The year truly is winding down. A great season of OHL hockey has lead to this; a meeting of the first place teams in each Conference. For Niagara, their representation in the final comes as no surprise. They were pegged as one of the teams to beat this season. For London, it's probably a bit of a surprise (in terms of preseason predictions). Kudos to the Knights for continuing to win despite a carousel of younger players each season.
After going 1-1 in the Conference finals, my postseason prediction record sits at 9-5. Let's see if I can hit double digits on the prediction win column.
1. Niagara IceDogs vs. 1. London Knights
Season Series: 1-1 TIE
My Analysis: What a match up this should be. Two incredibly evenly matched clubs doing battle for the Championship. Niagara is definitely the more veteran laden team. While many of the team's players have never been quite this far in the playoffs...they are an older team who relies heavily on its overage threesome of Friesen, Agozzino, and Pacan. And Mark Visentin is no stranger to pressure situations after the past two WJC's. Defensively, these clubs match up incredibly well and are pretty damn even IMO. I think Niagara's defenseman move the puck a bit better, but London probably gets the edge in physicality and overall defensive stingyness. Goaltending is probably a bit of a wash. While Visentin is obviously talented and an NHL first rounder, Michael Houser is the reigning Red Tilson Trophy winner for a reason. The series will no doubt come down to two things IMO. 1. Can the younger forwards on London's roster come up huge against Niagara's stingy and physical forward group (in terms of match-ups)? 2. Can both of these teams channel their physical aggressiveness and energy in a positive way and stay out of the box? This one should be real close, but I'm liking Niagara's veteran forward group to seal the deal.
Prediction: Niagara in 7