|Nick Baptste (OHL Images)
And then there was one.
After a week that began with four Buffalo Sabres prospects locked into playoff action, just one remains as Nicholas Baptiste (2013, third round) and the Erie Otters claimed the Wayne Gretzky Trophy as Ontario Hockey League Western Conference Champions on Saturday with a 7-3 triumph over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in Game 6 of the best-of-seven series.
Baptiste scored a goal in the series clinching win, taking a Connor McDavid feed in the left face-off circle and releasing a quick wrist shot over the shoulder of Brandon Halverson (NYR) to give the Otters a 5-3 lead at 11:53 of the third period.
Through 15 games, Baptiste has collected 11 goals and 20 points. He’ll enter the OHL final series with a nine-game point streak.
The Otters will square off with the Oshawa General for the OHL Championship and right to represent the league at the 2015 Memorial Cup in Quebec City. The Generals advanced by virtue of a 4-2 series victory over North Bay.
- Game 1: Fri., May 8 - Erie at Oshawa (7:35 p.m.)
- Game 2: Sat., May 9 - Erie at Oshawa (7:05 p.m.)
- Game 3: Mon., May 11 - Oshawa at Erie (7:35 p.m.)
- Game 4: Wed., May 13 - Oshawa at Erie (7:35 p.m.)
- Game 5: Fri., May 15 - Erie at Oshawa (7:05 p.m.)*
- Game 6: Sun., May 17 - Oshawa at Erie (7:35 p.m.)*
- Game 7: Tues., May 19 - Erie at Oshawa (7:05 p.m.)*
Baptiste’s insurance marker was merely the continuation of a highly productive week for the right-wing prospect, who was acquired from the Sudbury Wolves in November with the hope that he would be a big time contributor in a deep playoff run.
With Erie holding a 2-1 series lead, Baptiste erupted Tuesday evening with a career-high four goals including the game-winner as the Otters handed the Hounds a 7-5 loss in Game 4.
Sabres prospect Jean Dupuy scored the game’s first goal just 38 seconds into play as he went to the net and buried a rebound with a backhand to give Sault Ste. Marie an early 1-0 advantage, but Baptiste provided a quick answer 1:57 later on the power play to open the floodgates.
Baptiste later potted his second power-play tally of the night at 11:24 of the second period to knot the score at 3-3. Dylan Strome ('15) and McDavid picked up helpers on the play.
The teams traded goals to start the third period, and Erie eventually got their first lead of the night with an Alex DeBrincat ('16) marker in the 53rd minute. Baptiste completed his first career playoff hat trick less than a minute later with the eventual game-winning goal.
The Greyhounds would strike back with a goal from Sergey Tolchinsky (CAR) with less than two minutes to play, but Baptiste added the fourth to his highlight reel by sending a shot from inside the Erie blueline all the way down the ice into an empty net to seal the victory and secure a 3-1 series lead for the Otters.
Baptiste maintained the hot hand Thursday in Game 5, scoring his 10th goal of the playoffs unassisted but Erie was unable to close out the series with a 4-2 loss in Sault Ste. Marie. Baptiste connected at 2:06 after the Greyhounds coughed the puck up in front of their own net to make it a 1-0 game.
Dupuy assisted on the game-winning goal in Thursday’s Soo victory. He’d finish the postseason with four goals, two assists and nine PIMs in 10 games.
After getting one goal and one assist in the Hounds’ Game 1 win, Sault Ste. Marie forward Justin Bailey (2013, second round) had a quiet end to the series, assisting on Dupuy’s Tuesday marker for his final point of the season to finish the playoffs with 14 points (7+7) in 14 games.
Christopher Brown (2014, sixth round) was unable to produce any offense last week as the Tri-City Storm was eliminated from the postseason with three straight losses to the Sioux Falls Stampede.
On Wednesday, Brown recorded a minus-one rating as the Storm dropped a 3-2 decision to the Stampede. Brown looked to contribute on Friday but instead logged another minus-one in a 4-3 road loss. The Storm had their backs against the wall on Saturday but saw their season come to an end with a disappointing 7-3 loss at Sioux Falls.
Committed to Boston College in the fall, the 19-year-old forward completes the playoffs with zero points, two shots on goal and a minus-three rating.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s web site - sabresprospects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @sabresprospects for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.