4/14-16 Recap: Kassian, Crawford facing early tests

The conference final round of the OHL playoffs got underway this week, and it didn't take long for Zack Kassian's Windsor Spitfires and Nick Crawford's Barrie Colts to receive wake-up calls after each swept their way to 8-0 records after two rounds.

On Thursday, Kassian (-1) scored his third goal of the playoff year as the Spits lost game one of the Western Conference final to Kitchener, 7-6 in overtime. The 6'3 wing, who continued to see the bulk of his work on a third line with Eric Wellwood and Greg Nemisz, finished off a Taylor Hall two-on-one feed at 17:33 of the second period to knot the game at five. Kassian now has 10 points in nine post-season games.

Early on with the Spits down 1-0, the aggressive Kassian staked his spot in front of the Rangers net when he bumped into Brandon Maxwell to earn a goaltender interference call. The Kassian line will be counted on to grind the Rangers down with their cycling, puck control style as the series wears on, and it's safe to say that the hard-to-move Sabres prospect will stay familiar with Maxwell's space.

Windsor will look to avenge their first defeat of the post-season when game two fires up Saturday at 7:00 in Kitchener.

In Friday Eastern Conference final action, Crawford was -1 as Barrie was dumped by Mississauga 5-2 to even the series at one game apiece. On Wednesday, the shutdown-minded Crawford finished even as the Colts opened the series with a 3-0 shutout on home ice.

Barrie's explosive offense is being put to the test by the defensive minded Majors, and it should be expected that Crawford's even-strength patience and left-point execution on the power play will be key factors as the Colts look to rebound in Saturday's game three. Paired with St. Louis prospect Alex Pietrangelo, the 6'2 lefty has eight assists and +6 rating through 10 playoff contests.

The two series are of particular interest to fans of the Sabres as well as hockey pundits abroad. A Colts/Spitfires match-up for the J. Ross Robertson Cup will guarantee a Sabres prospect in the Memorial Cup tournament for the 10th straight season, while setting up the first Barrie/Windsor re-match since Kassian's controversial hit on Matt Kennedy that saw the banger receive a 20-game suspension.
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