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Guelph puts London in 3-1 hole, Colts score six unanswered: OHL post-game questions

Winnipeg Jets pick Scott Kosmachuk and Minnesota Wild singing Zack Mitchell each potted a pair, and Guelph has Memorial Cup host London one loss away from a long respite before the tournament. Meantime, Barrie's power play went from drought to deluge in a series-tying win over North Bay and Oshawa ousted Peterborough. On to the post-game questions!

Western Conference

Guelph 6 London 3 (Storm lead 3-1 and host Game 5 on Friday) — What potential pratfall should Guelph be mindful ahead of Friday's first chance to clinch? The Storm's defensive work in front of Justin Nichols (36 saves) has been about 2.3 times better during these past two games in London than it was in the first leg of the series at the Sleeman Centre. There is that old notion that sometimes it is easier to buckle down on the road, and Guelph kept the goalmouth largely clear and cut off many of London's patented penetrating passes.

Nichols was also sharp, preserving a 2-1 lead through 40 with a pad save to squelch a picturesque Bo Horvat-Mitchell Marner-Josh Anderson tic-tac-toe passing play. Guelph fed off that bailout save. Starting the third period, Mitchell buried the 3-1 goal on the power play on the first shot of the frame. By the time Mitchell scored a short-hander three minutes later for a 4-1 bulge, London coach Dale Hunter had already started coaching for Friday night. Hunter had his fourth-liners on to start that power play, just to send a message.

What play might have epitomized how rough a series this has been for London's defence? That Mitchell goal 29 seconds into the third. Alex Basso, London's only healthy overage, was stunned by being struck on the hand by Steven Trojanovic's rising point shot, dropping his glove and stick. That left no one to tie up Mitchell as he fired in a backbreaking goal.

By no means should anyone start crowing about London having a long layoff. It came back from a 3-1 series deficit in the league final against Barrie last season. It has, however, been outplayed in 3-of-4 third periods and star forward Max Domi is playing hurt, according to eyewitnesses. Its back is pressed much harder against the wall this time compared to last year vs. the Colts.

What will be the party line in London if the Storm finish the job? That after winning the last two OHL titles, the Knights' only goal was to win that tournament in May. Feign amnesia about anything that was said in 2012 after it lost the Cup final in overtime to Shawinigan, which lost in the second round of the playoffs.

Eastern Conference

Barrie 7 North Bay 4 (tied 2-2, Battalion host Game 5 on Friday) — Will Daniel Gibl get the call on Friday after his 23-for-23 relief effort? You have to be Mr. Controversy, eh, asking about the Colts goaltending after it broke through North Bay's trap and rolled a seven? The 18-year-old Gibl was sent in after Colts rookie Mackenzie Blackwood was beaten four times on seven shots across the first 25 minutes to put Barrie in a 4-1 hole. Gibl came in cold and promptly made a big save in his first few seconds on the ice, and then the Colts took advantage of a string of Battalion penalities, as its hitherto 0-for-16 power play went 4-for-10 with Brendan Lemieux potting a hat trick.

Anecdotal evidence isn't a strong enough case to go away from The Guy, though, so one would expect Blackwood to get the call Friday even though he's been lifted twice in the series. The change might have been a comment on the Colts' overall play.

"We hung him out to dry," Colts defenceman Liam Maaskant told Rogers TV Barrie. "I apologized to Blackie for that."

The Colts won 2-of-3 times in the regular season when Gibl was starting for the second consecutive day. The Slovak also had a 32-save shutout at North Bay's Memorial Gardens in November.

What could be more uncharacteristic than a Stan Butler team giving up six unanswered goals after getting up 4-1? No Eastern Conference team scored seven goals in a game against the Battalion all season. Only the Western Conference's big three of Erie, Guelph and London scored more than a six-pack. The Battalion was playing with house money after scoring three goals in 3:05 of the first, including a nice dangle by draft eligible Mike Amadio. Sophomore Kyle Wood re-opened a three-goal spread 5:22 into the second.

Many a team throws in the towel rather than fight through the Battalion trap over the years. Instead, Lemieux scored consecutively 3:17 apart and Maaskant scored through a screen to level at 4-4. At that point, the Colts were much more vital than the Battalion, and third period was catered to them.

"It kind of reminded me of last year and the comebacks we had [while winning the Eastern Conference]," Lemieux said. "We just have to keep pushing ... we've had a bit of a flu bug going around the room. You don't want to give away too much [information], but it's not an easy thing to go through, especially on game day. A bunch of guys have been battling through and we might be past it."

Oshawa 5 Peterborough 2 (Generals sweep 4-0)Well, has Oshawa had enough of a challenge from the first two rounds? That question will dog every top Eastern seed until someone from that half of the league hoists the J. Ross Robertson Cup. The 'Shwa, which got two third-period insurance markers from Bradley Latour, is the third Eastern team to go 8-0 through the first two rounds. Neither the 2010 Barrie Colts or '11 Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors, obviously, ended up winning the league.

Concomitantly, it's not like Oshawa can win in three, as the old saying goes. It tightened up its play considered, giving up only three goals in this round after Mississauga punched nine pucks by Daniel Altshuller (1.50 average, .939 save pct.) in the final three games of the opening-round tilt. Somewhat like Erie, it seems to have learned some lessons, with the caveat being that the Petes were a depleted outfit that wasn't among the top 10 teams in regular-season goals.

Overall, Oshawa has done the requisite amount of work to get by, with Michael Dal Colle (16 points in eight games), Cole Cassels (13) and Hunter Smith (11) doing the scoring while teams concentrate on containing No. 1 centre Scott Laughton (seven in six contests; he'll miss Game 1 of the Eastern final due to his butt-ending suspension).

What is the upside for the Petes, who bid adieu to Andrew D'Agostini, Nelson Armstrong and Clark Seymour? The OHL's oldest continuously operating franchise set a team record by only scoring three goals in the series, but after three years of early springs, any playoff record counts as a positive. Peterborough has improved across the second half in each of the past two seasons under the Jody Hull/Mike Oke coach-GM tandem. It will have a decent returning corps with forwards Hunter Garlent, Nick Ritchie and Jonatan Tanus moving into their 19-year-old seasons, while potential high NHL pick Eric Cornel heads up next season's 18-year-old cohort.

First-rounder Matt Spencer lived up to his billing by becoming a top-four defender by crunch time. The Petes' priority selection draft was also hailed as one of the league's strongest, so re-stocking should not be daunting. Getting to the second round definitely improved the Petes' puck cred.

Take a few minutes to appreciate D'Agostini's impact on the Petes' first substantial playoff run in eight years.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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