Despite the Soo Greyhounds being eliminated from the Ontario Hockey League playoffs, Sault Ste. Marie is still represented as the conference finals kick off tonight on one front.
As the North Bay Battalion prepare to open the Eastern Conference final on Friday night in Oshawa, Battalion forward Mike Amadio, a Sault native, has played an important role in the playoff run.
After posting career highs offensively during the regular season with 12 goals and 38 points in 64 games, Amadio has three goals and six points in 13 games.
“He’s our second-line centre and plays on our power play,” said North Bay coach Stan Butler. “Michael’s got better throughout the year. Not only is he an important guy right now but in the next two years, you’ll really see a big difference in Michael’s play.”
The Battalion advanced after defeating Niagara in seven games in the opening round and Barrie in six games in round two.
The Battalion won the season series over the Generals, who finished first in the Eastern Conference with the Battalion finishing second.
The Generals swept both of their two previous playoff series, beating Mississauga in the opening round and Peterborough in the second round.
For Butler, the veteran coach feels the length of series earlier in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily mean an advantage for one team over another.
“The two teams play a similar style and play really hard,” said Butler. “There’s an advantage to finishing series’ earlier because you’re well-rested and not as injured and there’s advantages to going longer because it allows you to deal with some different types of adversity. I don’t think it’s an advantage or disadvantage.”
Generals coach D.J. Smith, who was named OHL coach of the year on Wednesday, called the atmosphere in the dressing room a help in the success of the hockey club this season.
“A lot has to be said about the team camaraderie and how the team gets along, wanting to play and believing in each other,” said Smith about the Generals success this season. “When you have one team pulling for one goal, it’s a lot different than having four or five individual guys that are good players trying to win but make sure they’re doing their own thing. It speaks volumes to a team atmosphere that we have.”
In the Western Conference, the Guelph Storm host the Erie Otters on Thursday night in the opener of the Western Conference final series.
The Storm and Otters were the OHL’s top two teams during the regular season. The Storm finished the season atop the standings with 52 wins and 108 points, one of three teams in the Midwest to finish the season with 100 points. Meanwhile, the Otters were second in the division and third in the Western Conference with 106 points.
”It was a tough year for everybody in the west but especially the teams in our division,” said Guelph coach Scott Walker. “It was exciting to be a fan but tough on the coaches I bet. It was a lot of fun. I think the players bring the best out of each other the best of both teams. There’s a lot of work ahead but it’s going to be a really fun series for the fans and for the players.”
The Otters are coming off their best regular season in franchise history. To advance, the Otters beat the Saginaw Spirit in five games before sweeping the Greyhounds in the second round.
“If you had asked us at the beginning of the year, we had certainly aspired to (be here) but to be here, I’m not sure that was realistic,” said Otters coach Kris Knoblauch. “The players have been very hungry and eager to succeed. With all these years of losing, everyone has been wanting to turn the page and certainly the players have done an excellent job of doing that.”
CONFERENCE FINAL SCHEDLES
Eastern Conference Final – Oshawa vs. North Bay
Game 1 – Apr. 18 at Oshawa
Game 2 – Apr. 20 at Oshawa
Game 3 – Apr. 22 at North Bay
Game 4 – Apr. 23 at North Bay
Game 5 – Apr. 25 at Oshawa
Game 6 – Apr. 26 at North Bay
Game 7 –Apr. 28 at Oshawa
Western Conference Final – Guelph vs. Erie
Game 1 – Apr. 17 at Guelph
Game 2 – Apr. 18 at Guelph
Game 3 – Apr. 21 at Erie
Game 4 – Apr. 22 at Erie
Game 5 – Apr. 25 at Guelph
Game 6 – Apr. 26 at Erie
Game 7 – Apr. 28 at Guelph