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In The O Fight of the Week November 1

There were a few good fights this week, and few more that seemed more like auditions for the next Dancing with the Stars.

Honourable mentions this week to Carrick v. Sabourin in Oshawa and Gabriel v. Donnay in London, but I have to give this week’s award to Jack Nevins and Chad Thibodeau.

In the second period, 6’2 Nevins of the Sarnia Sting and 6’0 Thibodeau of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, squared off at centre in the second period for round two after a first period brawl between the two.

This one had a clear winner with Chad taking down Phil after they both exchanged some big blows. Two tough kids, both now with the honour of In the O Fight of the Week!


The Bunker Report

The Battalion finished off the month of October on a sour note with a tough loss at home on Sunday against Sudbury. The Troops started their stretch of three games in four nights on the road in Niagara on Thursday night, before hosting the Barrie Colts in a Friday night contest at the Bunker.

Niagara has been showing signs lately of busting out of their early season rut. On Thursday the Battalion proved to be no match for the Ice Dogs, dropping the contest 4-1. Brampton held Dougie Hamilton off of the score sheet in the game, but it wouldn’t matter as they could only solve Christopher Festarini once on 32 shots. Patrik Machac picked up another goal for the Troops while Phil Lane quietly added to his point total this year with an assist. Rookie Brandon Robinson also chipped in an assist after scoring his first OHL goal against Peterborough the previous Sunday.

The Battalion then headed home to face Mark Scheifele and the Barrie Colts on Friday night. The game would be Scheifele’s second since being returned to junior by the Winnipeg Jets organization. Brampton would also face the unenviable task of shutting down the Colts top line of Colin Behenna, Zach Hall and Tanner Pearson. The Battalion pressed the action in the first two periods before surrendering a lead in the third. They rallied from a 3-2 deficit to win the game 4-3. Sam Carrick added to his stellar numbers this year with two goals, including the game-tying goal with just over seven minutes to go in the game. Rookie Brandon Robinson then buried the game winner just over a minute after Carrick scored. Mark Schiefele would add a goal and an assist in the contest for the Colts while Zach Hall would tip in a Colin Behenna shot for the Colts third goal.

To round out the weekend, Brampton would play at home against the Sudbury Wolves on Sunday. A tough division matchup ended in a lopsided 4-1 victory for the Wolves. Brandon Robinson scored the only goal for the Battalion, giving him three on the season. Mathew Campagna notched a goal and an assist, while rookie Nathan Pancel had a goal and two assists. The win brought Sudbury above .500 on the season and added to the logjam in the division.

This week, the Battalion takes on Mississauga at home on Thursday night before traveling to London to take on the Knights on Friday. They will then return home on Sunday to face the Guelph Storm in their only game in Brampton this season.

Goal Tending Dominates the Week-end in Niagara

The Niagara Ice Dogs faced tough goal tending this week-end at the Jack Gatecliff Arena. With a 4-1 win over the Brampton Battalions Thursday night and a loss in a shoot-out to Sudbury Saturday, the Ice Dogs continue a five game point earning streak.

Thursday evening’s 4-1 win over the Brampton Battalions was a goaltending dual with the Battalion’s Keegan Wilson stopping 37 of 41 shots and at the other end of the ice, in his debut as an Ice Dog, Christopher Festarini stopped all but one of 31 shots.

Saturday had Visentin back in the net where he stopped 23 shots until the shoot-out. Johan Mattsson for the Sudbury would not make an easy night for the Ice Dogs. While the Ice Dog’s offense kept pounding away with 45 shots, the Sudbury net minder would allow only one goal in regulation time. Following a scoreless overtime period the Ice Dogs left the ice with a sole point as only Alex Friesen could score again the Wolves while the Michael Sgarbossa and Mathew Campagna scored for Sudbury.

Festarini’s victorious performance Thursday evening proved the Ice Dogs’ goal tending worries are over. While Visentin leads the league with 2 shut outs and is back in stellar form, his success comes at a price. This week’s announcement Visentin has been selected for Team OHL in the Super Subway series could be a sign of things to come such as selection to Team Canada. Such an honour however means missing games in December and January in order to participate in the World Juniors Championship.

With the Ice Dogs’ slow start this season they can ill afford to throw away any games. So with the anticipated absence of Visentin, the team needed a quality goalie partner on hand. Quality is what they seem to have found in Festarini, acquired in a trade with Erie. The departure of Niagara’s third goal tender Jaroslav Pavelka seems imminent

In conversation with Visentin, he credits the Ice Dogs’ win column improvement with the team tightening up defensively as well as the coaching staff “making sure the guys pay attention to the small details.” He adds his goalie partner Festarini played a solid game and was happy for him to get his first win with the team.

Now that the week-end games are over Visentin can begin to prepare for the up-coming Super Subway Series where he will join fellow Dogs Dougie Hamilton, Freddie Hamilton and Ryan Strome on Team OHL. While during the regular season many of his Team OHL or Team Canada team mates are rivals, Visentin looks forward to the Subway Series as being “a lot of fun, being part of those games, seeing your old friends again.”

While camaraderie may be one perk of being selected to represent one’s country, being a goaltender also has additional compensation. As a member of last year’s Team Canada Visentin was given a special goalie mask to wear and he proudly keeps. “It was a special feeling when I first saw that mask.”

Hockey Canada holds a contest with young hockey fans to design the mask for the Team Canada goal tenders. Visentin gives kudos to the young artists as he thinks his mask is “wicked”. Visentin got the black mask but admits he was a little jealous he couldn’t keep his partner Olivier Roy’s white mask as well because he “wanted both of them!”

His advice for artists entering this year’s competition? “Don’t be afraid to go crazy, put some cool designs on it, different things are what catch peoples’ eyes….. Try to be unique, try to be original.”

Visentin thinks the Hockey Canada contest is a “great opportunity for kids to get their stuff out there.” Details about this year’s contest can be found at The contest closes on November 18th so get designing!

Dog Bytes:

  • Many fans wondered aloud why Strome was not included as a shooter in Saturday evening’s shoot-out. (Theoret, Friesen, F. Hamilton were the chosen three)

  • 200+ children participated in a between period Hallowe’en costume parade Saturday evening - so many it delayed the flood.

  • 6 members of the St. Catharines City council (including Mayor McMullen) were in attendance Saturday evening. Research for a decision regarding a new arena???? Hmmmmmm……

  • Yours truly was the between period guest with Chuck Lafleur on the Ice Dog game broadcast on (do we sense desperation for guests??? )

Time for Leaders to Emerge

*please note, this post was written prior to the Rangers game against the Otters on friday night*

Who exactly is leading the Kitchener Rangers right now?

Overall, the team isn't doing bad. Middle of the pack, a little over .500, exactly what was expected of them. But in Kitchener, that isn't a very good excuse. It was expected that Matia Marcantuoni would have an explosive season, leading the team in points and showing that he's worthy of a first round pick come June. Ryan Murphy was supposed to come back from Carolina and show everyone how to run a power play. Looking shortly after training camp, a lot of people expected a very strong defensive core which includes Ben Fanelli, the aforementioned Murphy, Winnipeg Jets property Cody Sol and Julian Melchiori, Max Iafrate, Evan McEnemy, as well as promising rookies Cory Genovese and Jared Gilbert. So what's wrong?

Well firstly, McEnemy is out for the season after an injury earlier this month in Saginaw. That's a huge blow to the Rangers after he started out so strong. Secondly, Murphy, who was expected to lead the OHL in points by a defenseman currently sits 42nd amongst OHL blue liners. Obviously he needs to step his game up. Critics have long said that Murphy takes too many risks and doesn't pass enough. We have seen a bit of evidence of that this season. Murph likes to skate the puck and move quickly. He's constantly thinking shot when he should start thinking pass a little more often. He's also had quite a bit of pure bad luck around the net this season, missing a couple glorious opportunities on Tuesday against London. On a brighter note for Murph, he was selected to team OHL to play against the Russians in the Subway super series. The game will surely be a test for him as he tries to crack Canada's world junior squad in December. Surely all of this is something Murph is already very much aware of and is definitely trying to get better.

The second issue i've seen is with Marcantuoni. MM was touted as being very improved over last season but hasn't really shown much in that department. In 8 games played this season he only has 3 points and is a minus 1. He missed a few games early on with a concussion, and unfortunately for him he has struggled in the past with injuries. But if he wants to make a strong impression with NHL clubs this year, he's going to have to step it up and start putting pucks in the net. The fans in Rangers Nation won't put up with poor play, from someone who's supposed to be amazing, for very long. Just ask Brandon Maxwell.

Hopefully these 2 guys have woken up through out the week and step it up against the Otters this weekend. On a positive note, Captain Cat (Michael Cattenaci) has been showing signs of improvement and will hopefully be back with the team soon. Cat suffered a concussion two weeks ago against the Owen Sound Attack. Having him back in the lineup will help this team immensely, as he is the smallest guy with the biggest heart in the OHL.

Prospect Files Week 4: Warren Steele

This week we stray away from the sexier prospects that everyone probably already knows about and take a look at what could be this year’s poor man’s Mark Scheifele. The Kingston Frontenac’s defender played Junior A last year in the CCHL and after making the big team at the start of this season, he has had a great start and is surprising many people around the league. Let’s get to know a little bit more about one of the best young players and, maybe, the best name in the league…Warren Steele.

NHL Draft Prospect: Warren Steele – Kingston Frontenacs

The Line:
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 187 lbs
Shoots: Left
Position: Defense
Draft Eligible: 2012

After only playing 7 games with the Kingston Frontenacs last season, amassing 0 points and a minus 1 rating, Warren Steele is impressing everyone, scouts included, this season. The Wallaceburg, Ontario native has put up 3 goals and 7 points in just thirteen games thus far and has played big minutes for a very young and inexperienced Frontenacs squad.

Even though the points are nice and you can have a glimpse at the stats sheet and see that he is having a great start, you have to see him play live to truly appreciate what he brings to the table. He is a stalky kid, built to handle a physical beating and he has shown that he can; oftentimes winning puck battles down low in his zone, but what separates him from many of the other draft eligible OHL defenseman is his passing ability. He makes very quick decisions as soon as he has the puck, showing off his vision and his passing ability. Short or long, the pass is always crisp and usually tape-to-tape.

He is a raw talent at this point, fresh out of the Junior A Smiths Falls Lumberjacks organisation, but you can see that the ability is there. His defensive zone coverage is adequate and with his skill-set it will only improve as he gets used to playing against larger and more talented players. His skating needs to be worked on but isn’t a hindrance to his game at this level.

This is one of those prospects where you watch play and see a very large ceiling. He is a project at this point, but one that I am sure all 30 NHL clubs would love to take on. I look forward to watching him progress as the year goes along and, if the Panthers send back Erik Gudbranson, (he is off to a terrible start) Steele could really mature quickly, learning from one of the top prospects in the game.

NHL Player Comparison: Mark Giordano

The Other Top Rookies You Should Know



By now you’ve heard all about Max Domi leading the rookie-scoring race, or about how Daniel Altshuller’s first season between OHL pipes is going, and that Aaron Ekblad has the poise of a young Alex Pietrangelo, despite being just 15.

Michael Clarke has shot up draft boards in his first season with the Windsor Spitfires, Olli Maatta is gaining valuable experience on a North American blueline, and Jordan Subban joined brother Malcolm in Belleville for his first year in the league.

These are some of the rookies in the Ontario Hockey League that have been making waves, and in the process the performance of other rookies and their talents have flown under the radar. So a month and a half into the season who else should you know from the OHL’s first-year class? Here are five names to keep tabs on:

  1. Nick Ritchie, Left Wing, Peterborough Petes

If it weren’t for Aaron Ekblad’s Exceptional Player Status, Ritchie would have been considered amongst the candidates to be the first overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection. When you take that into consideration, it makes him a bit of a surprise to make this list.. Coming off of a final season in Midget that saw him net 50 goals and 96 points, Ritchie brought his size and speed (6’2”, 207lbs) to the Peterborough Petes. Ritchie has shown all of the promise that would have made him a first overall pick, and his quick release is a pleasant addition to such a big, talented package. With all of the attention paid to Matt Puempel when teams play the Petes, expect the totals for Ritchie to steadily increase as he grows accustomed to the OHL.

GP: 13 G: 4 A: 3 PTS: 7 PPG: 2

  1. Darnell Nurse, Defense, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

His former teammate with Don Mills (Max Domi) is getting all of the headlines this season, but that’s just fine with Darnell Nurse. The big defenseman who’s earned comparisons to Chris Pronger may not be in a media hot bed, he’s settled in perfectly with the Greyhounds, making a lot of comparisons to Sault Ste. Marie and his hometown of Hamilton. A kid of few words, Nurse lets his physical play do the talking, and doesn’t lack confidence in his game or in himself. He’s got the athletic background in both his immediate family and extended family to vault over any obstacle in his way, and when the media does come calling, Nurse already handles it like a pro. He feels right at home with the Greyhounds in the Soo, and with a big defense to learn the ropes from, he’ll be a rock in this league.

GP: 13 G: 0 A: 1 PTS 1 +/-: -8

  1. Josh Anderson/Bo Horvat, Forwards, London Knights

We’ve established that Domi and Mattaa generate a lot of interest in London, but it’s two players that took very different paths to the OHL that will hopefully provide London with the secondary scoring they’ll need for multiple Western Conference Championships. Who knows? Maybe even a league Championship some year. Horvat was London’s first round pick this year, selected one spot after Kingston took Domi. He’s a quick skater who racked up the points (118 of them) in his draft year. Anderson was overlooked in his draft season, but thanks to a growth spurt of more than a few inches and 30lbs, mixed in with a strong season in Major-Midget in Burlington, Anderson turned heads as a power forward with the size needed to succeed in the OHL. One’s a high-profile first-round pick, and the other is the age-old story of a player who stuck with it and caught a few breaks in the face of adversity. Both however, could become well-known names on a strong Knights team.

Horvat: GP: 14 G: 5 A: 6 PTS: 11 +/-: +13
Anderson: GP 13 G: 3 A: 4 PTS: 7 GWG: 1

  1. Artur Gavrus, Centre, Owen Sound Attack

The Owen Sound Attack are the reigning OHL Champions, and like most champions of the past, more than a handful of their key pieces graduated to the professional ranks. So, it was with the 55th pick in the CHL Import Draft that Owen Sound selected the highly skilled but diminutive Belarussian forward. He’s viewed more as a well-rounded player, but his production in second-tier European leagues and at the U-18 tournament (where he was one of the top players) shows a high-end ability to finish off plays. The typical ups-and-downs of a first North American/draft eligible season are expected, but Gavrus has the talent to help Owen Sound’s offense maintain a truly competitive level.

GP: 13 G: 5 A: 6 PTS 11 PPG: 2

  1. Patrik Machac, Centre, Brampton Battalion

Brampton has been starved for offense the last two seasons, and the thinking is that Import Patrik Machac can change that. Machac is a pure scorer with speed and great hockey sense, and excels in all the right areas of the game. His skills caught the eye of Stan Butler and the Battalion, who believe that he’s a player who can improve their offense. He’s got the track record to prove that he can too, after dominating the Czech U-18 league last year with 53 points in 36 games and playing at a point-per-game average at the U-17s. With just two 40-point players last year (and only Ian Watters returning), Machac could easily lead the Battalion in scoring, while bringing the numbers of a few others along for the ride.

GP: 12 G: 4 A: 7 PTS: 11 PPG/SHG: 2/2

'The Colts Are Who I Thought They Were'

It’s just over a month into the Ontario Hockey League regular season. To be honest, it feels like longer than that, but nonetheless, we’ve seen some great hockey. And even though there’s still plenty of puck to be played, the potential future matchups are already building anticipation, with MISS vs. LDN as the current hot pick for the OHL Championship final next Spring.

What about the other surprises?

There’s the Saginaw Spirit, ranked one of the top teams coming into this season, and are now sitting ninth in the Western Conference. However, the return of Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks has proven to be just what the doctor ordered for this team. His 14 points in six games, plus OHL player of the week honours, speaks for itself. This team has work to do, but so far it’s on the right track.

Then there’s my shocker pick: the Barrie Colts. I picked them to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference this season. Some people laughed, a lot of people questioned it, no one agreed. When it comes to prediction rankings, I like to take chances. And now here’s my opportunity to explain why.

Colin Behenna who earned 33 goals and 88 points in 67 games played last season, has returned this year and was honoured with the “C.” So far, he has made an impression with 7 goals and 26 points in 12 games.

Tanner Pearson is a player that surprised me. He earned 42 points in 66 games last season, but has stormed out of the gates, putting up great numbers so far (11 goals, 29 points in 12 games). A pleasant surprise, nonetheless, he’s consistently producing and his efforts have paid off.

Look no further than to his right and you'll find centreman Zach Hall. He and Pearson were tied for scoring not too long ago. However, Pearson pulled ahead just slightly recently earning one extra point. Hall’s record isn’t too shabby either; 11 goals and 28 points in 12 games.

Currently, Pearson, Hall, and Behenna are filling the second, third, and fourth positions, respectively, in league-leading scoring (Pearson is two points behind Nail Yakupov, however, the Russian has played two more games).

This trio has tallied 83 points, while the rest of the team has 53 combined. Just a fun fact.

With the long awaited return of Scheifele now over, the 18-year-old still has to figure out where he belongs. Lines were shuffled in his first game back Wednesday night in Belleville, where he banked two assists, but I can’t see it being long before this team finds its stride.

A couple of weeks ago, Barrie was ranked fourth in the Eastern Conference. A few tough losses, including the now fourth-placed Bulls yesterday, and the Colts have fallen to seventh. However, they’ve proven they can compete with the top guns.

Even with a 6-5-0-1 record this season, the one thing the team can rely on is its top three forwards consistently putting up points every game.

It should be an interesting tilt between Barrie and the Brampton Battalion Friday night. As of writing this, the Troops are ranked number one in OHL defence. With a 2.08 goals against per game, Matej Machovsky and Keegan Wilson are one and two in goals against average, respectively (I’d like to take this moment to thank Wilson for proving me wrong).

With, arguably, the strongest line in the OHL, it will be fascinating to see whether or not the Colts can break through the Battalion barrier.

I think there’s one thing we can agree on: although there are five months of hockey ahead, the preseason prediction rankings are basically turned upside down… at least for now.

ITO Three Stars & Power Rankings: Week 5

It’s time for our weekly breakdown of the Ontario Hockey League, with a look back at the week that was with our ITO Three Stars, and a new update to the OHL Power Rankings. This week, we’ll look at how teams did last week, and who’s up next.

ITO 3 Stars

1. Brandon Saad (Saginaw Spirit) – Perhaps no player has been as critical to their team’s success and/or failure this season as Brandon Saad. With just one win in their first nine games, the Spirit looked to be on their way to one of the worst seasons in franchise history. Cue Saad’s return from his tryout with the Chicago Blackhawks organization. Since his return two weeks ago, the Spirit have won four straight, and this week Brandon would lead the way, scoring 6 goals and 10 points in just three games. For that, Brandon Saad is the ITO First Star for the week of October 18th-24th.

2. Mark Visentin (Niagara IceDogs) – Since returning from a groin injury to start the 2011-12 campaign, Visentin has helped the IceDogs begin to turn around their troubled ways. Though called into action just twice, Mark would be all but unbeatable, stopping 63 of 64 shots he faced, including a 30 save shutout over the Plymouth Whalers. With a .984 save percentage for the week, and allowing just a single goal, Mark Visentin is a clear choice as the ITO Second Star.

3. Michael Houser (London Knights) – This is Michael’s 2nd stint in the ITO Three Stars of the week already this season, following up a Second Star selection opening week. Michael would post three straight victories this week, including a 31 save Shutout over the Belleville Bulls. Throw in big wins over the Mississauga Majors and Windsor Spitfires, Houser would post a Save % of .931 for the week and earn another appearance in the ITO Three Stars.

ITO Power Rankings

1. London Knights – (Last Week: 3) With three straight wins last week, the Knights claim the top spot in the OHL Power Rankings, to go along with the league lead in points. London would power their way to the top with victories over Mississauga, Belleville, and Windsor, and look to keep their winning ways going this week in Kitchener, and on the weekend with games versus Owen Sound and Sarnia.

2. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 1) After reaching the top spot on the OHL Power Rankings last week, the Sting found themselves unable to keep pace, earning just three points in three games. Following a loss to Sault Ste. Marie, the Sting were able to bounce back to shutout Kitchener, but would fall in the shootout over the weekend to Belleville. Sarnia looks to get back on track with three games on the road this week, starting Wednesday in Sault Ste. Marie, before travelling to Saginaw and London over the weekend.

3. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors – (Last Week: 2) The Majors continue to set the pace in the Eastern Conference this season, despite suffering a sub-par week. A win in Sudbury would be sandwiched between home losses to London and Plymouth, dropping them a spot this week in the Power Rankings. With the week off, Mississauga should be well rested for weekend games in Ottawa and Oshawa.

4. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 10) A big jump this week for the Greyhounds, who leap back up into the top five on the strength of three road wins this past week. The ‘Hounds would pick up victories in Sarnia, Owen Sound, and Guelph, and now return home for three games this week, starting Wednesday when Sarnia visits. Plymouth and Guelph will also make stops in the Soo over the weekend.

5. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 5) Ottawa remains in the OHL Power Rankings top five this week, after picking up a pair of wins in three games on the road last week. A tough loss in Niagara on Thursday was quickly forgotten after wins in Erie and Kitchener, and the 67’s look to continue their winnings ways with a pair of games this week. Thursday finds the 67’s playing in Peterborough, while the next night they will return home to host Mississauga.

6. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 9) Brampton moves up again this week, erasing a loss to Saginaw with a pair of shutouts over the weekend, defeating Kingston and Peterborough. The Battalion haven’t been scored on in 121:51, and will look to extend that this week with a pair of games at home, taking on Barrie on Friday, and hosting Sudbury on Sunday.

7. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 4) Things couldn’t go right for Windsor this week, as the Spitfires would manage just a single point from three contests. A shootout loss to Kitchener would wind up being the highlight of the week for the Spits, who also suffered losses to Guelph and London. Windsor looks to right the ship this week with games against some struggling clubs. The Spitfires will host Kingston on Thursday evening before hitting the road for games in Barrie and Owen Sound.

8. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 8) The Colts have grabbed on tight to the number 8 spot on the OHL Power Rankings, and won’t let go. Now their third straight week at 8, Barrie would split games last week, losing at home to Owen Sound before bouncing back to knock off Kingston. With tougher opponents this week, the Colts play three times, starting in Belleville on Wednesday night. From there, they will travel to Brampton for a game on Friday, before returning home to wrap up the weekend against Windsor.

9. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 11) The Bulls are able to jump two spots this week in the Power Rankings, despite only earning a split from their two games last week. The fact that those games were against the league’s best two teams, London and Sarnia, might have something to do with it. Belleville continues to impress around the league, and have three big games on tap this week. The Bulls will host Barrie on Wednesday, before visiting Oshawa Friday night. Belleville then returns home to wrap up their weekend on Saturday evening against Peterborough.

10. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 7) Kitchener falls three spots this week, picking up just one win in three tries over the last week. After a big win in Windsor Thursday night, the Rangers would be unable to capitalize on a pair of home games over the weekend, losing to Sarnia and Ottawa. The Rangers will hope to build some momentum this week, hosting London on Tuesday night before a home and home series with Erie over the weekend.

11. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 12) Splitting their games this past week, Guelph finds themselves at number 11 in the OHL Power Rankings. After defeating Windsor on Friday night, the Storm were unable to make it two in a row, dropping to Sault Ste. Marie Sunday afternoon. Only two games on the slate again this week for Guelph, both on the road, as they play in Sudbury on Friday before travelling to the Soo for a rematch with the Greyhounds Saturday night.

12. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 6) Peterborough finds themselves cooling off after a hot start to the season. Losers of all three games last week, and four overall, the Petes would fall in games with Oshawa, Saginaw, and Brampton over the last week. Peterborough aims to set things right this week with a pair of divisional matchups, hosting Ottawa on Thursday before venturing down the road to Belleville for Saturday night.

13. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 14) Winning two of three games over the weekend was only good enough to move Plymouth up one spot in the OHL Power Rankings. Wins over Erie and Mississauga were tempered by a shutout at the hands of Niagara. The Whalers have games in Saginaw and Sault Ste. Marie this week, as well as a home game against Kingston, and will look to continue moving up the charts.

14. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 13) One step forward, two steps back seems to be the motif for the Generals this season. Oshawa watched as a big win in Peterborough on Thursday night was erased by a pair of losses on home ice, to Sudbury and Saginaw, over the weekend. The Generals have three games over the upcoming weekend, starting at home Friday to Belleville, visiting Owen Sound on Saturday, and finishing the week back at home to Mississauga.

15. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 15) The Wolves are coming off a good weekend, winning a pair of games in Oshawa and Owen Sound after losing to Mississauga. If Sudbury can keep winning, they’ll move up in the Power Rankings in no time. It won’t be easy, however, as they play three games in three nights once again, this time starting home to Guelph, and then heading out on the road with stops in Niagara and Brampton.

16. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 17) Niagara is starting to become the team many thought they would be this season, and they would win both their games over the last week, allowing just one goal in the process. Wins over Ottawa and Plymouth re-establishes the IceDogs as a threat in the East, and they should continue up the charts. Niagara starts the week with a game in Erie, before returning home for games against Brampton and Sudbury.

17. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 16) Last year’s OHL Champions continue to sputter to begin the 2011-12 season, but the Attack were able to pick up three points in three games last week. Owen Sound picked up the victory in Barrie, but a loss to Sault Ste. Marie, and a shootout loss to Sudbury, knocks them down one spot this week. A tough week lies ahead for the Attack, who play in London on Friday night, then return home for games with Oshawa and Windsor.

18. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 18) The return of Brandon Saad to Saginaw has coincided with the turnaround in the Spirit team. After starting 1-8, the team has now won four straight games, including a perfect road trip this past week through Brampton, Peterborough, and Oshawa. The Spirit now return home this week for three games, hosting Plymouth Wednesday, Kingston on Friday, and Sarnia Saturday night.

19. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 19) No change for Kingston this week, as the Frontenacs could muster but one goal in a pair of losses to Brampton and Barrie last week. If Kingston doesn’t turn it around this week, they may find themselves at the bottom of the OHL Power Rankings. The Frontenacs are away from the K-Rock Centre this weekend, playing three games in three nights in Windsor, Saginaw, and Plymouth.

20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 20) Even the return of goalie Ramis Sadikov wasn’t enough to turn around the sinking Otters, as they would lose both games on home ice last week, to Ottawa and Plymouth. Erie would score only two goals in those two games, and will need more goal production this week, as Niagara comes to visit before the Otters start a home and home series with Kitchener.

Well, there you have it, a look around the league at who’s hot, and who’s not. Be sure to check back next week to see where your favourite team ranks. If you can’t wait for your OHL fix, find me on Twitter, @N24Nicholson.

Fight of the Week Oct 24

This week was no contest because as the announcer put it, there was more action then some heavyweight fights.

In his second fight of the night, 5’8 forward Norm Ezekiel of the Barrie Colts, took on 5’11 Tyler J. Brown of the Kingston Frontenacs late in the third period. Bombs were thrown and each man showed their toughness in a fight lasting almost 30 seconds.

Although there was no clear winner, it was very entertaining and brought fans at the BMC to their feet. Look for a possible round two in November when these two meet again.

Here it is, the In The O Fight of the Week!


The Bunker Report

Through the first twelve games of the 2011-12 season, the Brampton Battalion have raised a few eyebrows with respect to their performance thus far. The Battalion currently sit 3rd in the Eastern conference with 16 points on the year.
While the 38 goals that Brampton has scored this year rank them in front of only Sudbury in their division, the Troops have been a stingy bunch in giving up goals. With only 25 goals against through the twelve games, Brampton is pacing the Ontario Hockey League in terms of defensive play.
Matej Machovsky and Keegan Wilson have been brilliant at times for Brampton this season. Machovsky is the younger of the two, but entered the season as the only goalie on Brampton’s roster with OHL experience. Wilson entered the season as a bit of a wild card, but has yet to lose in regulation for the Battalion this year. Each has recorded a shutout on the year while playing in at least five games apiece.
The Battalion defence was going to be their strength heading into this season and it certainly hasn’t disappointed thus far. The return of Zach Bell from injury has been huge for Brampton, especially considering that in his six games since returning he has put up two goals and added an assist while boasting a plus-4 rating. His defence partner Cameron Wind has a goal and four assists on the year and currently has a plus-5 rating. Dylan Blujus has stepped up his offensive game substantially this year as he leads Brampton’s defence corps with eight points while Jordan Auld, Spencer Abraham and Marcus McIver have been more than effective keeping the puck out of their own net.
Brampton’s forwards are a “score-by-committee” squad led by Sam Carrick and Phil Lane. Rookie import pick Patrik Machac leads the team with 11 points and looks poised to help guide the Battalion offence as the season progresses. Newcomer Brett Mackie has been a welcome addition since joining the Battalion via trade from Belleville. His production on the score sheet is only half of what he brings to the table for the Troops.
Brampton’s depth will create a logjam when the likes of Michael Santini and Conner Jarvis heal from their respective injuries. And once OA forward Ian Watters comes back from injury in January the Battalion will have one OA too many and be forced to make a tough decision.
Brampton will finish off the month of October with some key divisional battles on the road against Niagara (October 27th) and then at home Barrie (October 28th) and Sudbury (October 30).

One Month in and What Do I Think?

It has been a while since I actually took to writing and with good reason to a degree.
Giving the crew all the chance to write as we all know that myself and the English language… we don’t see eye to eye most times.

We are a month into the OHL season with most teams playing about a 5th of their season. So what is on my mind as we reach the 20% completion mark for the 2011/12 OHL season…

The 2nd Ranked Problem

After being ranked second in the nation, 2 weeks prior to the season beginning I may add, the IceDogs of St. Catharines have been just awful. With a 5-6-0-1 record the IceDogs are currently 9th in the eastern conference, 16th of 20th in the league. The latter doesn’t mean anything really. Niagara does boast the lowest penalty minutes in the league, which I am sure is a plus that GM/Coach Williamson is happy about leading the league in that stat. The Dogs are getting phenomenal production out of the Hamilton Brothers with Freddie leading Dougie in points 21 to 20, but that doesn’t help get W’s. The Dogs lead the league with a 31.3% PP but are 17th on the PK with their efficiency being 75.9%. definitely not good. Oh and the fact that only 3 players on NIA have a positive +/- (above 0) is ridiculous for the talent this team has. Marty Williamson is about to shake things up and it starts with Pavelka being traded or released after he acquired Chris Festarini from Erie.

Home away from Home

The Brampton Battalion have been one of the stand out teams early on this season, their offense is still a mystery, T-6th highest goal production in the Eastern Conference, but their amazing defence leads the OHL allowing a league best 25 goals, 5 goals less than the next best team, the London Knights. What is also surprising is the Battalion’s 7-3-1-1 record, which includes a 5-0-0-1 record away from the Bunker. Normally you have to win 50% of your away games to have a good season… The Troops need to work on the winning home games part.

Sink or Playing Dead

The Erie Otters are a mess. Period. For a team that has a lot of potential, and the return of a rock in goal by the name of Ramis Sadikov, it is fair to say that the team is vastly underachieving. 2 teams in the OHL have scored less than the Otters 30 goals, Belleville and Kingston… Belleville has 6 wins while Kingston has 2 more points than Erie. The Defence is hurting without Adam Pelech but they have 2 OA blueliners who are a combined -24. Let’s save the talk about the forwards and lack of offence next time. One problem at a time folks.

Did you hear what I Saad?

The Saginaw Spirit needed help and many looked toward the pipes thinking that Galansky and Paterson would not be able to get it done this season. Turns out all they needed was a confidence boost named Brandon Saad. The Pennsylvania native entered the game Sunday with 7 goals and 9 points in 4 games since coming back from the Chicago Blackhawks. The Spirit are 3-1 since his return, 1-7 prior to his return. With Saad coming back, he has lifted the Spirit roster and spread his confidence throughout the team. Saginaw has scored 41 goals this season, 22 since Saad’s return. Paterson has been given the starter’s job, starting the last 6 games including Sunday night. In Saad’s return he has a 2.99GAA and a .925SV% and a 3-1 record. When Josh Shalla returns to the lineup after serving his suspension, this team could easily rocket up to the top half of the Western Conference.

3 Colts and a Sting

Seeing Nail Yakupov leading the league in scoring doesn’t surprise anyone, in fact many are shocked it is not higher than his current 2.23pts/game. Heck if Galchenyuk was healthy, he may be a 3pt/game player. What is surprising is seeing 3 Barrie Colt players behind him. Yakupov leads the league with 29 points in 13 games and behind him are Zach Hall, Tanner Pearson and Colin Behenna with 28, 28, and 24 points respectively. Hall and Behenna have tallied a point in every game they have played. And the trio accounts for 28 of the teams 45 goals (62.2%). What makes Yakupov’s 29 points in 13 games even better… 2 of those games he was held of the score sheet, that makes him a 2.63pts/game when he is on the score sheet.

The Honeymoon is over at "The Jack"

When Bill Burke made the decision to purchase the Mississauga Ice Dogs and relocate the team to Niagara many naysayers felt Burke was making a huge mistake. The dilapidated conditions of the Jack Gatecliff Arena (aka “The Jack”) were sub par and many doubted Burke could develop an economically feasible business plan. Buoyed by St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan’s prediction of there only being 5-7 years of life left in the old barn, Burke was confident if he held in, a new facility would be available.

Now in the Ice Dog’s fifth season in Niagara there are still no plans for a replacement arena. The talk is getting louder, in fact some St. Catharines residents are shouting, why should the taxpayers build an Ice Dog Palace? The city is certainly divided on whether this new facility should be given the go ahead. At the last city council meeting a motion was put forward to hold a referendum to determine if the citizens of St. Catharines want to build a new spectator facility.

The fate of the Ice Dogs in Niagara may very well be in the hands of politicians.

Local MPP and season ticket holder Jim Bradley acknowledges the arena is due for replacement. “This has to be the oldest arena in the circuit. It is cozy, the fans are very enthusiastic, (it’s) very compact but requires hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to maintain because of its age…. A decision (for a new arena) is strictly up to city council, and I am not supposed to coach them but as a hockey fan it is always nice to see a top notch facility in any community….As a provincial member of parliament….if the city made the decision to proceed with the arena and were looking for funding sources outside of the city, they would come to the province of Ontario and the government of Canada. At that time it would my responsibility to advocate on their behalf.”

Ice Dog owner Bill Burke is tired of the moniker “Ice Dog Palace” to describe the new spectator facility. He is adamant the entire community would benefit from such a facility not just hockey fans. With the Ice Dogs as “anchor tenants” it could be a success for the whole city. Burke says a downtown facility would be more than two or three nights of hockey in the winter but rather year-round opportunities for other entertainment such as concerts. Partnering up with downtown restaurants and bars could make a terrific night out for anyone.

Burke sums up the conditions of the current arena in one word -brutal.

Burkes says he believes they “have worked hard to put a great team on the ice, every year has been competitive, it’s a great atmosphere but the amenities and the age of the rink, the concessions, the washrooms – its brutal.” Owning an OHL team is a business and Burke is aware peoples’ livelihood depends on the success of the team. The Ice Dogs have 15 full time employees, 52 on game day and these employees are counting on the team to be successful so they have their source of revenue. Burke says “we’re sold out every night and can’t break even. To make a go of it, the magic number is 3500 but up to 4500 is a proper business model. I don’t want to make any money but I don’t want to haemorrhage every year.”

Burke assures “we’re not holding a gun to anyone’s head, we love it in Niagara, we love the fans, the players love living here, they love playing here but we need a proper facility. The league was kind to us five years ago, but the honeymoon is over.”

Saturday night’s game against the Plymouth Whalers was another sold out game for the Ice Dogs. Following a 4-1 win over Ottawa Thursday night, it was a second consecutive much needed win for the struggling Dogs. Following back to back losses and a long bus home last week-end, Coach Williamson had the boys back on the ice early morning Sunday for an extra no-pucks allowed practice. Williams said “they needed a message” they are a 20 member team. Williamson says the team has a lot of character. They went on the ice and worked hard, no moaning and groaning, a matter of refocusing. And refocus they did. Williamson was pleased with their effort this week and is giving the boys a deserved day off this Sunday.

Williamson will be busy however figuring out what to do with his goaltending team. While Mark Visentin appears to be back healthy and in fine form (his second shutout of the year on Saturday night) the Dogs currently have three goal tenders. It appears Czech import Jaroslav Pavelka is the odd man out. Williamson says he will be speaking with Pavelka’s agent this week.

Captain Cattenaci

Just as the Rangers get back Matia Marcantuoni from a head injury suffered earlier this season, they lose their captain Michael Cattenaci following a check from Owen Sound's Mike Halmo last Saturday. The Captain is out indefinitely with post-concussion symptoms. How will this affect the Rangers psyche? Losing their top-line centre (despite the fact that that's debatable) is going to be a major blow to the team as a whole.

Another major blow? Last night's 3-0 loss to the Sarnia Sting. Now don't get me wrong, the Sting have a great team this year. But having your new top-of-the-line goalie lose to the guy you traded away last summer, especially when the other guy posts a shutout, really sucks. This game was lost quickly in to the first period, with the game winning goal scored at 4:32 of the first, and the sting outshooting the Rangers 12-4.

The team did however play a great game on Thursday in Windsor. Down 3-1 heading in to the third period, the Rangers game back to tie it at 3's and win the game in a shootout. Radek Faksa had the game winning goal.

All in all a fairly quiet week in Ranger land. The biggest news is that either Jonathan Jasper or one Mr. Sudeyko (who i'm sure you all my be familiar with) finally got Captain Cat on Twitter. You can follow him @mcat1091

Week 3 Prospect Report: Jarrod Maidens

I am back again for another week with, yet another, prospect report. This week, here at In The O, we are going to take a look at the play of Jarrod Maidens. The second year Owen Sound Attack stand out first made a real name for himself at the 2011 Mastercard Memorial Cup. This is what makes him special and a little of what he needs to work on:

NHL Draft Prospect: Jarrod Maidens—Owen Sound Attack

The Line:
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 178 lbs
Shoots: Left
Position: Center
Draft Eligible: 2012

A big body, who plays even bigger -- is Jarrod Maidens’ game in as simple terms as I can muster. The Ridgeway, Ontario native plays a mean, power forward style of game that agitates his opponents and puts points up on the scoreboard.

Maidens likes to go to the net with authority and many of his goals are scored in close, banging away at loose pucks. But don’t be fooled by this; he has NHL-level stick skills that let him make nifty moves in close, along the boards and at speed through the neutral zone. Even though his style of play would dictate that maybe his skating is not up to par, this is not the case. Maidens does not struggle getting up and down the ice and can oftentimes be the first man back on the back-check after being the first man in on the fore-check.

There are a few facets of the game that he needs to focus on improving. When defending in a one on one situation he tends to over-commit on plays and can be burned. He also needs to work on his first three steps when accelerating. His travel speed is good, but like a big machine it takes some time for him to get wound up. If he can find some explosiveness in his first three steps he could really excel at the next level.

Maidens, has a large upside and has the potential to be drafted in the first round in this coming NHL entry draft.

NHL Player Comparison: Derrick Brassard

Where Does This Major Player Belong?

It’s nearly a month into the Ontario Hockey League season and it’s safe to say there have been a few new inductees into the “shockers club.” Of course, the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors received a special invitation to join.

Not that they were predicted to be at the bottom of the rankings, but they weren’t expected to be riding at the top of the Eastern Conference either.

However, the big boys in the National Hockey League are just beginning their tour. And while some players have already rejoined their current OHL teams, others have yet to return. With some entry-level contracts signed, we can start counting down the days until the rookies mark that ninth NHL game and await their future of whether or not they stay or get sent back down to junior.

One of the players trying to keep his spot with the big club is Devante Smith-Pelly. After making the starting roster with the Anaheim Ducks out of training camp, the 19-year-old has banked an assist and four penalty minutes in five games.

And although the question, “will he come back to the Majors?” has been asked before, as time progresses, it seems less and less likely that he will.

I’m curious as to what the average hockey fan and media gurus think, so I’ve asked around and it appears most people are leaning towards Smith-Pelly returning by the beginning of November, but the differential between the two sides is slim.

Having attended every Majors home game, however, I’ve noticed another question asked as the current Mississauga roster takes to the ice: Devante who?

With all the success the double blue has had already this season, left winger’s presence is all but forgotten.

But let’s be realistic here, if Smith-Pelly is released by the Ducks, there’s no doubt he will be a huge asset to Mississauga’s lineup. Over the past three seasons, his point production has increased (25, 62, and 66 points in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11, respectively), and with a very impressive leap in his +/- record (-4 in 2008-09, +27 in 2009-10, +49 in 2010-2011), he has proven a strong defensive presence as well. He went on to earn 21 points in 20 playoffs games last season, plus his tear at the 2011 Memorial Cup where he scored six points in five tilts.

My next question is, where will he fit in?

The Majors began the season with a starting lineup of Brace-Mayer-Schoenmakers. Needless to say, that line meshed quite nicely, as we’ve seen Brace perform above and beyond what was expected of him.

Then the injuries came, as many teams have experienced already. Mayer and Cramarossa sat for five and seven games, respectively, so James Boyd shuffled. Brace took centre stage (as if he hadn’t with his showing already) with Kuptsov and Schoenmakers at the wings.

This line produced immediately, especially in the 4-3 win against the Colts in Barrie (Kupstov with two goals and an assist including the game-winning goal, Schoenmakers with a goal and assist, and Brace with three assists). These three Majors have earned 38 of the team’s 95 points.

During exhibition, I pinned Smith-Pelly with Mayer and Kuptsov as top line, had he returned in time for the start of regular season. Initially that seemed a little extreme putting Kuptsov on the top line so soon. It doesn’t seem so crazy now.

All we know for sure is, at this moment, Smith-Pelly remains with the Ducks. My sources tell me that he is getting comfortable in California. That source being a fellow ITO correspondent who would like to remain anonymous. I’ll discreetly call him, T. Hallyburton.

It seems time will tell. Regardless, Smith-Pelly is a great player that will make a statement wherever he is. He’s fast, a powerhouse on the ice, a pure goal scorer, and a great all-round guy. Not to mention his presence in the locker room will inspire leadership and a sense of camaraderie among the Majors.

ITO Three Stars & Power Rankings: Week 4

It’s time for our weekly breakdown of the Ontario Hockey League, with a look back at the week that was with our ITO Three Stars, and a new update to the OHL Power Rankings. This week, we’ll look at how teams did last week, and who’s up next.

ITO 3 Stars

1. Reid Boucher (Sarnia Sting) – With all eyes on teammate Nail Yakupov, Reid stepped up this week to help lead his Sting to the top spot in the O.H.L. A three goal, five point night against Saginaw on Friday would propel Sarnia to the first of three straight wins, and he would follow up that performance with another goal on Saturday in Plymouth. As if that weren’t enough, he would score the game winning goal late in the 3rd on Sunday, to go along with two assists, as Sarnia defeated London. With five goals and nine points in three games, Reid Boucher is the ITO First Star for the week of October 11th-17th.

2. Dougie Hamilton (Niagara IceDogs) – While the IceDogs continue to struggle, the Hamilton brothers are flying high in St. Catherines. Following Freddie’s 2nd Star selection last week, this week was Dougie’s turn to shine, as the defenceman would strike for three goals and three assists in three games over the last week. Dougie would score once and add a helper on Thursday when the Dogs defeated the Belleville Bulls, and add another assist on Friday in Plymouth. But a two goal, three point performance on Saturday in Saginaw would be enough for another Hamilton to lay claim to the ITO Second Star.

3. Nail Yakupov (Sarnia Sting) – The tandem of Reid Boucher and Nail Yakupov was unstoppable this week, and both find their way into the ITO Three Stars. Nail also had a big night on Friday, picking up four assists, and had multi-point games in all three outings over the weekend. A goal and two assists on Saturday in Plymouth was followed by another goal and a helper against London. With two goals and nine points in three games this weekend, Nail Yakupov is the ITO Third Star.

ITO Power Rankings

1. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 3) Next year’s team may very well be here right now. The Sting continue to roll early on in this OHL Season, led by top NHL Prospect Nail Yakupov. Three more victories this week for Sarnia, as they defeat the Saginaw Spirit, Plymouth Whalers, and the previously top ranked London Knights. Sault Ste. Marie, Kitchener, and Belleville are on the schedule this week.

2. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors – (Last Week: 2) The Majors are able to hold onto number 2 on the Power Rankings by earning three points in just a pair of games. Mississauga went into Erie and got a win on Wednesday, but would lose on home ice two nights later, falling to Oshawa in a shootout. A big test ahead for the Majors, as London comes to town this week, as does Plymouth. Mississauga also has a trip to Sudbury this week.

3. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) Two out of three wins this week isn’t enough for the Knights to hold onto the top spot, as they fall to number three this week. Wins over Erie and Guelph were diminished by a tough loss in Sarnia. A tough week ahead, as London travels to Mississauga, before coming home to face Belleville, then finishing the week in Windsor.

4. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 11) Wins over Plymouth, Erie, and Brampton catapults the Spitfires up seven spots this week, cracking the top five at number four. The Spits host Kitchener this week, before travelling to Guelph, then returning home to take on London.

5. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 4) The 67’s would split their games this week, losing on home ice to Brampton a night before winning in a shootout in Oshawa. Ottawa will continue on the road this week, playing games in Niagara, Erie, and Kitchener.

6. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 6) The Petes were able to take two out of three games this week, defeating Owen Sound and Guelph before losing in Oshawa Sunday night. A rematch with the Generals highlights the upcoming week, which also features games against Saginaw and Brampton.

7. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 13) The Rangers shake last week’s doldrums with a pair of 5-3 victories in a home and home series with the defending Champions from Owen Sound. This week won’t be an easy one, as it starts with a visit to Windsor, before returning home to face Ottawa and London.

8. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 7) The Colts are down a spot this week after splitting games on their road trip. Barrie lost in Sudbury on Friday night, but were able to bounce back to defeat Sault Ste. Marie the next night. A chance to make strides this week, as the Colts play both games on home ice, against struggling teams from Owen Sound and Kingston.

9. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 10) Despite only winning once in three tries this week, the Battalion climb one spot to sit and number nine this week on the OHL Power Rankings. A win in Ottawa on Friday was tempered with a pair of losses over the weekend, losing in a shootout in Belleville, then losing in Overtime against Windsor. Games this week against Saginaw, Kingston, and Peterborough are important for the Battalion to keep pace in the Eastern Conference.

10. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 8) The Hounds continue to slowly slide after a great start to the season. A win over Kingston was erased by a loss to Barrie on home ice. The Greyhounds head on the road this week, playing games in Sarnia, Owen Sound, and Guelph.

11. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 9) The Bulls would fall two spots this week, after splitting a pair of games. Belleville would be blanked in Niagara on Thursday, but bounced back to beat Brampton in a shootout on Saturday. Games on the road this week against London and Sarnia are sure to test this young squad.

12. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 5) A rough week for the Storm sends them falling seven spots. Guelph would be outscored 9-1 in a pair of games this week, losses to Peterborough and London. The Storm need to be good on home ice this week, as games against Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie are on the schedule.

13. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 15) Five points in three games against the three top teams in the East puts Oshawa back into the mix. A shootout win in Mississauga would set the tone for the rest of the weekend, but the Generals would lose in the shootout the following night to Ottawa. Oshawa was able to bounce back on Sunday with a win over the rival Peterborough Petes. The Generals have another game versus Peterborough before games against Sudbury and Saginaw over the weekend.

14. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 14) A win and a pair of overtime losses is not enough to change the Whalers position on the OHL Power Rankings this week, as they hold at 14. Plymouth was able to get the extra point from a pair of good teams in Windsor and Sarnia, and were able to pick up the win over Niagara. The Whalers have three games in three nights on the road this weekend, playing in Erie, Niagara, and Mississauga.

15. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 17) By picking up a couple of wins over Barrie and Kingston, the Wolves find themselves up two spots this week. A tougher week lies ahead as Mississauga comes into town before the Wolves head out on the road to take on Oshawa and Owen Sound.

16. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 12) Three straight losses see the defending OHL Champions fall four more spots this week. The Attack were beaten in Peterborough, before losing both ends of a home and home series with Kitchener. Owen Sound starts this week in Barrie, then comes back home for games against Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.

17. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 16) The returns of Ryan Strome and Mark Visentin boosted the IceDogs to a victory over Belleville, but back to back losses in Plymouth and Saginaw continue Niagara’s woes. The IceDogs get a chance at revenge against Plymouth on home ice Saturday, but not before Ottawa comes to town this week.

18. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 20) Up from the bottom of the Power Rankings, the Spirit would lose in Sarnia on Friday night, but rally to defeat Niagara the next night. Saginaw heads out on a three game road trip this week, with stops in Brampton, Peterborough, and Oshawa.

19. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 18) Another pair of losses sees the Frontenacs slip further down the OHL Power Rankings. Kingston would lose both games on the road in Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury. Only two games this week ahead, first against Brampton before the Fronts travel to Barrie.

20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 19) A tough week for the Otters, who were beaten three times by three of the top teams in the OHL. Mississauga, London, and Windsor were all able to beat Erie, who fall to 1-8 on the year. Plymouth and Ottawa both pay visits to Erie this week, and the Otters will have to be at their best to escape the bottom of the Power Rankings again next week.

Well, there you have it, a look around the league at who’s hot, and who’s not. Be sure to check back next week to see where your favourite team ranks. If you can’t wait for your OHL fix, find me on Twitter, @N24Nicholson.

In The O Fight of the Week

With 33 fights in the OHL this week, no one noticed the lack of a UFC fight card taking place.

There were a lot of spirited bouts, but none compare to the 12 second win for Johnny McGuire of the Erie Otters over Jarred Tinordi of the London Knights.

At 6’1, 190 lbs., McGuire is slightly smaller than the 6’4, 204 lbs. Tinordi, and has 6 fights this year compared to 2 for Jarred. Size was not a factor in this one as Johnny got the upper hand early and did not look back ending this one quickly and decisively.

Here it is, the In The O Fight of the Week!


In Tyler we trust

While the odds on favourite to capture the scoring title in the Ontario Hockey League this season is Sarnia forward Nail Yakupov, there is another player may have a thing or two to say before the regular season ends next March.

Tyler Toffoli spent much of last season in a neck-and-neck race with Kitchener Ranger Jason Akeson for the OHL scoring lead. The Ottawa 67’s forward ended the season all knotted up with Akeson at 108 points, but dominated his counterpart with respect to goals scored. Toffoli netted 57 goals as an 18 year old, nearly making Canada’s World Junior Championships team last Christmas in the process. He attended this year’s summer evaluation camp before heading out to Los Angeles to attend the Kings training camp before being returned to the 67’s for the 2011-2012 season.

Since being sent down, Toffoli has been on a tear. Through seven games, he has notched 14 points, seven goals and seven assists while finding chemistry with teammate Sean Monahan. In Monahan, the 67’s found a replacement for Ryan Martindale who signed a pro contract with the Edmonton Oilers organization and will spend the year seasoning in either the American Hockey League or the East Coast Hockey League. Shane Prince however is back for another season in the Nation’s Capital which boasts well for the 67’s offensive numbers.

With that being said, Toffoli will most likely miss a majority of the month of December and the beginning of January due to this year’s World Junior Championship this year in Alberta. His numbers from last year alone are good enough to walk on to Team Canada who will miss eligible offensive stars like Jeff Skinner, Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall. If he stays as productive as he has thus far this season, my guess is that it will be a foregone conclusion that the Scarborough native will don the Canadian colours this holiday season.

He will no doubt be looking to finish what should be his final Major Junior campaign off on a strong note before turning pro next season. With the chance to avenge an early and embarrassing performance in last year’s playoffs as an incentive, Toffoli will be counted on greatly to perform like the player he has shown that he can be. We will see how the season pans out for the 67’s, but with Tyler Toffoli driving their offense, I’m certain they’ll have success.

Week 2 Prospect Profile: Eric Locke

I am back again for a second week with another 2012 Draft Eligible prospect profile. This week, as we do each and every week we break down the games of the top prospects in the OHL and this week we have a special prospect; Eric Locke of the Barrie Colts. I have seen Eric play many games in the past year and I feel like I have as good a read on his game as anyone. Here is what I see:

NHL Draft Prospect: Eric Locke – Barrie Colts

The Line:
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 182 lbs
Shoots: Left
Draft Eligible: 2012

Don’t let the small height fool you; Eric Locke will go into all of the dirty areas. The Toronto, Ontario native started last season with the Windsor Spitfires but finished the season with the Barrie Colts following a mid-season trade.

Locke is a pure goal scorer, he has an elite shot and elite hands. His skating ability is above average and he is a very capable penalty killer. Locke is not the kind of player who is a pure sniper and a defensive reliability. Locke will play the defensive role if asked.

The one limiting factor to Eric going as high as the first round is his size. He is a very smart player and finds ice by bumping off players to find space in the slot but you cannot teach a player to grow. I really like his game more and more every game I see him play in. I expect him to have the same effect on the scouts as well.

NHL Player Comparison: Joe Pavelski

Hats Off to Ryan Strome

"The season starts tonight” was a phrase heard all through the Jack Gatecliff arena Thursday evening. While the season for the Niagara Ice Dogs has been well under way for some weeks now, Thursday’s game against the Belleville Bulls marked the healthy return of goalie Mark Visentin, the first home game of the season for NHL/AHL returnee Alex Friesen and the debut of recent trade from Sudbury Frank Schumacher. However, the excitement about the homecoming of so many key players was over shadowed by the surprise return of Ryan Strome.

Strome was told early Thursday morning he was being sent home from the New York Islander organization and he immediately requested the first flight back. Within a few hours he arrived in St. Catharines ready for his first OHL game of the year. While the fans may be anxious for the team to start racking up some wins, Strome did not feel the pressure to do so lay with him. Strome reported Coach Williamson told him “we don’t expect too much out of the first week-end here. Get your feet under you and get back into the swing of things.”

But it didn’t take long for Strome to get back into the swing of things. With two goals in the first period and another in the third he skated away from his season debut with a hat trick.

While enjoying his experiences in New York, Strome said he is happy to be back with “the boys….we’re really close, we’ve got that comfort with each other, and I think it’s going to go a long way.” Strome acknowledges his Islander tenure gave him “a lot of things to improve on” but his return to Niagara is “a good spot to continue (his) development.”

The Ice Dogs fans were treated to the cohesive team Strome spoke about on Thursday as they defeated the Bulls 5-0. A shut out by Visentin, two goals by Dougie Hamilton and out-shooting the Bulls 53-25 gave the fans a show of what was expected during the pre-season hype.

There was a collective sigh of relief in the Jack Thursday evening as the Ice Dogs got a win and finally saw the winning team they have been anticipating since last spring. Strome heard the cheers of the fans Thursday night but when asked if he was disappointed only one hat was thrown on the ice to show appreciation of his hat trick, Strome laughed and said “hats are expensive these days, I wouldn’t be throwing mine out there!”

Dog Bytes:

  • Newly acquired defenceman Schumacher only lasted the first half of the game as he suffered from knee ligament injury
  • Defenceman Brock Beukeboom is going for x-rays this week and hoping to rejoin the team on-ice soon
  • Friday night the Ice Dogs winning streak was short lived as they lost to the Whalers 6-3
  • Saturday night, after down 3-0 four and half minutes into the game, they came back to tie it up only to eventually lose to Saginaw 6-4 with an empty net goal in the last ten seconds (Dougie Hamilton had two goals and one assist in the effort)

Murphy's back

The title of this blog really says it all.

A very happy week in Ranger land (well.. Forget about Monday). The return of #24 to the blue line is a huge boost to this team. Graeat to see the kid return. A brutal showing on Monday against Sault Ste Marie was followed up by a great game last night against Owen Sound.

So what happened on Monday? The Rangers were run over by a strong and tough Greyhounds team. A 6-2 loss for Kitchener, which included 5 fights and 10 players in the penalty box to start the third. Despite the Rangers getting the first goal, they quickly fell behind 2-1 following some questionable calls by the officials. The Soo were awarded a penalty shot on a play that wasn't really much of a breakaway. Then towards the end of the period, Michael Cattenaci was the victim of a blatant knee on knee collision in the Soo zone, where there was no call. The greyhounds were score moments later, setting the framework for a melee to end the second. As the greyhounds left the ice, goalie Franky Palazzese tapped Nick Cousins with his stick. Cousins would then audition for an Oscar as he flew across the ice. All of a sudden the entire greyhounds team jumped on Palazzese, which brought the Rangers in to defend. 4 fights broke out despite only 2 being called.

The issue here is officiating. Had that knee on knee call not been missed, the third Soo goal would have almost definitely not happened. I don't like calling out the refs but come on. Some things can't be missed. What if Cat had been severely injured? Would have been a much bigger deal then.

The return of Ryan Murhy was announced late Wednesday evening n Mufphy's twitter. After one game he seems to have done wonders already. Despite only netting one assist in his return, the team as a whole played significantly better on Friday night, beating the Owen Sound Attack by a score of 5-3. The Rangers dominated most of the game, and it's definitely great to see Murphy running the power play again (which not only finally got a goal, the PP got 2 goals!)

The final bit of news comes from the preview of the Rangers expansion plans. Construction will begin n February/March on a project that will add 1000 seats plus new media boxes (more leg room maybe?) and 8 new private boxes that will not have a view of the rink. A computer rendition of the new addition can be seen on the Rangers website. Personally, I still prefer the option of a new rink, however it looks like city council disagrees with me. If this is the best solution for now, then I'll take it. Just as long as it works out. It'll be weird seeing one half of the rink have 1000 extra seats, and the other side still the same size.

Cranberry Sauce...The Brampton Battalion get an early Thanksgiving Day treat

ITO’s Trevor Miller, our Brampton Battalion go-to guy, has opted out of writing about the Troops this week, which means he left the door wide open for me. And since it was Green vs. Blue earlier this week in the Battle of Peel, I couldn’t wait to cover this one.

Last year these two teams played each other eight times with the Majors dominating the series 8-0. This season they’ll have seven more meetings, and this time around the Troops are off to a much better start, earning a 5-1 victory Monday afternoon at the Powerade Centre in the traditional Thanksgiving Day game.

Brampton is still missing some key guys in its lineup, including Mitch Porowski (suspension), Zach Bell, and Ian Watters, both out with injuries. Bell is due back soon, but Watters likely won’t be dressing until January. These setbacks have definitely plagued the Battalion, but it’s not an excuse they can use forever, especially since they have most of their main players back. Besides, it’s not like the Majors haven’t experienced their fair share of injuries.

Good news is it wasn’t an excuse they carried onto the ice.

The Battalion have always been a good team defensively, but struggle offensively. To earn a goal against a top netminder like JP Anderson, the team has to take as many shots as possible. Having fired 41, the Troops did just that, and it paid off.

Special teams were a huge factor in this one as well. Overall, the Battalion are ranked higher (first in penalty killing coming into the game) than the Majors and capitalized on two of seven opportunities. Riley Brace managed the lone goal on a 5-on-3 advantage with less than three seconds remaining in the first period.

Mississauga is a small, fast team. They seemed to have the fire power to take this win easily. However, they lack something that Brampton doesn’t: size. Blujus, Lane, Auld, Robinson, Goodrow. All these guys needed to throw their weight around to take control.

At one point, Dave Corrente had his sights set on Dylan Blujus. He might as well have charged a tank because the blueliner barely wobbled as Corrente tumbled to the ice.

On the topic of Blujus, the 6’3” 193 pounder has truly broken out of his rookie shell. He earned two markers in the 5-1 victory for a total of four goals and six points in six games, including the overtime winner against the Storm Friday night in Guelph.

Barclay Goodrow wasn’t rusty at all after missing the first four tilts of the season. In fact, I think it fired him up even more. The left winger had several chances to put one in the back of the net. He powered through St. Mike’s defence on a few occasions, but couldn’t beat Anderson. It was only a matter of time before he capitalized, putting the fourth marker on the board for the Battalion.

Oddly enough, with all the size and power the Troops carry, Stan Butler decided to go out and trade for the two smallest guys he could find, and it’s the little guys who are stealing the show; 5’9” Brett Mackie (two goals in two games) and 5’8” Jamie Lewis (two assists in two games) joining the 5’9” import Patrik Machac (two goals and five points in six games).

To the crowd’s enjoyment, there was plenty of rough stuff in this one, which is expected not only between these two teams, but with any team that’s down 5-1 in the third. From Andreas Tsogkas’ front-flip leveling, to Mackie dripping blood after a scrap with Junior Harris, penalties riddled this game, but it didn’t take away from its entertainment.

Both teams were fast out of the gates and their goaltenders were sharp. I worried about Anderson last season. I always knew he was a good goaltender, but I didn’t think he measured up in high-pressure situations. This year he has impressed me from day one. I think he improved a lot this summer and NHL camp helped with that.

Matej Machovsky leaves a bigger mark every time he steps between the pipes. He faced 31 shots and brought the crowd to its feet after denying an alone-in-front Derek Schoenmakers attempt with a great save on the power play.

What I liked the most about this team was that they played as one.

As for Mississauga, with its injuries, lines have been shuffled quite a bit. Brace (usually on the left wing) has taken a new position as centre, with Sergey Kuptsov and Schoenmakers in their usual spots on the wings. As players start coming back, I look forward to seeing what the changes will be. All I know for sure, this line is working…at least it has been until the trip to Brampton.

Hopefully this win will give the Battalion the boost of confidence they need. And it gives the skeptics something to think about as many people put Brampton at the bottom of the rankings this season.

It doesn’t mean I’m planning a Memorial Cup parade for this team anytime soon, but similar to the Majors, I think they’ve shocked a lot of people with their play thus far. And on top of that while we’re on the subject of the double blue, of all the teams in the league, I bet you didn’t think the Troops would be the ones to end the Majors winning streak, did you?

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