of any lingering doubts or self-loathing and prepare for what should be another hard-fought, 60-minute contest at the Aud in Kitchener.

If Plymouth was a dark horse entering the playoffs, then the London Knights were a dead one already en route to the glue factory - written off from the start against Western powerhouse Owen Sound.

But the Knights showed the resiliency of a Hunter-coached team and stole Saturday's game, 5-1, despite being outshot, 53-29. This after nearly accomplishing a similar upset in the opener Friday, falling to the Attack, 3-2, in overtime after being out-gunned, 52-23.

If goalie Michael Houser keeps the wall from crumbling the rest of the way, the Knights have a realistic chance to become the first No. 8 seed to topple a No. 1 since the Toronto St. Michael's Majors stunned the Mississauga IceDogs in five games in 2004-05.

BEST OF THE REST

The Niagara IceDogs look to be on cruise control in their quarterfinal matchup against Brampton, using a combination of overpowering offense and maddening shutdown play, led by all-world goaltender Mark Visentin.

What's even more impressive about Niagara's road to the Memorial Cup is that they crushed the Battalion, 7-1, in Game 1 without the help of leading scorers Ryan Strome and Freddie Hamilton, who were held off the score sheet. In fitting fashion, Strome and Hamilton were the lone goal scorers in Sunday's 2-0 win.

Erie and Windsor put on a show over the weekend, as the Spits needed double overtime to dispose of the Otters, 4-3, on Saturday after dropping the opener, 2-1, at home.

Guelph rebounded on Sunday with an exclamation point, outclassing the higher- ranked Spirit, 6-2, in a heated, penalty-filed affair after giving up two third-period goals in a 3-2 loss on Friday in Saginaw.

Ottawa and Sudbury have faced off only once, but if the forthcoming games are anything like the first one, hockey fans are in for a treat.

Both teams put the puck in the net at will in a wide-open, last-goal wins, 8-7 overtime thriller finished off by Sudbury's Andrey Kuchin.

Kuchin and Josh Leivo both had three-goal, five-point games, and offensive catalyst Michael Sgarbossa finished with a goal and five assists. Ottawa's top guns lived up to expectations, as Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale combined for five goals and seven points in a losing effort.

03/28 15:13:38 ET


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