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Barrie Colts gear up for playoff journey without key players in series opener

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Playoff hockey has arrived in Barrie, with the Colts opening its best-of-seven series with defending OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs.

"Today, I was pretty excited. I woke up, and I was a little nervous, but it's the same routine. You don't really think about it too much. It's just another game day," said Colts Forward Declan McDonnell.

"When you get to the playoffs, it's simple. You need to worry about the team, and you need to do whatever it takes," added fellow Colts Forward Cole Beaudoin.

Sixteen teams are 16 wins away from becoming part of hockey history or four losses away from careers and seasons ending.

The Colts start that journey Thursday evening without two of their top players.

"I think a lot of guys have to step up, myself included. We are missing a few guys tonight who are key parts of our team," said McDonnell.

Definitely got some top guys out, but you can't do anything about that. There's adversity along the way, and you've just got to keep going," said Beaudoin.

The 16-year-old rookie knows his playoff debut will be an emotional roller coaster, but veterans like Brandt Clarke have told the first-round pick to take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.

"Clarkey definitely, and all the coaching staff has said just stay calm and have fun while you're having it. It's my first playoff, so I'm excited," explained Beaudoin.

"It's just another game. You come in, and you know, obviously, the energy is going to be ramped up. You know the building is going to be excited tonight, so I think you just have to stay even keel. Don't get too high or too low," added McDonnell.

McDonnell, 21, is staring down his final chance at a Memorial Cup and his second career playoff series in three seasons.

He says he will cherish every moment of this experience.

"The regular season ended the other day, and I wasn't too upset because I know we are going to go on a long run here. We are only getting started. It's like a new season, clean slate, so we are hoping to be here for another two and a half months," said McDonnell.

Tickets are still available for game two in Barrie on Saturday.

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