Defense will be on display in the Eastern Conference championship series between Oshawa and North Bay.
The Generals (187 goals against) and Battalion (189) ranked second and third, respectively, in the regular season – behind the Erie Otters (170). They have been equally stingy in the playoffs, with the Generals allowing 13 goals in a pair of four-game sweeps over Mississauga and Peterborough, and the Battalion – one of the league’s top defensive teams every year under head coach Stan Butler – surrendering 28 goals in 13 games.
“It’s two tough teams with two defensive backgrounds,” Generals D Josh Brown said. “It should be a tough series.”
Yet the spotlight should be on Battalion G Jake Smith, who has been solid throughout the postseason but enters this series overshadowed by Oshawa G Daniel Altshuller, who has been arguably the best at this position in the playoffs.
“He’s made the big saves when we’ve needed him to,” Butler said of Smith.
The Generals had an easy road to this round, as they have won all eight games so far. North Bay needed to rally from a 3-1 series deficit against Niagara in the first round, and survive a six-game series with Barrie, to reach this point. Butler doesn’t believe neither the well-rested Generals or battle-tested Battalion has an advantage.
Eastern Conference finals (best-of-7 series)
No. 1 Oshawa Generals vs. No. 2 North Bay Battalion
Season records: Oshawa 42-20-0-6, North Bay 38-24-4-2
Season series: Tied 2-2
Playoff recap: Oshawa def. No. 8 Mississauga 4 games to 0 in quarterfinals, def. No. 6 Peterborough 4-0 in semifinals; North Bay def. No. 7 Niagara 4-3 in quarterfinals, def. No. 4 Barrie 4-2 in semifinals
Players to watch
Oshawa – LW Michael Dal Colle (5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points), G Daniel Altshuller (8-0-0 record, 1.50 goals-against average, .939 save percentage, 3 shutouts), C Cole Cassels (6-7-13), RW Hunter Smith (3-8-11), C Josh Sterk (5-4-9), C Scott Laughton (3-4-7); North Bay – G Jake Smith (8-5-0, 2.08, .916, 2 shutouts), RW Barclay Goodrow (6-6-12), C Nick Paul (7-2-9), RW Alan Henriksson (6-2-8), LW Ben Thomson (4-4-8), D Brenden Miller (1-6-7, plus-5)
Fast facts: The Generals are the only team without a loss in the playoffs. … Laughton rejoins Oshawa’s lineup after serving a three-game suspension stemming from a match penalty for butt-ending in Game 1 against Peterborough. … Altshuller leads the league in GAA, save percentage and shutouts, and is tied atop the wins list with Smith and Otters G Devin Williams. … The Battalion overcame a 3-1 series deficit against Niagara and squandering a two-game lead against Barrie. … Each team won at home and on the road in the season series. … Dal Colle (tied for second) and Cassels (tied for eighth) rank among the league’s top 10 in playoff scoring. … Goodrow (tied for 12th) is the Battalion’s only player among the top 20. …
Outlook: The Battalion were one loss away from losing in the first round, and battled Barrie in a six-game series. They won’t have enough left for the Generals, who have cruised through the playoffs by outscoring opponents 32-13 in eight games.
Prediction: Generals in 5 games
Overall record - Oshawa 8-0-0, North Bay 8-5-0
Home record - Oshawa 4-0-0, North Bay 6-1-0
Road record - Oshawa 4-0-0, North Bay 2-4-0
Goals scored - Oshawa 32 (4 per game), North Bay 37 (2.8 per game)
Goals against - Oshawa 13 (1.6 per game), North Bay 28 (2.1 per game)
Power play - Oshawa 30.2 pct., North Bay 12.3 pct.
Penalty kill - Oshawa 83.8 pct., North Bay 91.5 pct.
Game 1 – Friday at Oshawa, 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 – Sunday at Oshawa, 6:05 p.m.
Game 3 – Tuesday at North Bay, 7 p.m.
Game 4 – April 23 at North Bay, 7 p.m.
Game 5 – April 25 at Oshawa, 7:05 p.m.*
Game 6 – April 26 at North Bay, 7 p.m.*
Game 7 – April 28 at Oshawa, 7:05 p.m.*
* If necessary