North Bay troops gear up for battle in OHL playoffs
A nine-day furlough has left the North Bay Battalion ready for the team’s next on-ice confrontation which begins on home ice Friday at Memorial Gardens.
The Battalion are all too familiar with the Kingston Frontenacs, who finished behind North Bay in the Eastern Conference standings.
Brandon Coe, the team’s and OHL overage player of the year and team MVP, said his mind is set on one direction.
“Going into the next round against Kingston, I want to be the best leader that I can be, try to be the go-to guy on the ice, and I just want to lead my team as much as possible,” said Coe.
After totaling more than 100 points in the regular season (34 goals, 67 assists) to lead the team in scoring, Coe credits his on-ice success to head coach Ryan Oulahan, whom he considers a player’s coach.
“We have a really close relationship, and it’s been really good since he came in as head coach, and I think it’s been working really well for us,” he said.
As for the Frontenacs, Coe said the Battalion will just have to bring the same game that allowed them to eliminate Ottawa in Round 1 in four games.
“We gotta focus more or less on the first period since we struggled with that in the Ottawa series a little bit, and had really good second and third periods,” he said.
“I think coming out in the first is going to be crucial, so hopefully, we can do what we did in the last series and get the first two wins at home, which will be huge.”
For his part, Oulahan is exhibiting the utmost respect for Kingston heading into Game 1, alluding to the Frontenacs as a “high-octane” type of offensive team.
“They got a bunch of guys that can put the puck into the back of the net, and during the regular season, both teams never had their full lineups,” he said. “We know this is going to be a challenge and they’re a very good hockey team.”
As for stopping Shane Wright, the likely first-overall pick in this summer’s NHL draft, Oulahan said you can’t stop him, you have to contain him.
“He’s one of many good offensive players they have, and we have to limit the number of chances they’re going to get and the situations they’re going to get. All that kind of thing is going to be the focus.”
He said the team has had a chance to heal and rest up with the off days since the Ottawa series sweep, but was quick to point out the players have been pushed hard for the last six days.
“We’ve been very impressed with how committed they’ve been, our mentality is kind of the gas pedal,” Oulahan said. “We’ve been saying we’ve got to keep the gas pedal down, and we’ve been trying for the past six days to be prepared for Friday.”
Oulahan said the team experienced some adversity in the first round despite being a 4-0 series win.
“It could have gone either way and we like going through that, playing a really good opponent that pushed us and played physical, and ramped up what the pace is really like in playoff time.”
Game 2 in the series is set for Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Memorial Gardens.