HOME-ICE UP FOR GRABS; STORM’S FIRST ROUND TO BE TOUGH REGARDLESS OF OPPONENT

If you happened to tune into the Guelph/Kitchener game on Tuesday night, you were definitely prematurely exposed to some OHL playoff-type hockey.  A home team comeback, some very physical hockey and exceptional play from the goaltenders gave Guelph’s 3-2 win over Kitchener a real special playoff feel.

Surely one factor that contributed to giving Tuesday’s game that exciting playoff feel was the prospect the Storm could very well be headed towards a first-round matchup with their rival Rangers.

With 2 games left in the season, the Guelph sit in the same spot they’ve sat for the majority of the season – the Western Conference’s 4th seed. Sault Ste. Marie and Erie obviously occupy – and have occupied for the better part of 2014/15 – the West’s #1 and #2 seeds. After that the West looks like this.

3. London (39-24-1-3) – 82 points (1 GR)
4. Guelph (37-25-2-2) – 78 points (2 GR)
5. Owen Sound (33-24-3-7) – 75 points (2 GR)
6. Kitchener (31-24-3-7) – 72 points (3 GR)

I’ll admit, at first glance it doesn’t appear as close as I’ve built it up to be. I concede the Storm probably don’t catch the Knights. Nor will the Rangers catch up with the Storm to steal away home ice advantage in the first round. Neither of these are absolutes, but I’ll just go out there and say they’re not happening because of how unlikely it is.

The most burning question left to decide in the West’s meat of the standings is what the matchups will be – specifically, who will the Storm matchup against.

They’re either going to finish 4th, and reap the benefits of home ice advantage, or slip to 5th and face off against the Owen Sound Attack.

The game of the season for Guelph, both in general and in terms of deciding the fate of Guelph’s seeding, is this Friday’s upcoming game against the Attack. The teams square off at the Sleeman Centre and it will either, clinch home ice for the Storm (with a Storm win) or set up a 1-point difference in the standings heading into the final game of the season (with a Storm loss).

With a Guelph win on Friday, the question will transition from whether or not Guelph gets home-ice advantage, to who the Storm get matched up against.

Regardless of the matchup, Kitchener or Owen Sound, it’s going to be a tough battle.

The historic matchup between Guelph and Kitchener always makes for interesting and exciting hockey. If the game on Friday is any indication, this will not be an easy matchup for Guelph. Kitchener boast a very well-rounded lineup that will be tough to contain, and I don’t even want to get started with goaltender Jake Paterson. To do well in the playoffs, a team must have good goaltending. And there are few better than Paterson. Each of his 34 saves on Friday were brilliant, and if he continues to play well it could easily be the difference.

Owen Sound has also had great success this season, in large part from the combined efforts of a number of lower profile players. They’ve played the Storm incredibly well all season (4 of 7 games have been one-goal games, 5 if you include their last matchup where Guelph beat Owen Sound by two goals, with an empty netter). It’s hard to imagine a playoff series between the two teams that doesn’t go at least 6 games. Likely 7.

Whoever it is, Owen Sound or Kitchener, Guelph is not getting an easy first round matchup. That’s been decided already – it will be tough.

The final question becomes, will the Storm get that home-ice advantage. With there being a decent chance Guelph’s first round goes 7 games, I’d say it’s a pretty important questions.

 

Joe Krizman
In 2013, Joe graduated from Queen's University with a degree in Physical and Health Education. During his years in school, he spent his summers off working with kids at a summer camp; an experience he credits as being highly influential in shaping who he is today. Joe followed up his university degree by moving out to Calgary for the 2013/14 hockey season, where he served as the Coordinator of Player Development & Recruitment for the Western Hockey League (WHL) in their head office. Having developed a love for major junior hockey with the WHL, he is excited to be getting involved with it again this season back in his hometown of Guelph. A self-proclaimed "sports enthusiast", Joe is thrilled about getting the opportunity to share his thoughts and sports insights in a new way.