The Kingston Frontenacs have long been the Charlie Browns of the Ontario League. Even with the addition of much-beloved NHL Hall of Famer Doug Gilmour as the team's coach and now GM, the Fronts could not get past the first round of the playoffs. When Gilmour brought in former Toronto Maple Leafs teammate Todd Gill to replace him behind the bench in 2011-12, some believed the team's luck would change, as Gill had been very good as a Jr. A coach.
But a team some believe to be "cursed" lived up (down?) to expectations last night, losing in Game 7 at home to the underdog Peterborough Petes in a series they once led three games to none. Not only that, but the Frontenacs were winning 3-0 in Game 6 before blowing that lead and losing 5-4. Kingston has not won a playoff series since 1998.
Game 7 provided the worst letdown as 2014 draft prospect Nick Ritchie scored the winner in overtime:
Ritchie and linemates Hunter Garlent and Eric Cornel had been great for the Petes in the series, as was overage goaltender Andrew D'Agostini. But make no mistake: On paper this Kingston team should have won the series easily. Center Sam Bennett will be a top-4 pick in the draft this summer, Roland McKeown will be one of the first defensemen selected and right winger Spencer Watson looks like a second-rounder. Starting goalie Matt Mahalak is a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, while center Ryan Kujawinski is a New Jersey pick. Imports Mikko Vainonen (Nashville) and Henri Ikonen (Tampa Bay) both helped Finland win gold at the world juniors this year.
Ironically, the Petes have also been "cursed" of late: This was their first series win since 2006 and some of that can be attributed to the controversial dismissal of longtime GM Jeff Twohey in March of 2010. A mass exodus of Peterborough scouts quit in support of Twohey, who eventually became GM of the rival Oshawa Generals.
And because fate is amusing, the Petes now take on Oshawa in the second round. The Generals will be heavily favored, but at least Peterborough has already established that it won't go into the night quietly.