Whitby Fury ready to battle against Stouffville Spirit
OJHL championship series gets underway Thursday.
Game 1: Whitby at Stouffville, April 5th at 7:30 p.m.
Game 2: Stouffville at Whitby, April 6th at 7:40 p.m.
Game 3: Whitby at Stouffville, April 8th at 2:30 p.m.
Game 4: Stouffville at Whitby, April 9th at 7:40 p.m.
x-Game 5: Whitby at Stouffville, April 11th at 7:30 p.m.
x-Game 6: Stouffville at Whitby, April 13th at 7:40 p.m.
x-Game 7: Whitby at Stouffville, April 14th at 7:30 p.m.
WHITBY -- Curtis Hodgins expects his Whitby Fury to enter the Ontario Junior Hockey League championship series with the same mindset that has carried them this far.
To worry about themselves first and foremost, rather than what the opposition brings. The opposition in this case comes in the form of the Stouffville Spirit.
"We know we're going to play a heck of a team, which you should be in the OJHL championship series," Hodgins said in advance of Game 1, which goes in Stouffville Thursday night. "They've got some high-end skill, guys like (Christian) Finch and (Drake) Caggiula, (Chris) Porter, (Paul) Geiger. Guys like that we're going to have to contain, but other than that we're going to worry about our game and keep playing the way we are and doing what has made us successful."
Finch could prove to be the X-factor in the series. Sidelined since Game 4 of the North-West Conference final, which Stouffville won in Game 7 on Saturday, Hodgins said he expects the league's top scorer and most valuable player from the regular season to be in the lineup.
"We're not even going to talk about Christian Finch," he said of the Fury game plan. "We're going to expect that he'll be playing Game 1 and go on that. We're going to more worry about their whole team ... They've certainly got more than him in that lineup as you saw in the Georgetown series."
Whitby, on the other hand, is awaiting word on injury situations involving a couple of key players as well. Peter Neal has been out since Game 1 of the South-East Conference final, while Connor Hale was hurt later in the series. Both remain day-to-day and are uncertain to start the series.
With or without the return of players from the infirmary, Hodgins expects both teams to take time figuring the other out considering they have yet to face one another this season.
The team that manages to make things click first certainly will be in the driver's seat considering the condensed nature of the series. The first four games will be played in five days and if the series goes the full seven, it will have been played in just 10 days.
Hodgins hopes Whitby's ability to roll four lines will be of benefit at such a hectic time.
"We've tried to be a four-line team all year. We've got a lot of depth on our hockey club and that's a strength," he said. "It's why we've usually been a better third period team than our opposition, so we're going to keep using that depth to our advantage and not over-using our top guys and hope that pays off.
The winner of the series advances to the Dudley Hewitt Cup, which begins April 17 in Thunder Bay.