'Control our own destiny': Knights and Spitfires showdown on OHL’s final weekend
This time the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) schedule makers got it right.
With Windsor (92 points) leading London (88 points) by four points heading into the final weekend of the season, the two teams will play a home-and-home series Friday and Saturday.
Should the Knights defend Budweiser Gardens tonight, they’ll head to a sold-out WFCU Centre in Windsor on Saturday, knowing a victory would put them in top spot in the conference.
“We got control of our own destiny,” said Knights Assistant Coach Rick Steadman. “We’ve just got to well play a solid game and get the win, so it starts tonight.”
Down the highway in Windsor, the Spitfires are thinking the same way. They know if they can get two points out of the two games, they will clinch home ice throughout the Western Conference playoffs and the road to the final would have to come through the Rose City.
“We’ve got a big task here as we’ve got to go to London and it’s not an easy place to play,” said Marc Savard, head coach of the Spitfires.
“We've won one there this year already and another we lost in overtime. So we've done a decent job. It's going to be another battle for us and we're going to have to be ready,” Savard added.
London wouldn’t have such a hill to climb if they hadn’t limped down the stretch. They are playing their worst hockey since the beginning of the season, having won just three of their last 10 games.
“You always want to go in [to the playoffs] at the top of your game,” said Steadman. “We've had a few tough ones, faced adversity, but the good side of that is we faced it now. We're not facing in game one or game two of the playoffs. So hopefully, you learned your lessons and we’re ready to go”.
Dorchester, Ont. native and Spitfires forward Brett Harrison says the number one seed has been on his mind since he arrived in Windsor via trade.
He’s very familiar with the energy in Budweiser Gardens, so they want to make sure they take that away from the Knights.
“Home ice advantage is huge in the playoffs so we're definitely pushing towards that,” said Harrison, who has 34 points in 28 games since arriving from Oshawa.
“They're a good team in London. We just have to get on them early and we just have to force them to try to make turnovers and finish our chances,” added Harrison.
The top seed is important as there are three clear favourites in the conference. Whichever team finishes in top spot, would avoid the other two in the second round of playoffs.
“You don't need first place, but it’s still a nice advantage for the first round,” said Steadman.
“It's a pride thing. It's a thing when you go back and you talk to all your buddies, and ex-London Knights, you can tell them we finished first that year and we had a great year . It proves we had a great year, we had a great team so it's just more of a pride thing for the guys and they want it.”
There is an outside chance the red-hot Sarnia Sting could get involved in the mix for the top seed.
If Windsor manages just a single point in the two games and London loses Sunday, combined with the Sting sweeping all three they have left, the bees would sneak into the top spot.
Sarnia has only lost in regulation once in its past 16 games.
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