67's get Major playoff test

, Last Updated: 9:02 PM ET

All that separated the 67’s from the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in the OHL regular season standings were eight points — the same eight points the Majors gained in sweeping the four-game season series over Ottawa.

But Thursday, as the second round of the OHL’s second season begins, both coaches know to throw all the stats out the window.

“These are two even hockey clubs,” said Majors coach and GM Dave Cameron. “There will be times in the games when both teams are going to dominate and times when both teams will be back on their heels. The fans are going to get their money’s worth. It’s going to be good hockey.”

For his part, 67’s coach Chris Byrne expects “a long, tough series where both teams are competing every night.”

Both teams come in to the series hot, after Cameron’s Majors swept aside the Peterborough Petes in four straight games they rarely trailed, and Byrne’s 67’s made short work of the Niagara IceDogs, disposing of them in five.

But Byrne knows the Majors are a different animal, stacked with four potent lines, six solid defencemen and one of the league’s best goaltending tandems in Nepean native Chris Carrozzi with backup J.P. Anderson.

“We played well (against Niagara), but we didn’t play complete games,” said Byrne. “We had letdowns at various times that kept things close and let them back in, and we won’t have that luxury in this series.”

Byrne will have to rely on contributions from a deep forward group, including playoff points leader Tyler Toffoli (five goals, two assists), Corey Cowick, Anthony Nigro and Cody Lindsay.

Heart-and-soul checker Thomas Nesbitt, the hat-trick hero of Game 2 against Niagara, is still on the shelf with a dislocated shoulder that will keep him out of action until later in the series.

Chris Perugini, who was pulled late in a Game 4 loss and sat out while Petr Mrazek got the series-clinching win, will start Game 1, while Mrazek is slated to play in Game 2.

“We’ve used both guys and we’ll continue to do that,” said Byrne. “That’s the advantage of having two good goalies.”

Cameron boasts the same advantage, as Carrozzi and Anderson combined to backstop the OHL’s best defensive team this season.

Carrozzi, named the OHL’s goalie of the week Tuesday, has yet to allow a goal against Ottawa, posting back-to-back shutouts of 4-0 and 8-0 in December.

“The first part of the year, we had a (depleted) lineup and they were rolling pretty good, and a couple times they kind of ran over us,” said Byrne. “But the last time we played them (a 5-4 loss on Jan. 3) might be more indicative of what we’re going to see in this series, where it was more of a back and forth game. We’ve got to get traffic to the net and pressure their defencemen with some good shifts in their zone, and we have to execute on our odd-man rushes and power plays.”

Cameron expects a long series.

“(Ottawa) has a lot of the same strengths we have,” he said. “They have a lot of depth up front, a solid defensive corps and they’re well-coached. It comes down to execution and luck in terms of staying healthy and getting good goaltending.”


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