Sports Hockey

Will road get tougher? 0

IAN SHANTZ

Things are about to get a little more interesting for the Barrie Colts.

At least, we hope that's the case.

While the Colts await their next opponent -- Ottawa and Mississauga lay it on the line in Game 7 Monday night -- fans must be wondering if a serious test will ever come for the Canadian Hockey League's top-ranked team.

And fans must be wondering if the playoff dramatics -- what every fan of the sport loves most -- will ever arrive.

Take a bow, Colts.

You beat the Sudbury Wolves in four games.

You swept the Brampton Battalion.

As was the case throughout the 68-game regular season in which you won 57 times and piled up 116 points, you've been ridiculously good throughout these playoffs -- unbeatable, really.

With that, you've reached the Eastern Conference final for the fourth time in 15 seasons.

Decent. Applaudable. Exciting.

But while your sheer dominance has been enjoyable, we've got a selfish little request.

Can you try to incorporate a flare for the dramatic into this whole winning thing you're so good at?

Please?

In eight playoff wins, you've outscored your opponent 43-18.

You've needed overtime just once.

Of your eight wins, two were one-goal games. Five were basically blowouts, decided by three or more goals.

In summary, the wins have been good for you and good for your big picture -- one that you hope involves hoisting the Memorial Cup.

It's just that, in terms of playoff hockey, your stellar play has been, dare we say, a bit boring. Just sayin'. Go ahead, shoot the messenger.

Yes, we realize a win is a win. We realize winning is better than the alternative: losing. And we realize you're onto something extremely special in this playoff run.

For that, we thank you.

But where's the triple-OT of last year? Where's the seven-game barn-burner? Where's the rip-roarin' hillbilly trash talk that ignited a fire in your belly and helped you upset Brampton two seasons ago.

There's been none of that yet. Just wins, wins, wins.

Feel free to keep it up. But, at the same time, we wouldn't object if you threw a bit more spice into this playoff kettle, caused a bit of a stir, or even had things boil over.

Heck, a little adversity might even be good for you at this stage of the game. Hypothetically speaking, if you reached the OHL final, wouldn't it be healthy to go in with at least a few losses under your belt? If nothing else, it might remind you of how ugly it feels and give you a little mid-playoffs spark.

Maybe a major test will arrive when the high-flying 67's or trap-happy Majors ride into town to open the conference final on Wednesday.

After all, the 67's were the last team to beat you -- 13 games ago, more than a month ago.

The Majors split the season series with you, they bounced you in the first round of the playoffs last season and, many believe, they provide the biggest challenge this side of the Western Conference.

But maybe it won't be a test at all. Maybe you'll just keep on rolling. Maybe you'll pull off another sweep.

As boring as that might be, we'd be OK with it.

But beating either team in six games -- as predicted here -- would be a little more interesting.

HODGSON A DANDY

A tip of the hat goes out to Brampton Battalion captain Cody Hodgson, who exemplifies all that is good in this league. I talk to players almost every day throughout the season, but there's no player who has stuck out quite like the 20-year-old star forward and high-end draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks.

Hodgson wrapped up his junior career with a loss on home ice last week, as the Colts completed the sweep against the Battalion.

The kid is as talented as they come. More importantly in my books, he's as classy as they come.

"They're a real special team," Hodgson said of the Colts. "We wish them all the best."

Classy, indeed.

Hodgson was sidelined 50 games this season with a back injury. He returned for a short stint and then he broke his foot just before the playoffs.

Through it all, the world junior star, who missed this year's tournament due to his injury, has acted professionally and kindly in public -- something that doesn't go unnoticed in the media world.

Hodgson is good buds with Colts captain Stefan Della Rovere, who just so happens to carry many of the same character traits. Classy all the way.

"He's just such a great leader," said Della Rovere, moments after wishing his friend good fortune as the teams shook hands.

ishantz@thebarrieexaminer.com twitter.com/IanShantz


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