Hamilton Bulldogs sweep into the OHL championship series

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Published May 27, 2022 at 9:31 pm

The Hamilton Bulldogs only seem be competing against hockey history.

With veteran centre Jan Mysak breaking out with a hat trick and wing Avery Hayes contributing another multi-point night, the Bulldogs put the North Bay Battalion away early Friday to close out another Ontario Hockey League playoff series with a 4-0 sweep. Goalie Marco Costantini authored an 18-save shutout to buttress the 6-0 victory that secured the Bobby Orr Trophy as Eastern Conference champions.

Hamilton, which is on a 22-win streak dating back to the regular season, will have home-ice advantage for the OHL final. The series against either the Flint Firebirds or Windsor Spitfires will likely start during the June 3-5 weekend.

Mysak, the Czechia native and Montreal Canadiens prospect, did not score during his first nine playoff games while focusing more on a checking role. But the 19-year-old scored once in each period, completing the hat trick off a Hayes feed with 2:33 left in the contest.

Hometown first-pairing defender Arber Xhekaj and forward George Diaco added goals for Hamilton. The Bulldogs outscored the Battalion 22-6 across the four games, with Hayes notching 12 points.

No team in the three Canadian Hockey League circuits has gone 16-0 in the playoffs. The Bulldogs. By going 12-0 to start the playoffs, the Jay McKee-coached Bulldogs are in rare territory:

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  • The 2019 Ottawa 67’s entered the OHL final with a 12-0 playoff record. But it did not end ideally for them. The 67’s won the first two games of the OHL final against the Guelph Storm to run their streak to 14 wins. But the Storm rallied to win the series 4-2.
  • The best playoff record since the OHL adopted an NHL-size 16-team championship is 16-2, shared by the 2005 and ’16 London Knights.That 2016 London team, co-captained by current Toronto Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner, had a 13-win streak that included sweeping the last three OHL rounds. London unofficially ran the streak to 17 wins by going 4-0 to win the Memorial Cup.
  • The 1988 Windsor Spitfires went a perfect 12-0 in the OHL playoffs. At that time, 12 of 15 OHL teams qualified for the playoffs, with the two first-place clubs having the opportunity to get a bye from the first round to the third round. Windsor swept Kitchener and, after an 18-day break, swept the Hamilton Steelhawks to make the final. They then took out the Peterborough Petes.Windsor, however, lost against the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Memorial Cup final.
  • The Western league has had one 16-2 championship team, the 2006 Vancouver Giants. Vancouver, with a 17-year-old Milan Lucic laying the body on the wing, also had a 12-win streak after dropping Game 1 of their second-round series.Vancouver did not win the Memorial Cup that spring, but their ’07 team did.
  • The Québec league has had two teams go 16-1 en route to the President’s Cup — the 2007 Lewiston MAINEiacs and 2012 Saint John Sea Dogs.In 1986, when the league’s playoff format involved three best-of-nine rounds, the Luc Robitalle-led Hull Olympiques went 15-0.

The Bulldogs did not face the top teams in the Western Conference this season due to the OHL adopting a regionalized schedule in order to play through COVID-19 pandemic. However, Hamilton has barely lost a game since the calendar turned to 2022, when general manager Steve Staios loaded up by adding Xhekaj and Anaheim Ducks first-round choice Mason McTavish.

Since New Year’s Day, the Bulldogs are 48-2-1. All three defeats were on the road — 4-3 in overtime at Sudbury on March 25,  3-1 in Peterborough on March 15, and 5-4 at Kingston on Feb. 13. The loss at Peterborough also came in a March Break matinee the day after the Bulldogs played in an outdoor game at Tim Hortons Field.

Hamilton won the OHL championship in 2018 without sweeping a series. Those Bulldogs won each of their first three series in five games, and defeated the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 4-2 in the final.

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