Fronts in tone-setting mode
The spirited energy of players at the Kingston Frontenacs’ morning practice spoke volumes of where the team is heading into its final three games of the Ontario Hockey League regular season.
The Frontenacs have successfully snuggled into a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference, thereby securing home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
So while only a point is needed by the Frontenacs to wrap up third place in the conference — the highest seed spot left after the top two seedings have been eaten up by the pennant-winning Hamilton Bulldogs in the East Division and the Barrie Colts in the Central Division — the team’s three remaining games carry playoff implications as to who will be Kingston’s playoff opponent.
“Oshawa, North Bay, Mississauga are three teams that we could play in the playoffs in the first round or second round. So we really want to set the tone [in the final three games],” Jason Robertson said.
“We’ve got a few more games and we’re looking at ending off on a high note. Set the course for the playoffs.”
The 18-year-old Robertson will be going into the post-season for the third straight year. Each time the circumstances have been different.
The Frontenacs were the top team in the Eastern Conference in his rookie season. The team beat Oshawa in the first round but was swept by Niagara in the second round. Last year’s team defeated Hamilton in an exciting seven-game first-round series before being swept aside by the Peterborough Petes.
“The difference last year was everyone kind of wrote us off. People might say we were an underdog last year, but this year people know who we are. They will be expecting stuff from us,” Robertson said.
“We all know this year there is some expectations as a group here. We are ready to perform with all the players we have here.”
Robertson, whose team-leading 41st goal was the overtime winner in Kingston’s comeback 5-4 win over the Ottawa 67’s last Saturday, said there is a lesson from that game to carry forward.
The Frontenacs scored twice in the final four minutes of regulation play and then won it on Robertson’s eighth game-winning goal of the season at 2:14 of overtime.
“It is all about fighting through adversity. To be able to do that four games before the end of the season is really helpful and a good lesson for us to go into the playoffs,” Robertson said.
“We will be down [at times] in the playoff but [the Ottawa comeback] showed it is always possible to fight back. That was a good lesson for us. We’ll learn from that going into the playoffs.”
The six-foot-three, 210-pound Robertson is enjoying another good season. He has a career-best 85 points and now has 101 career goals, and with two more points will hit 200 for his career. However, Robertson shrugs off the individual stuff.
“I’m not really one to talk about it. It is more about the team play and where we are and locking up third place,” Robertson said.
Head coach Jay Varady, in his first season with the Frontenacs, said that finishing in the top four of the Eastern Conference was one of the goals the team set at the start of the season.
“Now it is something that is attainable. It is kind of what our focus is on. We can’t look any further than Wednesday’s game and that’s where we are at,” he said.
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