Will net difference be enough?

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Bob Boughner has spent more than a few hours watching videotape of Thomas McCollum.

Boughner, the coach of the Windsor Spitfires, doesn't like what he sees in the Brampton Battalion goaltender.

"It's something we've talked about the past couple of days," Boughner said yesterday. "We'll have to work really hard for our goals. It's not going to be easy."

Game 1 of the best-of-seven Ontario Hockey League final between the Battalion and Spitfires is tonight in Windsor, with Game 2 in Brampton on Friday night. The two travelled vastly different paths to get to within four victories of the Memorial Cup.

Boughner and fellow former NHLer Warren Rychel, since taking over the Spitfires in 2006, have turned the club into a model junior hockey franchise after years of waste. Their counterpart, Battalion director of hockey operations/coach Stan Butler has sent many players to the NHL, including Wojtek Wolski, Brent Burns and Raffi Torres, but, until this spring, the team had not advanced past the second round.

Battalion captain Cody Hodgson, named yesterday as the winner of the Red Tilson Trophy as the OHL's most outstanding player, and 2009 NHL draft prospect Matt Duchene have been getting the appropriate headlines. But McCollum is the biggest-name goalie Brampton has had since entering the OHL in 1998. A first-round pick by the Detroit Red Wings last year, McCollum, a native of Sanborn, N.Y., signed with the Wings in October and played for the U.S. at the 2009 world junior in Ottawa.

Butler usually is not one for making big deals at the trade deadline, but this year acquired McCollum from the Guelph Storm.

Windsor is the favourite to win the series, with top 2010 prospect Taylor Hall, defenceman Ryan Ellis and Maple Leafs pick Dale Mitchell leading the way. But McCollum gives the Battalion an edge in net over the Spits' Andrew Engelage.

"This is what Stan brought me in for," McCollum said before the Battalion departed for Windsor. "Having the experience of playing in front of large crowds and in intense pressure situations (at the world junior) is going to help. If you step into something like this wide-eyed, you can get blown out of the water right off the get-go."

There's little doubt of the confidence McCollum has instilled in his teammates, but whether it's enough to help Brampton knock off a deep, high-scoring Spitfires team is up for argument.


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