BARRIE, ONT. --- The Barrie Colts showed yet again why they’re the No. 1 ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League on Wednesday night by beating the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors 4-2.
The victory earned the Colts the Bobby Orr Trophy as the Eastern Conference champions and a berth in the OHL championship.
“Full marks to Barrie, they’re a real good hockey club with lots of depth,” said Majors head coach and GM Dave Cameron. “Hats off to them. The difference in the series was that we weren’t able to establish our forecheck, I thought their [defence] was very mobile, very agile.”
Captain Stefan Della Rovere led the charge with two goals to oust the Majors in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference final 4-1. Alex Hutchings and Luke Pither also scored for the Colts, while goaltender Mavric Parks made 20 saves for his seventh win of the playoffs.
“[Della Rovere’]) just stepped up and has just been a force down low in the corners and he gave their defence some tough times,” said Colts head coach Marty Williamson. “He scored big goals for us, so you just can’t say enough about his leadership and we’ve come to expect that from him, but again, when you see us lose a game – how he really did elevate his game – and that’s just true leadership.”
The Colts are the first team to advance to the OHL final and will wait to face the winner of the Western Conference final between the Kitchener Rangers and the defending Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires. The Rangers lead their best-of-seven series 3-1 with Game 5 Thursday in Windsor.
“We’re looking at starting [the final] Tuesday or Wednesday next week and hopefully they go to seven games with tons of overtimes,” said Williamson, adding that his club welcomes the extra rest.
Devante Smith-Pelley and Casey Cizikas replied for the Majors who are the only team thus far in the playoffs to have beaten the Colts (12-1).
Cameron pulled starter JP Anderson after the first period which saw the Majors shell-shocked by the Colts, who out-shot their visitors 17-3 to take a 3-0 lead into the intermission. Anderson finished the game with 14 saves. Della Rovere, a seventh-round pick of the Washington Capitals, corralled the puck behind the Majors net and fending off Mississauga winger Kelly Geoffrey before curling around and beating Anderson with a wrist shot open the scoring just over 10 minutes into the period.
The Colts followed with another goal just over a minute later Hutchings tipped teammate Dalton Prout’s shot from the blue line past Anderson at the 11:45 mark of the first period to take a 2-0 lead. Della Rovere scored again for good measure with 3:41 left in the period when Anderson gave up a big rebound with the left-winger hovering beside the net.
“That hockey club is very explosive,” Cameron said. “Once they got the emotion and the crowd into it with a couple of quick goals then I think for the last 10 minutes [of the period] we were back on our heels.”
Cameron then brought in Atlanta Thrasher’s prospect Chris Carrozzi and the all-star shut the door on the Colts in the second period allowing the Majors to regroup as Smith-Pelley benefited from a strange bounce as Parks went behind the net to play the puck. The Majors leading scorer in the playoffs made no mistake, putting the puck in the net while Parks was left out of position. Cizikas scored with 55 seconds left in the second to cut the deficit yet again on a mad scramble in front of Parks.
The Majors had their best chance to tie it up early in the third period with Barrie’s Kyle Clifford in the box. On the power play, Majors defenceman Cameron Gaunce fired the puck from the blue line only to have it rattle off the left post of the Barrie net. Once the penalty was killed, the Colts went back on the attack as Pither slide the puck through Carrozzi’s five-hole for his eighth goal of the playoffs at 4:26 of the third period.