#2 Oakville Blades vs #7 North York Rangers
Game 1: North York (1) @ Oakville (2)
Game 2: Oakville (3) @ North York (2)
Game 3: North York (1) @ Oakville (3)
Game 4: Oakville (4) @ North York (5) (2OT)
Game 5: North York (3) @ Oakville (5)
Blades win series in five games
How it went down:
In the series preview, this author wrote that the Blades were the heavy favourite if two things happened: “one, that Brendan McGlynn at least matches Jeremie Lintner in net; and two, if the supremely deep and talented Oakville forward corps can at least match the intensity of the plucky Rangers.”
Well, check, and check.
The 19-year-old McGlynn was excellent overall, posting a .934 save percentage, and at the very least matched Lintner in the North York net. Don’t let the numbers fool you on the latter though; Jeremie was absolutely sensational for the Rangers, That McGlynn was what Oakville needed him to be (and was more in a Game 1 that he stole) is a good sign, but the fact that the Blades’ defensive structure was, for the most part outstanding in front of him, means that the staff can feel very good heading into Round 2.
In as much as the goalie battle was a win for McGlynn, the intensity of the Blades forward corps was also great. Goalies and defencemen get a lot of the flack for giving up goals, but it takes six on the ice to play well in a team’s own end, and that is exactly what Tarantino’s Oakville club got from Game 1 to 5. Particularly in Games 1 to 3, the jam was there for the Blades team that was built to have a good balance of grit and skill (with a definite emphasis on the former), and while the Rangers were by no means outworked, the fact that the effort levels were at least a draw mean Oakville also checked Box No. 2.
So with those boxes checked, it was up to depth and talent level to shine through, and the difference in that area was evident. Ryan Foss’ five points were huge, as was his ability to dictate the tempo of each shift that the puck was in his stick, and Oakville got very good performances from all their key players. Captain Jackson Bales was flying, and was rewarded with three goals, Drew Worrad and Christian Rajic also had five points, and the list of good production from the guys the Blades needed to step up continues.
On the flip side, while it can be said that North York’s best players worked as hard as they could, it can also be said that they, for the balance of the series, did not play as well, or produce as much as they could. Through the first three games, the Rangers had only four goals, with an astounding zero of them coming from their Top 8 scorers during the regular season. The bright spot, on the scoresheet and on the ice, was the play of 19-year-old deadline acquisition Noah Robinson, whose north-south, tenacious style meant he accounted for three of those four first goals (the other was scored by midget call-up Jesse Tucker – which is no insult to the Blades, as the North York midget was junior ready all season long).
The NHL Draft junkies likely tuned in to watch the showdown of the OJHL’s two top draft prospects for the 2017 rendition in North York’s Nick Campoli and Oakville’s Bryce Misley, but while both waited for the final few games of the series to really show what they could do, the players around Misley in the Blades’ Top 6 forwards were far more effective. A lot of credit has to go to the not-flashy-yet-effective Oakville D-Corps for only affording the super talented Campoli very limited time and space, and to the whole Blades’ squad for limiting North York’s transition offence in general. For the record, Campoli had three points in the final two games of the series to take his total to four, while Misley totaled three points over the five contests.
The final point this author made in the preview was around special teams; specifically, that the Blades had a massive edge in both facets over the Rangers in the regular season, and that it could be a huge factor.
Well, it was.
Case in point, the Rangers started Game 2 on the power play, and had three straight power plays early in that contest, and did nothing with them. The Blades, on the other hand, went 4-for-16 with the man-advantage during the series, at a league second-best clip of 25 per cent (only Whitby’s insane power play has been more efficient). North York ended up with only two power-play goals despite 21 opportunities, which equaled a league third-worst clip of 9.5 per cent in the first round, and one of them came on a five-minute power play in Game 2.
Goaltending and tenacity was a draw, production and special teams strongly in Oakville’s favour; therefore, it is no surprise the Blades came away with their five-game victory, albeit a very hard-fought one.