And then there were five...
We are set for the third round of the Canadian Hockey League playoffs and five Vancouver Canucks prospects still remain, including Cole Cassels and his Oshawa Generals, who have yet to face defeat through the first two rounds.
The Generals swept the Mississauga Steelheads in the first round, although the series was a lot closer with three of the four games going to overtime, including Game 2, where Cassels netted the overtime-winner.
“It was probably the biggest goal I have ever scored in my career,” said Cassels, who had nine points (2-7-9) in the series. “I think I got a bit lucky by going to the right spot and the puck was just lying there. If I didn’t make that empty-net shot I would have had a tough time in the dressing room the next couple days.”
The Generals then went on to sweep the Peterborough Petes in the second round, outscoring them 13-3 in the four games. Cassels says it’s the way the team is playing defence that has been the key to their success.
“We have had great leadership throughout these playoffs,” he said. “The top guys are playing defence first and that’s been a trickle down effect to the younger guys. Everyone is buying in and playing good defence which tires teams down and then we are able to capitalize on our opportunities.”
After two years playing in a shutdown role, the Canucks third-round pick last June got the chance to showcase his offensive side of the game this past season, playing with the likes of Scott Laughton and eventual 2014 first-rounder Michael Dal Colle. Cassels took the opportunity and has ran with it, posting 73 points (24-49-73) and 90 penalty-minutes in 61 games during the regular season.
“I set high goals for myself coming into this year,” said Cassels. “This is my opportunity to show that I can play an offensive style of game. It was nice to see those point totals, but it was even better to have a first place finish as a team as nobody saw that coming this year. I am pretty happy with the way I have played this year.”
Currently sitting eighth in OHL post-season scoring with 13 points (6-7-13) in eight games, one would say the way Cassels plays is built for the post-season. His ability to play both offence and defence along with his gritty in-your-face style of game has the 6-foot, 185-pounder looking more and more like a steal of a third round pick.
“Everyone amps up for the playoffs,” said Cassels. “It’s a lot more intense and a lot more fun. It helps when your line-mates amp their game up too and I give a lot of credit to them.”
Now the Generals will square-off against Canucks prospect Miles Liberati and the North Bay Battalion with the winner advancing to the OHL Finals. The series gets underway Friday night in Oshawa.
-Speaking of Liberati, the Canucks seventh round pick in 2013 was plus-1 with six penalty-minutes in the Battalion’s 4-2 series win over the Barrie Colts.
-Brendan Gaunce had six points (1-5-6) in the Erie Otters’ second-round sweep over the Soo Greyhounds. The 2012 first-rounder sits fifth in OHL post-season scoring with 14 points (5-9-14) in nine games.
-Dane Fox had four points (1-3-4) in the Otters’ series against the Greyhounds, with all four points coming in Game 2. Fox currently sits second in OHL post-season scoring with 16 points (7-9-16) in nine games.
-The Otters will face-off against the OHL’s top team, the Guelph Storm, in the Western Conference Finals. The Storm took four-of-six games against the Otters in the regular season.
-Anton Cederholm and the Portland Winterhawks will face-off against the nation’s top-ranked team, the Kelowna Rockets, in the WHL’s Western Conference Finals. Cederholm had a goal and one assist in five games against in the Victoria Royals in what was a very physical second-round series with the two teams combining for 398 penalty-minutes in five games.
-Bo Horvat and the London Knights quest at three straight OHL Championships came to an end after the Knights fell in five games to the Guelph Storm. Horvat had three points (1-2-3) in the series, finishing the OHL playoffs with 11 points (5-6-11) in nine games. The good news however, is that the Knights aren’t done yet as they will host the Memorial Cup in May.