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OHL Eastern Conference final begins tonight

(Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Generals captain Kyle MacLean doesn’t think of his team as the underdogs heading into the conference finals.

The Generals are set to begin their Eastern Conference final tilt against division rival, the Ottawa 67’s.

The winner will move onto the OHL finals, where they will face either the Guelph Storm or the Saginaw Spirit from the Western Conference.

The Gens punched their ticket the Peterborough Petes and Niagara IceDogs in six game series.

In the latter series, the Gens roared back after falling down two games to none.

The 67’s on the other hand have yet to lose in the playoffs, sweeping the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Sudbury Wolves, outscoring their opponents 47-20 in the process.

The Gens have been strong in net, with Kyle Keyser arguably being the MVP of the playoffs so far according to Ottawa’s coach, Andre Tourigny.

McLean and head coach Greg Walters were joined by Ottawa coach Andre Tourigny and alternate captain Sasha Chmelevski during a joint media conference earlier this week.

Walters spoke highly of Oshawa’s tenacity to come back from behind against Niagara.

“Obviously digging ourselves a hole and getting down 2-0 and being able to come back and win four straight against a very good hockey team was very exciting,” said Walters..

“Lead by Kyle MacLean, we really came together as a group and played for each other, and it showed there in Game 6,” said Walters.

Walters said he feels this bodes well heading in the conference finals.

“We’re very excited, we’ve got a lot of confidence and momentum heading into this series against Ottawa, so we’re very excited to get things started.”

MacLean doesn’t believe the 67’s should be considered the series favourite, despite finishing 14 points ahead of Oshawa.

“We don’t think of ourselves as an underdog,” he explained. “We’re confident in this locker room. We can beat anybody, so we’re just excited to be playing Ottawa. Obviously it’s going to be a tough series, but we’re excited to get things going.”

In order to maintain their momentum, Tourigny said the key is “short-term memory” and not getting overconfident after sweeping their two previous opponents.

“What’s important for us is that it’s 0-0 in that series, and if we want to win four we have to hurry up because we have to do it inside seven games,” the 67’s coach explained.

With six players from the Ottawa region playing for the Gens, Walters said this is will be a very special series for them.

“We’ve got character kids, and the six kids from Ottawa are great, and they’re looking forward to playing in their hometown with their friends and family there to support them,” he said. “It gives them a little bit of added momentum there to come into Ottawa and play well.”

Walters said to be successful against Ottawa in the conference final, they must be strong on both ends of the ice, and avoid “getting beat up” by Ottawa’s defenseman.

“We’ve got to play heavy,” he said. “We’ve got to get some real heavy shifts down in the offensive zone, and obviously get pucks and bodies in front of [Michael] DiPietro.”

The series between the Gens and the 67’s begins tonight in Ottawa, with the series coming to Oshawa on Sunday, April 21 at the Tribute Communities Centre. Game time is 6:05 p.m.