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Battalion, Storm and IceDogs down to last leg: OHL post-game questions

Buzzing The Net

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Sudbury's 17-year-old Dominik Kubalik has 3 game-winning goals in the playoffs (Claus Andersen, Getty Images)

Kitchener's John Gibson and Oshawa's Scott Laughton did the heavy lifting to get their teams into 3-1 series lead, the Battalion are on the brink of playing their final game in Brampton while classy veteran Gregg Sutch said goodbye to junior. On with the post-game questions, after a needed night's sleep.

Western Conference

Kitchener 2 Guelph 1 (Rangers lead 3-1) — What chances should the Storm be given of winning Game 5 on Rangers' ice on Friday? Ask Gibson. A 1.51 average and .965 save percentage? Is it 1998?

Teams sometimes tend to be too cute and clever by have against a goalie who's so dialled in. The Storm

From Tony Saxon (@SaxonOnTheStorm):

“He might be (in our head), but we’re shooting and we’re going hard to the net,” Storm coach Scott Walker said. “After the second period it was 16-6 on chances. I think we’re trying so hard to score, I’d rather we just shoot the puck and get rebounds.

“It’s stressful. But we can’t win the series tomorrow; we can’t tie the series tomorrow. All we can do is try to win a game and force another one,” Walker said. (Guelph Mercury)

A chance to clinch at home Friday night at the Aud seems almost too good to be true for the Blueshirts. What's one potential Achilles heel that could get in the way of wrapping up early or drag into the second round? Penalties.

From Josh Brown (@BrownRecord):

... the club gave the Storm five power play chances. Guelph has had the man advantage 15 times in the past two affairs.

“We’re taking soft penalties,” said [Rangers coach-GM Steve] Spott. “Thankfully our goaltender and penalty killers were up to the challenge.” (Waterloo Record)

Too many penalty kills can have the same effect on a hot goalie that gophers can have a golf course.

London 6 Saginaw 2 (Knights win 4-0) — Who is the disappointed overage one should empathize with? Spirit winger Gregg Sutch has been an exemplar of perseverance. The 21-year-old Newmarket, Ont., native, as you know, has been a role model for hearing-impaired athletes everywhere. He also spent a month in overage purgatory when the Barrie Colts dragged their heels on trading him so he could just go and play. Sutch's capacity to bear all that should linger longer than the memory of a series that was a cakewalk for London, save for the double-OT drama in Game 2 last Sunday.

Eastern Conference

Sudbury 5 Brampton 4 (Wolves lead 3-1) — What's helped Sudbury wrest control of the series? It's only be a slim margin, but the Wolves might be getting more contributions from up and down the lineup. Twelve players have counted a point through the first four games compared to 10 Battalion; Wolves tough guy Chad Thibodeau was an unlikely goal scorer in Game 4. Sudbury's chances of advancing shoot up when that's combined with the fact goalie Franky Palazzese is settling in, while Battalion starter Matej Machovsky got quick-hooked after giving three first-period goals for the second time in the series.

Is it over on Friday? The Battalion's three-goal comeback indicated it might not have started to mentally tank the series. But Brampton is probably wearing the hair shirt with 'no killer instinct' woven into it. It only came alive in games 2 and 4 after the Wolves went up by a three-spot. It also left Game 3 out there for the taking despite a 3:1 edge in shots on goal.

Oshawa 4 Niagara 1 (Generals lead 3-1) — Do the Gens wrap it up on Friday? Click through the prior link to the TV Cogeco Niagara highlights and look at how much time Laughton and Boone Jenner had on the 2-on-1 rush to score a short-handed goal on Thursday. That might be your answer. The IceDogs have had to lean heavily on the holdovers from their 2012 team such as Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie, Steven Shipley and New York Islanders-drafted D-man Jesse Graham. The strain is starting to show.

Ironically, the first of Laughton's double was the first Generals specialty goal all series, since their power play is 0-for-20. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect has six goals and 11 points in four games; Niagara hasn't been able to stymie him.

“He is a big-time player and it would have been nice if the NHL had kept him,” IceDogs coach-GM Marty Williamson told the St. Catharines Standard. “He plays very well against different guys and he is on a roll right now.”

What positives will Niagara take out of this series? Niagara has represented itself well, considering its circumstances as a rebuilding team which couldn't move out all its graduating assets in a "weird year" due to the big-league lockout. There's a circle of junior hockey life thing going on with the kid line of 17-year-old centre Carter Verhaeghe, 16-year-old left wing Brendan Perlini (the main return in January's trade that sent Islanders pick Mitchell Theoret north to Barrie) and 17-year-old right wing Anthony DiFruscia. That's the nucleus for when Niagara gets back in the Eastern Conference hunt, if not until 2014-15.

“We’re watching guys evolve right in front of us since the end of the season and the playoffs,” Williamson told The Standard.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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