Colts veterans (from left) Ryan O'Connor, Zach Hall, Mark Scheifele and Steven Beyers celebrate a goal (OHL Im …
Barrie 6 London 4, ENG (Colts lead final 3-1, Game 5 Friday at London) — What's gone wrong for London? The Colts have been opportunistic and London's defence corps, despite having three world junior-calibre rearguards with Pittsburgh Penguins prospects Scott Harrington and Olli Määttä and Russian rookie Nikita Zadorov (who likely has a WJC in his future), seems to be in a shambles. (Their midseason add on the blueline, 19-year-old Justin Sefton, hasn't been playing much.) Throw in some shakiness from Anthony Stolarz that is part and parcel of the high-ceiling goalie having only a half-season of OHL experience. Give Barrie coach Dale Hawerchuk his due for having a the right supporting cast around Scheifele and their headliners and it makes sense how the Colts could be up 3-1, when seven days ago the best-case scenario seemed to be that they might push London to a Game 6 or 7.
"We still have a lot of confidence," Harrington said. "We played two good periods to start the game. The momentum switched the other way, they got a couple lucky bounces, I think we actually put one into our own net. We still have a lot of confidence and a lot of character in our room. We know this series isn't even close to finished."
London has been scored on in the first minute of three of the last six periods.
"The early period goals, the one in the first period was just a lucky bounce," Harrington said. "The one in the third period, we put in our own net. I don't think it has anything to do with the start of the period."
The Knights do have pesky Matt Rupert in the lineup. Barrie could also be contending with ailments to a pair of top-6 forwards; second-liner Mitchell Theoret was sidelined Wednesday, while Zach Hall left the game with an injury. Then again, everyone is playing hurt to some degree.
When did Stolarz (five goals on 25 shots) or Mathias Niederberger (four goals on 33) indicate he was about to settle down for crunch time? Neither netminder will want a copy of the DVD, except for instructional purposes. The 6-foot-6 Stolarz, whom the Philadelphia Flyers chanced a second-rounder on last June, is still something of a project and could be something to behold next season as the 19-year-old No. 1 'tender on a potential Memorial Cup host club. In the here and now, where playoff goaltending is about stopping the quintessential Next One, he's struggling. The game turned on that seven-minute, 21-sec. stretch in the third when the Colts outscored 4-1 to go ahead for good.
London's backup, Jake Patterson, has only played 36 minutes in the past seven weeks. The 18-year-old did split starts while Stolarz was acclimatizing to the OHL after leaving the University of Nebraska-Omaha. It might be at the dance-with-who-brung-ya stage.
"We always evaluate after every game," Knights coach Dale Hunter said.
Amid that glut of goals, Niederberger did make a flashy glove save to take away a dangerous-looking London opportunity. Maybe that was where he indictated I got this.
"He kept it at 3-1 to give us a chance in the third," Hawerchuk said.
What seems to be the series' unremarked upon storyline? Probably the struggles of London's Max Domi (two assists, -4 through four games), Alex Broadhurst (1G-2A, -3) and Chris Tierney (1A, -3). That trio formed London's production line in the Western Conference portion of the playoffs but seems overdue for a big game.
Hey, Sportsnet is carrying Friday's game. Domi had five points two weeks ago when the Knights were on national TV. Players of his calibre don't stay silent forever.
Hunter's comments about diving notwithstanding, Barrie is still full value for the 3-1 series lead? The Colts' 4-2 Game 1, at least at the time, looked half and half Barrie being good and London being flat after having six days off between rounds. In hindsight, it looks more auspicious. The Colts have been able to summon the energy to create chances at those peak times of the game, plus they seem to be able to keep the small distractions — such as Theoret's absence — from derailing them. It's not surprising, then, that after they worked to tie the game early in the third, they were barely fazed when they fell behind for a second time on a redirect goal by Ryan Rupert 3:09 into third. Just 1:14 later, Scheifele knotted the game.
"We have so much confidence in our team," Scheifele said. "We had no panic. We came out each shift and got pucks to the net and drove to the net. We still had that desperation and determination to win the game."
All that being said, the Colts likely need a perfect road game to finish London off Friday.
Barrie still needs to get the fourth win, of course, but how strange does it seem now that Dale Hawerchuk was not one of the six finalists for OHL coach of the year? 'Tis true, although at least one dunderhead thought he merited consideration.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.
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