Sports Hockey

Colts bound for finals 0

IAN SHANTZ

It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll.

Well, the Barrie Colts -- who stepped onto the ice 10 minutes after an AC/DC tune with those very lyrics blared out of the Barrie Molson Centre loud-speakers -- wanna rock 'n' roll.

And let's be honest. The way to the top isn't all that far off any more.

With a 4-2 win over the St. Michael's Majors in front of a high voltage crowd of 4,320 on Wednesday night, the Colts closed out the Eastern Conference final in five games to advance to the Ontario Hockey League championship series.

"There's still work to be done," Colts defenceman Dalton Prout said after the home team hoisted the Bobby Orr Trophy. "But we're definitely going to celebrate this."

It's the third time Barrie -- top-ranked and bent on getting to the Memorial Cup -- has reached the championship series in 15 seasons.

The Kitchener Rangers or Windsor Spitfires are on tap, with Barrie holding home-ice advantage.

"It's a great feeling," Barrie head coach Marty Williamson said in a post-game press confer-e nce, sporting a grin that dwarfed the horseshoe on the chests of these Colts. "We're excited."

Getting this far isn't easy. And expectations were -- and still are -- ultra high. This team is expected to win.

But having high-end talent that steps up when it matters most -- and others who do whatever it takes when it matters most -- sure makes it possible.

"We counted on our big guns and they came through," said Prout, one of the team's assistant captains.

Early rhythm gave the Colts a 3-0 lead after one frame before the Majors drummed up a comeback with a pair of second-period goals.

The Colts scored again early in the third and it was lights out Majors.

Captain Stefan Della Rovere, the team's heart and soul and undisputed leader, quite simply dictated the outcome, and he did so without a peep of a word. Relying on actions instead of words, Della Rovere scored twice in the first period and played arguably his best game in a Colts uniform.

"That's just great leadership. That's what your captain does," Williamson said. "He really did elevate his game. That's true leadership."

Leave it to Luke Pither -- a.k.a. The Perminator -- to boost his team by scoring an early power-play goal in the third period. The Colts were sagging before that, and it smelled of overtime.

No extra time was needed.

Maybe Pither, an overager, should get free haircuts for life in this city.

Perhaps Della Rovere deserves the keys to the city at this point.

Mavric Parks, Barrie's Top Gun Goalie? His playoff perm is nice and curly, but his game has been straight and solid since taking over for and injured Peter Di Salvo in the second round.

Book him in with Pither.

"I'm very thankful for what's happened in my career," said Parks, who is enjoying his first playoff run as a starter. "I'm taking full advantage of it."

The Colts completely controlled the first period, out-shooting the visitors by a 17-3 spread.

Then came a little thing called adversity.

Devante Smith-Pelly and Casey Cizikas responded with goals for the Majors in the second period.

The Colts, as they've done all along this magical season, pulled up the socks, pulled up the effort and pulled out the win.

"We go into every game treating it the same way -- thinking it's important," Prout said. "There's so much parity in this league. It's anybody's game. So we've got to bring it every game, every night."

J.P. Anderson made 37 saves for a Majors squad that gave Barrie its biggest test of the postseason after the Colts swept Sudbury and Brampton.

"I give my guys full credit. They didn't leave anything in our tanks," Majors head coach and general manager Dave Cameron said. "Full marks to Barrie."

Parks stopped 20 pucks.

Kitchener can eliminate Windsor with a win Thursday night.

Wednesday's win marked the first time Barrie has closed out a playoff series at home since 2004, when the Colts eliminated the Kingston Frontenacs in five games.

The Colts reached the Memorial Cup in 2000, ultimately losing in the championship game. The last time they reached the final, in 2001-02, they fell to the Erie Otters.

"One step," Della Rovere said after the series-clincher. "(What) we want is the OHL title and the Memorial Cup."

ishantz@thebarrieexaminer.com twitter.com/IanShantz


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