Ontario Hockey League east final to open tonight with Oshawa and North Bay facing off

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Published April 26, 2024 at 12:00 pm

Oshawa-North Bay Action from earlier this season. Photo Goodall Media

The scene is set for two nearly equal junior hockey clubs to face off in the Ontario Hockey league Eastern Conference finals tonight at the Tribute Community Centre in Oshawa.

The top-seeded Oshawa Generals (40-19-9) will play #2 North Bay (39-20-9), with both teams hoping to hoist the Bobby Orr Trophy and a chance to challenge for the league title and a berth in the Memorial Cup.

The two teams split their two-game season series this year and have clashed just twice before in playoff history, with each team securing an Eastern Conference Championship victory in 2014 (North Bay) and 2015 (Oshawa).

That 2015 Generals team would go on to win the Memorial Cup that year, beating Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters in the OHL final that year and McDavid’s current Edmonton Oiler teammate Leon Draisaitl and his Kelowna Rockets in the national championship game.

Oshawa coach Derek Laxdal – the league’s Coach of the Year – is expecting an intense battle.

“Both teams added additions at the trade deadline and came out hard down the final stretch. Both teams are very structured, defend well, compete, and play hard,” Laxdal said. “Facing each other early on in October and December, you saw familiar players, but with each team now having new players, it will add excitement to the series for those on the ice and all the fans.”

Coming off an impressive 12-game winning streak to close out the regular season, the Generals charge into the Eastern Conference Final after defeating the Ottawa 67’s (4-0) and the Barrie Colts (4-2). Fuelling their success 6-foot-7 New York Rangers prospect Dylan Roobroeck, leads all playoff scorers with 16 points of the post-season scoring charts with 16 points (7-9-16) in 10 games played, while 2024 NHL Draft-eligible forward Beckett Sennecke has also shined, registering 15 points (6-9-15).

OHL Goaltender of the Year Jacob Oster has also been a rock-solid presence for Oshawa, ranking second in playoff goals-against with a 1.91 average and a .933 save percentage.

The Generals, the youngest team left in the playoffs, draw strength from their blend of young talent and seasoned veterans, all coming together win a trophy named for Oshawa’s greatest hockey alumnus.

“It’s every player’s dream to go on a long run and hopefully win a championship,” said team captain Stuart Rolofs. “We have an amazing team; we’ve come a long way and grown a lot together. I think that’s been demonstrated so far.”

On the opposing end, the North Bay Battalion continue their legacy of consistency, riding the wave of a surprising four-game series sweep over the Sudbury Wolves, after a commanding 4-1 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs in the opening round.

No stranger to the atmosphere of the playoffs, the Battalion march into the Eastern Conference finals for the third consecutive season, a feat not achieved since the 2007-2009 Belleville Bulls, and their first conference finals win since 2014.

“I haven’t spoken much on it until now, but this team has been faced with a lot of adversity given the recent circumstances, and they’ve really come together as one and powered through it as you saw in the last round,” said Battalion head coach Ryan Oulahen, a former Troops captain. “The superpower of our team is that they’ve been together for so long. It’s going to be a fun challenge moving forward.”

The Battalion will be without some key players for the series, including Winnipeg Jets prospect and former OHL Goaltender of the Year Dom DiVincentiis, and top goal-scorer Anthony Romani – both sidelined to injury. Captain Liam Arnsby is still serving a six-game misconduct and will miss the opener.

Veteran forwards Dalyn Wakely (11-4-15) and Justin Ertel (6-9-15) and rookie goaltender Mike McIvor have stepped in their absence.

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