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Canada's Toughest Test comes Tonight

Special Thanks to Thayne Hallyburton

What was once expected to be one of the biggest games of the 2012 World Junior hockey championship has now become somewhat of an after-thought.
Tonight’s contest between Team Canada and Team U.S.A was billed pre-tournament as the game to see in Edmonton. Both teams were expected to be 3-0 headed into it, and the winner was supposed to get a bye.
What was supposed to be and what has occurred are two very different things.
The tournament for the Canadian side thus far has gone off as planned. They handily beat all of their opponents in all three contests headed into the New Year’s Eve match against the Americans. For team U.S.A. the tournament has been a nightmare. Hot goaltending, terrible turnovers and lackluster efforts have plagued this team from the outset.
We first got a glimpse at the American’s vulnerability after a first period that saw many turnovers and a close 3-2 score against a sub-par opponent in Denmark.  They did go on to blow Denmark out by a score of 11-3 but we saw a glimpse of what was to come.  The Americans then ran into two hot goalies in their next two games. Finland’s Sami Aittokallio(Colorado Avalanche) and the Czech Republic’s Petr Mrazek(Detroit Red Wings) were simply phenomenal in their games against the Americans. The U.S. outshot, out-chanced and out-played the Finns and Czech’s but lost both games by scores of 4-1 and 5-2 respectively.
Now, we fast-forward to tonight where two teams who are going in opposite directions will clash in what has become hockey’s hottest international rivalry.  The Americans are headed to the relegation round and the Canadians are off to the semi-finals no matter the outcome tonight.
Pride and bragging rights are what are on the line tonight; but these are 17, 18 and 19 year old kids and that is more than enough to get them fired up to play.
For the U.S. this is their gold medal and for the Canadians this is a momentum and tune up game before heading into the medal round.
For Canada to be successful they will need a good game from starting goalie, Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey Devils) of the Plymouth Whalers, and will need to get their cycle game going down low to take advantage of the Americans lack of mobility on the back end.
For the Americans to be successful they will need to use their team speed. We heard a lot about it coming into this tournament. It was said that this was the fastest American team ever assembled. What we have seen thus far is just spurts of this speed. It is no doubt there, but they don’t use it enough. The passes are too long and are cross ice. To create team speed the passes need to be shorter and the Americans should focus more on playing North-South hockey rather than this East-West style of play that we have seen through the first three games of the tournament.
My Prediction is a 5-1 Canadian win. The Canucks have been too big, too strong, too organized and too skilled for every team in this pool and I think they will show that against the American side as well.
Key Players Canada: Mark stone, Ryan Strome, Brendan Gallagher, Scott Harrington, Brandon Gormley
Key Players USA: Charlie Coyle, Brandon Saad, Jarred Tinordi, JT Miller, Emerson Etem
Both Canada and the US had issues with the Flu bug as U.S.A.’s Charlie Coyle played only two shifts in their loss against the Czech Republic yesterday and Michael Bournival of Team Canada missed Thursday night’s win over Team Denmark. Both will be in the lineup tonight.
USA: Derek Forbort (concussion)
Canada: Devante Smith-Pelly (broken big toe)

What do you do with Murph and Matia?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. He stated boldly that if he was in Steve Spott's shoes, he would trade Matia Marcantuoni and Ryan Murphy, but only for big name guys like Mark Schiefle or Tanner Pearson. Of course that's incredibly unlikely as Barrie probably won't move their top 2 guys any time soon.

As stated in a few of my previous blogs, I have a different perspective. I see no reason to attempt to move Murph and Matia. Both players have been struggling with injuries this season, thats no secret. But why haven't they been producing as expected? Maybe everyone in the media is wrong (certainly no one on In The O, we're all geniuses). Now that these two highly touted players have recovered from the injuries its time for them to produce.

Marcantuoni needs to put the puck in the net a lot during the second half of the season. In his first game against Owen Sound last night he seems to have not missed a beat, still playing with his trademarked speed and ability to move the puck quicker than most players can turn their heads. I think with a very strong second half, he can return to the NHL top 10 draft prospects.

Ryan Murphy I believe is stuck at a cross roads. He's trying to improve his style based on what his coaches in Carolina and Kitchener have been telling him, and of course he's going to struggle at first. I think moving in to the second half and even in to next season he's going to be even better than he was last year, and yes I do believe he'll be back in Kitchener next season.

A couple of bright spots, how about Brett Clampitt? That kid is very tough, something the Rangers could have used last season. Him and Cody Sol make up a very tough threat that shows the Rangers won't back down. It's good to see a tough team back on East Ave. A very tough team won the 2003 Memorial cup in Kitchener and i'm sure thats what the fans, and management, really want.

And Franky Palazzese has been unreal. He currently sits #1 in the OHL for save percentage (You mad, Kingston?). I have seen the Knights, Greyhounds, Spits and IceDogs this season and I honestly beilieve, without a doubt, that John Gibson and Franky Palazzese are the two best goalies in the OHL. Yes you can quote me on that. And yes I will be willing to eat as much crow as possible at the end of the season. Houser, Visintin, Campbell, none of these guys are as good as Palazzese and Gibson as a pair. The Rangers record speaks for that.

Of course you can't win championships on goaltending alone (unless you're the Boston Bruins and Roberto Luongo decides to become swiss cheese...), but I believe the Rangers can go pretty deep in the playoffs this season with the team that is in place right now.

2012 WJHC CAN/DEN Game Preview

In four hours’ time the puck will drop for the third time for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship. This time they will take on Team Denmark who has struggled thus far in the tournament, losing 11-3 against the American squad on Monday, followed by a tough 7-0 loss the following day to Czech Republic.
The numbers don’t lie. Canada is far and away the best team in this matchup, having already beaten the Fins 8-1 on Monday and last night drubbed the Czech’s by a score of 5-0 but without the heroics of Czech goaltender Petr Mrazek, it would have been much worse.
Canada will look to keep their foot on the gas tonight against a Denmark team who looked very game in the first period of their first contest of the tournament against the U.S. A. before the wheels fell off. These can be very dangerous games for top teams in this tournament.
Coach Don Hay will look to make sure no bad habits are formed and that their style of play is kept intact as the guys will be playing a lesser opponent.
For Denmark it all starts and stops with Oshawa Generals star forward Niklas Jensen. Jensen has been integral for Denmark, killing penalties and running the power play from the point, something that he isn’t used to doing with his club team in Oshawa.
This game should be a romp for the Canadians. Scores in the double digits is the expected outcome, but if Denmark’s goaltender,  Sebastien Feuk, gets even hotter than he has been and Jensen has the game of his life, maybe they can make a game of it.

Scott Wedgewood: Out of OHL Anonymity

Special Thanks to Bryan Thiel

As of December 25th, not many people knew the name Scott Wedgewood. That's not to say no one knew it—those who follow the OHL are familiar with the Plymouth Whalers' goaltender—but he wasn't exactly a household name. Actually, he's barely a household name in his own league.

Now? The name Wedgewood is known Canada-wide, and he could be the next hot-topic at this year's World Junior Championships.

Wedgewood stood on his head against the Czech Reupublic December 28th, earning Canada a 5-0 win and moving them to 2-0 at the tournament. The shutout also marked Canada's 5th against the Czech Republic in World Junior history, and if we want to look at this hockey season as a whole, it was Wedgewood's third of the season.

Success really hasn't eluded Wedgewood over his two seasons in the OHL as a starting goalie: He's a combined 41-23-3-2, and while the stats aren't as pristine this year, he finished last year in the top-ten in goals-against average and save percentage, and (combined with backup Matt Mahalak) has Plymouth battling for top spot in the Western Conference this year.

If you want to go back even farther, you can look at the last game of the 2009/10 playoffs for Plymouth, which was Wedgewood's coming out party. Down 3-0 in their second-round series against the Windsor Spitfires, Wedgewood was the default starter for Game Four after then-Whaler Matt Hackett was suspended for 3-games because he went blocker-first after Derek Lanoue. All Wedgewood did was take the Windsor Spitfires to overtime, and make 70 saves—yes, 70 saves—in a 3-2 loss.

But along with the successes have come the 'hardships' of playing for a team that the Ontario portion of the OHL ignores. Ask someone who the best goalie in the OHL is, and Dale Hunter will tell you it's Michael Houser. Kitchener can bring first-year revelation John Gibson to the table, and Ottawa boasts Petr Mrazek, but only the wise ones mention Wedgewood. Last year in their first-round series against the Rangers, no one thought the Whalers' goalie could steal a series against the third seed. But he did, dragging a frustrated Gabriel Landeskog, Jerry D'Amigo and Jason Akeson along for the ride.

The spring before, the 70-save performance against the Spits made Wedgewood famous…for about a week. Soon after everyone was talking about the 3-0 lead Kitchener had in the Western Conference Finals. Then it was the fact that the Spitfires came back to win the series. Then it was Windsor’s second consecutive Memorial Cup. Who was going to remember a little second-round elimination at the hands of the champs?

Before he even started that game Plymouth Coach Mike Vellucci, his biggest supporter, was completely behind Wedgewood, saying he had always given his team a chance to win in the 18 games he played that year. In fact, Vellucci hoped that Wedgewood’s start against Windsor would get him some attention from the NHL scouts.

It did, as Wedgewood became a third round selection of the New Jersey Devils, and the second goalie taken from the OHL (Mark Visentin was taken in the first round by Phoenix).

While the draft status may have been ‘average’ (Thomas McCollum—30th overall in 2008—and Visentin are the only OHL goalies to go in the first round since 2001), a team that knew a thing or two about goalies had chosen Wedgewood, which on it’s own merit should have had people talking about him. But it didn’t. Neither did the fact that this was about the time many began wondering who would take over for Martin Brodeur, a goalie Wedgewood idolized, whenever the all-time great retired. Few mentioned the recently drafted goalie, who was the first goalie New Jersey had selected in the entry draft in five years, on the 20th anniversary of Brodeur’s selection.

Fast-forward to today and we know a little more about Scott Wedgewood and what he brings to the table. We know that the starting goalie of the Plymouth Whalers they call ‘Money’ has vaulted himself into the upper-tier of OHL goalies, he brought a country to their feet with his 26-save shutout of the Czechs, and he may just be the answer when people ask ‘who’s up next for New Jersey once Broduer is done?’

We won’t know the answer to that last one for a few more years, but one thing is for sure: Scott Wedgewood is no longer the OHL’s best kept secret.

"New Year's Eve is still on"

BY: Thayne Hallyburton
“New Year’s Eve is still on.” Those were the words spoken by U.S. head coach, Dean Blais, following his team’s 4-1 loss versus a very competitive Finnish squad.

Blais wasn’t wrong, if both teams were to win out, putting Canada at 3-0 and the U.S. at 2-1 going into the match on the 31st then both teams would still mathematically have the chance to gain the bye into the semi-finals.  Whoever won the game in regulation would then advance straight to the semi-final. If the game were to go into overtime, no matter the outcome, Canada would advance based on points.

The loss was shocking for an American side that many had deemed the favourite heading into the tournament, especially after the drubbing Canada put on the Finns on Monday.

“Sometimes when you see that 8-1 score, you think that we are going to do the same thing but you gotta give them credit their goal tender played well,” Blais explained. They got to the net and we didn’t get to the net enough like Canada did the night before.”

The Americans seemed flat out of the gate. Finland matched them physically with open ice hits and was able to math their team speed as well, something that the Americans were said to have more than any other team in the tournament.

“I just didn’t think we paid the price to get to the net. When you look at our grade A chances, we didn’t have 15 quality chances in the slot and those were the areas that Canada took advantage of Finland and we didn’t do it. We talked about doing it and worked in practice on doing it, but you have to take that and put it into the game,” explained Blais.

The U.S. will get a day off tomorrow where coach Blais is sure to put them through a tough work out before returning to action Friday night against the Czech Republic.

WIndsor Spitfires: A First Half Review

Special Thanks to Matt Dumouchelle

With the Windsor Spitfires just past the halfway point in their schedule and with Christmas break just wrapping up, it gives us some time to see what has happened in the first 37 games.

MVP: Alexander Khokhlachev. The steadiest offensive player on the team, Khoklachev has produced 17 goals and 47 points in 35 games this season. His -6 rating is concerning, but this team has given up the fifth most goals of any team in the OHL.

Most Underrated Player: It has been a fairly quiet December for Brady Vail, but there’s no question his contributions this year have been impressive. Vail has put up 27 points in 37 games this year, having totaled 10 in 61 games last year. He’s also being used in a much more defensive-minded role – against team’s top lines and on the PK – and he has adjusted well.

Biggest Disappointment: Ben Johnson. He has heated up as of late, but did not score his first OHL goal until November 13th. The Spitfires were very high on Johnson, who scored 77 points in 30 games with Calumet High School in Michigan and was just the second Junior to ever be picked as Mr. Hockey (the top Michigan High School hockey player), but has had a hard time adjusting to the OHL game. If you remove a flashy 6 game spread in November, Johnson has just 2 goals and 5 assists in 31 games.

Biggest Surprise: Coming into this season, Kerby Rychel had scored 7 OHL goals in 62 regular season games, this year he’s got 21 markers after only 37 contests. Rychel, who is on pace for a 75 point season, has been the most reliable offensive weapon Windsor has had outside of Khoklachev.

Players on the Block: I can’t say everyone, but close to it. Players like Chris Marchese, Brandon Devlin and Jaroslav Pavelka were acquired by GM Warren Rychel to be pieces for the future so they can be expected to stay put. If someone came calling for a veteran goaltender, John Cullen is available (but has not helped his own cause this year). Adrian Robertson would make a very interesting trade piece before the January 10th trade deadline.

Key Game Coming Up: January 22 vs Jack Campbell and the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds. Campbell did not play in the November 13th meeting, an 8-0 Windsor win.

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not: It has only been a quick glimpse, but Chris Marchese seems to be adjusting to his new surroundings quite well, with 5 points in his first two games as a Spitfire. Rookie Michael Clarke has only scored 3 goals since October 16th, after scoring 8 in his first 11 OHL games.

2nd Half Outlook: It’s the worst kept secret in the league that Windsor is looking forward to 2014, when the Memorial Cup returns to the OHL and the Spitfires will place their bid to host the tournament at the WFCU Centre. This team is rebuilding and it would be hard to see them get into the top 4 in the Western Conference this year. They will make the postseason, but more eyes are watching the calendar flip than eyeing a playoff run in 2012.

Who fills in for Smith-Pelly

With star forward, Devante Smith-Pelly, looking on coach Don hay put Canada's world junior team through a short, up-tempo practise this morning at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, Alberta.

Smith-Pelly was injured in last nights 8-1 romp over team Finland when he blocked a shot off of his foot, breaking a bone in the foot and promptly ending his tournament. He will be a big loss for Canada as many looked at him to be the tempo-setter for the team with big hits and timely goals.

Team Canada forward, Tanner Pearson of the Ontario hockey League's Barrie Colts played last game as the team's so-called 13th forward, but with Smith-Pelly going down to injury, he will be asked to step up and play a front line role for the team, something that he plays on a daily basis with his club team back in Barrie.

The line combinations seemed to sort themselves out, finally, in todays practise. Pearson found himself paired with Boone Jenner and Brett Connolly. This line will be counted on  to be an energy line going forward.

Team Canada gets back at it Wednesday night against the czech republic and then plays Denmark, who the american squad beat handly in their first contest, the following night. be sure to subscribe to In The O on Itunes for coverage from the tournament, with audio from all of the media availability sessions before anyone else gets them out!

In-Game Thoughts

Just some of my observations as I was watching the first period of Canada/Finland!

First Period Notes

Smith-Pelly looking to make a hit in his first shift rather than play the puck but got a nice chance in the slot.

Scheifele shows his speed early almost gives Canada a 1-0 lead

Canada gets the cycle going down low and Stone goes to the net hard and gets rewarded with a pass out front…he stuffs it home.

Stone from hubey and strome at 214 of first

Jenner levels maata

Gallagher from schwartz and Hamilton 425

Jenner’s foot speed showed it isn’t up to par on what should have been a 2 on 1 with Connolly

Gallagher for boarding

Hubey for tripping on an accidental play

Boone Jenner crushed Markus Granlund then he and Connolly get together to tag team older brother Mikael.

Strome-Stone have been very good.
Canada dominated pace of play but finland showed that all they need is one turnover to light the lamp as they came close on a few occasions with Freddie Bailing his teammate Mark Visentin out on one.


Second Period notes

Connolly-howden-F Hamilton an early line in the second…Smith Pelly has been moved to another line.

Stone bumps off players well and finds open ice…showed it there making it 3-1

Freddie did all of the grunt work on that one.

Smith-Pelly now playing with Howden and Strome, Tanner Pearson up on the first line with Scheifele and Gallagher.

Noe Pearson-Connolly-Jenner again…Pearson being used all over…Don Hay must trust him.

Harrington blocks one with his head as Visentin leaves another open head then Smith-Pelly blocks one with his ankle. Limps off

Now trying out Schwartz-scheifele-strome

Scheifele robbbbbed by Gibson

First PP sees Gormley and Beaulieu on the point with stone, Hubey and pearson up front.

PPG Huberdeau snipe from top of the circle over the glove of Gibson assisted by bealieu and pearson

Jenner-Connolly-Schwartz now with Smith-Pelly off to the room

Second PPP unit was 4 forwards, schwartz, gallagher, scheifele, strome and the lone D was Dougie Hmailton who scores to make it 5-1

Strome-Stone-Huberdeau now a don Hay continues to juggle...with a 5-1 lead he can afford to try things. Still no DSP

Smith Pelly is not on the Team Canada bench after blocking that shot earlier in the frame.

Schwartz-Freddie-Gallagher Freddie replaced Scheifele on this line...Hay is trying anything and everything he can think of I think. Still no DSP.

5-1 after 2 shots 27-17 for Canada

Third Period:

beauty pass by tanner Pearson to send connolly in alone...gormley with the other assist

DSP has been shut down for the night.

Line juggling has slowed down since DSP has left the game...

stone with the hat trick

last canadian hat trick was Dec. 29th 2010 when Brayden Schenn got 4 against Norway.

Granlund just missed on a cross-ice pass...had a gaping net.

ryan strome fires one from the top of the circle and beats Gibson. 8-1

DSP seen leaving Rexall Place with a cast on. terrible news for team canada.

8-1 final  Boone Jenner is a faceoff beast

off to talk to the players.

Expected Line Combinations For Canada

New line combinations for coach, Don Hay, and team Canada today against Finland. It appears as though Barrie Colts forward Tanner Pearson will be the 13th forward to start the tournament.

Here is what we know:

Schwartz - Scheifele - Gallagher
Huberdeau - Strome - Stone
Howden - F. Hamilton - Smith-Pelly
Bournival - Jenner - Connolly

On Defense we can expect things to remain mostly the same with Nathan Beaulieu still slated to be the 7th defenseman and the power play specialist.

Here is what we know:

Gormley – D. Hamilton
Harrington – Murray
Oleksiak – Pysyk
Game time is 3:30 Eastern on TSN

Subban Putting His Name On The Map

Special Thanks to John Langdon for the Article

BELLEVILLE - The Subban name has gained a prominent amount of recognition throughout the hockey world in recent years.  Most notably, PK Subban – a defenceman with the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League has grabbed the attention of many with his on-ice theatrics and highlight-reel plays.  But the Habs blueliner isn’t the only player putting the Subban name on the map. PK’s younger brother, Malcolm, a goaltender with the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League, is not only following in his older brother’s footsteps, but is starting to make a name for himself.
Growing up, Malcolm learned to play the game, like so many Canadian kids do, on the backyard rink of their Rexdale, Ontario home, while playing with PK, along with younger brother, and current Bulls teammate, Jordan.  Their father, Karl, who immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean as a kid, was introduced to the game through street hockey with neighbourhood friends in Sudbury, Ontario.  For Karl, it was a new found culture which evolved into a passion that he would later pass on to his sons as both a father and a coach.
“For sure, he’s had a big influence on us,” Subban said about his father.  “Using his knowledge and passing it down to us gave us a good start.”
“He knows a lot about the game, so it was good for us to have a father like that.”
It wasn’t until the age of 12 when Subban began his career as a goaltender.  As a child, Malcolm grew up playing on the blueline like his brothers, until his father finally allowed him to play between the pipes.
“My dad was my coach and when I was 12 he finally let me become a goaltender and it took off from there.”
After being selected 218th overall in the 2009 OHL Entry Draft, it’s fair to say that Subban has exceeded expectations from the Bulls organization and fans alike.  As an 11th round draft pick, Subban took over the number one spot in the Bulls’ crease as a rookie by playing 32 games, while backstopping his team into the playoffs, where the 6’1”, 188 lbs. goaltender posted some striking numbers.
“When Malcolm came to us two years ago through the draft, as a late ’93 birthdate, our expectation wasn’t for him to play as much as he did last year,” Bulls assistant coach Jason Supryka said.  “It was going to be a real developmental year for him, and he took advantage of an opportunity that really turned in his favour.”
The sophomore netminder has also caught the attention of NHL scouts, and is currently listed among the top ranked OHL prospects for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  While Subban admits that his draft eligibility sits in the back of his mind, he isn’t allowing the pressure to influence his game.
“It sits in the back of my mind,” Subban said. “But you try not to think about it. The scouts are going to be there every game, so you can’t worry about it too much. You just got to go out and play your game.”
Playing under the microscope of NHL scouts can be overwhelming at times for junior hockey players, whose youth is often overlooked in the public’s eye, due to their stardom on the rink.  Fortunately, for Malcolm, he can turn to older brother PK for guidance.
“We try to talk as much as we can,” Subban said.  “He always tells me to stay focused, and stay grounded.”
“When I tell him what’s going on, (PK) will tell me ‘don’t get too excited about it or don’t get too down about it, you just got to stay leveled.  Keep focused and play your game.’”
Being a middle brother, Malcolm finds himself in a unique position.  As much as Malcolm plays the role of student while seeking advice from older brother PK, he also finds himself teaching younger brother Jordan, both on and off the ice.
“I’m living with him right now,” Jordan said.  “Just being able to have him there to help give me some tips on my rookie season, and just how things work, it’s been great.”
Although he may not be as vocal as PK, Jordan says that through leading by example, Malcolm leaves a lasting impression.
“He never gives up,” Jordan added.  “He never quits.  He’s just really tenacious, and always is willing to work harder, and get better every game.”
In April 2011, Subban took his game to the international level when he was selected to the Team Canada roster for the IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championships in Germany, where the 17-year-old netminder recorded a shutout in his first appearance before backstopping Canada to the Bronze medal game against Russia.  The Russians would go on to defeat the Canadians, but facing their arch-rivals on a grand stage turned out to be an indescribable experience.
“You know the Canada versus Russia series…If you were to go up against Russia, you would be pretty pumped,” Subban said with laughter in his voice.
Despite failing to bring home a medal, representing his country was an honour in itself for Subban.
“(Playing for Canada) was surreal,” Malcolm said.  “It was the best experience of my hockey career, so far.”
This past summer, Subban found himself, once again, on the ice with some of the best junior hockey players in the world at the 2011 NHL Research, Development, and Orientation Camp in Toronto, where some of the future’s brightest stars meet for a chance to showcase their talents in front of NHL brass.
“Playing against guys that you’re going to be up against in the draft was pretty fun,” the 6’1, 188 lbs. netminder said.  “It got me ready for the season.”
“This is the beginning, and it’s going to be a long way to go, but you just have to stay focused and be consistent throughout the whole season.”
Maintaining focus hasn’t been a problem for Subban this season.  After being sidelined with an ankle injury for nearly a month, the Bulls goaltender has bounced back in a big way since his return on November 4, by posting a 12-4 record, along with an OHL best 1.93 GAA and .938 SV%, while earning CHL Goaltender of the Week honours twice in November.

1st Half Team Review: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

With the OHL Christmas Break in full effect it is essentially the halfway mark in the season and a time for reflection. And since it is the spirit of Christmas, lets take a look at each team as ITO lists whether they belong under the category: the good, the bad or the ugly.  

The Ugly

Saginaw Spirit – For a team that loaded up a season ago it would be expected that they take a step back in 2011/12, but with the returning players: Shalla, Saad, Archibald, Walch, McFarland, Trocheck and O’Connor this team sure is disappointing. The beginning of the season has seen the Spirit fail without Brandon Saad in the lineup. With the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick in the lineup the Saginaw Spirit are a tale of two teams: Unstoppable or Hopeless. With that said the last dozen games have seen the Spirit become a better team as they learn to accept the limitations of their roster. Sitting only 3 points out of a playoff spot come the break is very shocking for a team that had the ability to score at will last season (Shalla 47, McFarland 25, Saad 27, Trocheck 26).  

Erie Otters – If I were ranking the worst of the Ugly the Otters would be number one. And this isn’t because they are just dead last in the league. It is because they are dead last in the league with talent on their team. Sondre Olden joined the Otters this year and has been lackluster at best. Even though he has been the best forward on the ice most nights, he would still fail to register on the scoreboard at times. Given that the Otters are still captained by Greg McKegg with Ramis ‘Russian Workhorse’ Sadikov between the pipes, you would think the Otters would be at least 8th in the west fighting off the teams for the last spot. Nope, the Otters are just trying to score goals. Injuries have depleted their lineup to some key guys but in their absence, the roster players at times have looked uninspired and unmotivated. Is this because of the coach or the situation? Either way the Otters season cannot get worse.  

Oshawa Generals – I am sure this will get me some flack but in all honesty for a team boasting 3 returning NHL Draft picks from this past Junes draft, plus the return of: Christian Thomas (54 goals last season), Andy Andreoff, Scott Valentine and Daniel Maggio, this team had the makings of a contender. The only thing missing was a goaltender after the Gens decided Zador/Baille combination could not get it done. This season the team went into the season with Baille and… an unproven, but highly touted NHL Draft Eligible Daniel Altshuller. Despite being one of the higher scoring teams in the Eastern Conference the two netminders have failed to keep them out of the back of the net which has resulted in the Generals being called ‘ugly’  

Owen Sound Attack – The only reason I think I can justify the Attack as being in this section is two things. The team leader in goals, points and penalty minutes is Captain Mike Halmo, and the goaltending situation. Last year in the Memorial Cup the ‘Coach of the Year” Mark Reeds completely messed up his chances at winning the title by sitting his hot goaltender Jordan Binnington in favour of a ‘gut’ feeling that he couldn’t get the job done. Scott Stajcer didn’t get the job done but I guess it doesn’t matter since he graduated to the NHL bench. This year Binnington was the unquestionable starter at the beginning of the season. A rocky less than starter like performance, mixed in with Stajcer being sent back to the OHL by the New York Rangers has left Binnington fighting for ice time again… this time neither goalie is good. As for Halmo being the offensive leader on the team…  Dale DeGray did trade for Dan Catenacci who hasn’t been amazing, but hasn’t been a dud. Catenacci sits second on the team in goals and scoring but is only a +2, something that he needs to improve on for the Attack to have any type of chance at being consistent.  

The Bad

Windsor Spitfires – this is a team that can be a coin toss to whether they should be ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’ the deciding factor is the fact that the Spitfires front office decided to take a pass and build for a potential 2014 Memorial Cup Host date and are currently loading up on talent. Some key pieces were dealt and what has remained has done a decent job considering the toughness of the Western Conference. Currently sitting tied for 7th in the West gets them a bad rating in the ITO books.  

Kingston Frontenacs – tough to say whether it is because the team is always up and down each year or just doomed from the start but this is what was expected from the franchise. The refusal to raise a goalie of their own, picking up pieces from other teams that would otherwise been cut, it is just not a ‘stable’ franchise. The Fronts are doing some good like the ‘trading’ of Ryan Spooner for a lot of assets and bringing along other positional players in their system like Warren Steele. Kingston would be instantly upgraded to the ‘good’ column if they can find their way to a playoff spot.  

Mississauga Majors - The sole reason the Majors fall under the bad category is because of their white-hot start that nobody saw coming. It’s true. Even some of the minds at ITO did not predict that. What was predicted for the Majors is that they would crash down hard and sit near the bottom of the conference hovering around the 6, 7, and 8 seed. Riley Brace is the meager bright light, as he has had to carry a lot of the offensive load while other returning players from last seasons Memorial Cup run have faltered, JP Anderson. They were who they thought we were but a little bit worse really…   

Guelph Storm – I wanted to put Guelph in the ‘ugly’ pile but I cannot. This is the first time in many years they have been without their trio of Beck, Holland and Latta. Those three carried so much weight on the ice and in the dressing room it is strange to think what the team would do without them… now we know. The forwards and the D have been growing as the season has gone on and although I wouldn’t say they have ALL been improving there are definitely some pluses. The minuses come from the goaltending where it is still a team of two goalies who are struggling to be average. Sparks and Foote have not set the world on fire and as soon as one goes on a run, they come crashing down and is replaced by another.  

Peterborough Petes – Much like the Majors the Petes started with a head of steam and have fizzled somewhat but not falling to the bottom of the Division like Mississauga has. With a healthy team the Petes can shock and awe some teams but have recently been decimated by injuries. Even though there are not name brand talent outside of Matt Puempel and Austin Watson (maybe Andrew Yogan), a solid collection of veterans and rookies have made this team something to watch but lack of consistency brings them down to the ‘bad’  

Niagara IceDogs – They were ranked 2nd in the nation prior to the puck drop for the 11/12 season and have stunk up the joint since. Despite going 7-2-0-1 in their last 10, the IceDogs have not been a dominant force you would expect with 3 solid OA forwards, 3 first round NHL draft picks in their lineup and now 4 players representing Team Canada… all the talent and they had to climb from the basement makes these Dogs… bad.  

Sudbury Wolves – The 11/12 campaign started like the 10/11 season did. Poorly and leading to a lot of catching up to do in the Eastern Conference. I personally expected much better from the Wolves but again, like last year they came on strong and that includes their offensive talent stepping up lately, while their D and goaltending have been above expectations. If the Wolves were ahead of the IceDogs at this point (behind NIA by 5 pts) then they would be ‘Good’ but the slow start has hurt them and will be a tough climb given the ‘good’ teams in the East so far.  

The Good

Soo Greyhounds – No one expected anything from this team which has played to their advantage. The Greyhounds came out and played very consistent hockey resulting in a few more W’s than expected and then the wheel’s fell off their wagon. They are not near the top of the conference or division (trailing division leader by 9 pts) but have been better than all have predicted.  

Sarnia Sting – Much like the Soo, there was a complete overhaul of talent on this roster and rightfully so it worked out for the new GM in Sarnia. After pulling in some players who had no intention of coming into the OHL before, GM Beaulieu immediately added ‘respectability’ to the franchise. He was able to add to the talented core of Yakupov, Galchenyuk, Hottot and Ritchie to name a few. Injuries have curbed what could have been a completely dominant team but the team has persevered regardless. The one knock if there is one, goaltending. But there is no shame in playing a 8-5 game every night as long as you have the horses to give you the 2 points.

Plymouth Whalers – The Whalers looked like a team that would be on the verge of complete dominance or continue to flounder in the middle of the conference. With a goaltending duo almost second to none the Whalers have dominated. Addition of J.T. Miller and the return of Jamie Devane has created an immense offensive depth that may not be matched in the league. From the forwards to the defence to the dynamic goaltending duo there may be zero holes on this team.  

Kitchener Rangers – For a team that does not know whether it should go for it or pull back, Kitchener has been able to overcome key injuries with timely goaltending. Whether it is the ‘starter’ John Gibson or Kingston Flop Frank Palazesse the Rangers roster have been able to pull out the W’s when an L is in order. Nothing new right? Captain Michael Catenacci has been able to pull in this ‘offensively challenged’ team (by comparison to previous years) and have helped play the systems to a tee. When the injured return and maybe Matia Marcantuoni figures out his game they can make a solid run in the second half.  

London Knights – It is odd to think that every year this team cannot be dangerous can they? Well they can and they are. This year’s crop… it must be something in the kool-aid. Michael Houser was the hottest thing at the beginning of the year and although the shots and minutes have taken him down a bit he is still an elite goaltender in the OHL who is probably the number one reason for the Knights successes. Not only is it the amount of saves he is asked to make, it is the key, game changing moment saves he makes on a regular basis to foil the oppositions comeback plans.  
Belleville Bulls – I mentioned earlier that no one predicted the start to the Majors season and I can safely say that no one predicted the Bulls near the top of the conference come the end of the first half. There was potential on this team that could have them fighting every night but the play of the team as a whole has been unbelievable. From the back end to the front, Burnett actually has the team playing a solid TEAM game where no matter how hard they try the fans cannot even Boo Burnett as long as the Bulls are near the top.  

Ottawa 67’s – this seems like a no brainer as the team did not lose any real talent from the previous year minus Ryan Martindale. In Martindale’s absence, Sean Monahan has stepped right in and kept the PMT line in tact. Although, Petr Mrazek is not at the top of his game so far this year he has won the games the 67’s are suppose to win and have stolen games they have no chance being in.  

Barrie Colts – From the basement almost to the penthouse. That is the OHL for you and these are your Barrie Colts. The return of Mark Schiefele has been great for this team but you can not ignore the other parts picked up in the off season: Reid McNeill, Ivan Telegin, Greg Sutch and Mathias Neiderberger have helped make this team into legitimate contenders.  

Brampton Battalion – Not only are the Troops in the good column for their solid play so far… they have surprised almost all by sitting on top of their division one point out of the conference lead. With Stan Butler defence is king and the Battalion’s starting 6 cannot be matched. They are not the fastest or the best offensively but Butler has the right parts in place to keep the chances low and just capitalize on opposition’s mistakes. It isn’t the prettiest of hockey games when Brampton is in town, but a W is a W and they have enough to give them 2nd seed in the East. 

ITO Hot-Stove: Which OHL player will have the best tournament at the World Juniors?

This is the fourth edition of ITO Hot-Stove since I've joined. I can't believe it's already been a month. Time fly's, I guess. Anyways, joining me today in this piece is Susan Tromanhauser, Trevor Miller, Brandon Sudeyko and Thayne Hallyburton.

Without further ado I'd like to introduce you all to today's debate question: which OHL player will have the best tournament at the World Juniors?
Todd Cordell

Mark Scheifele.

I'm going to go way out on a limb (not really) and suggest that Mark Scheifele will have the best World Junior tournament of any OHLer who's going to play in the World Junior.

Scheifele is penciled in as the first line center for Canada, and appears to be in line to center Devante Smith-Pelly, who is playing with the Anaheim Ducks this season, on one side and Jonathan Hubderdeau, who is one of the best prospects not in the NHL, on his other side. Those are some pretty elite linemates if you ask me. Factor in the fact that he's a two-way player and will be used in all situations, and you have yourself a player with every opportunity to succeed.

Oh, and if for some reason he fails to produce with those linemates, he'll likely end up on a line with his teammate in Barrie, Tanner Pearson, who he seems to be very comfortable with.

Susan Tromanhauser

Mark Visentin.

At the risk of sounding like the biased Ice Dog fan I am, I believe the World Juniors will be a showcase for goaltender Mark Visentin. While some believe Visentin’s selection to Team Canada was iffy, at no time did Coach Don Hay ever doubt Visentin’s place on the roster. Hay is relying on the experience Visentin brings in net.

There is talk about this year’s World Juniors being a chance for redemption for last year’s debacle in Buffalo. In reality Visentin started the tournament as a backup goalie, fought his way into the starting position and had one lousy period, albeit at the worst time possible – the third period of a gold medal game.

Visentin has not had a stellar season so far. His first game after returning from the Phoenix Coyote training camp he suffered a groin injury and has been careful with his recovery. He has a SV% of 0.899, the worst in the OHL. However in his defence, (pun intended) there have been many games when the Ice Dog defence was inconsistent (to put it kindly) and Visentin was left alone to defend the net. In spite of this adversity Visentin leads the OHL with 4 shutouts.

The World Juniors out west will be just the stage for Visentin to showcase his true abilities and meet the challenge of the high calibre performances of the tournament. The Visentin doubters will be jumping back on the band wagon they fell off last year in Buffalo.

Trevor Miller

I have no doubt that Barrie Colt forward and Team Canada center Mark Scheifele COULD be the OHL’s stand-out for the tournament. With that being said, the winner’s of this tournament ride a hot goalie to glory. It is more realistic that we look at goaltending to pinpoint the player that will best represent the OHL. Mark Visentin is looking for redemption after the Gold Medal collapse last year. Scott Wedgewood on the other hand is ready and waiting for his chance to backstop Canada to it’s first Gold Medal since 2009. Wedgewood came out on top against the favoured Tyler Bunz for his spot on this year’s team.

With all that being said, Canada is only one team in this tournament. There are other OHL players suiting up for their respective Countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kitchener Ranger John Gibson makes a case for himself this year for Team USA. As the “backup” to returnee Jack Campbell, Gibson finds himself in a similar position to Wedgewood. I joked with Gibson before the USA camp and wished him luck, but not too much because I’m Canadian. He could steal the starting job from Campbell.

Let’s also not forget the likes of Nail Yakupov for the Russians or even Brandon Saad for the Americans. I still feel like the MVP for the OHL this year will be a goalie, and with all four goalies from North America coming from the Ontario Hockey League, that certainly bodes well for their respective chances.

Thayne Hallyburton

Boone Jenner
I think Boone will have the best tournament this year. The Oshawa Generals stud forward is a machine along the wall and gives second and third efforts on every play. some scouts say his skating is not up to par, but that won't matter in this tournament playing with the players he will be playing with. He will go to the net hard and with the hands of gold that he possesses he will have no issue finding the back of the net time and time again. It will be interesting to see what Jenner can do! I'd expect him to make his way towards the top of the Team Canada lineup as the tournament progresses.

Brandon Sudeyko

Devante Smith-Pelly.

Toddy, Toddy, Toddy... you love to send out open ended questions don't you? Is this the best tournament based on points? play? accomplishment? so many angles and I think the best answer is the Notorious one, Mr. D.S.P! Devante Smith-Pelly is my choice as the OHL who will have the Best Tournament. He has come a long way since being a sub due to injury in the Top Prospects game almost 2 full years ago. He hasn't changed his game once but his reputation has grown leaps and bounds. Like Scott 'money' Wedgewood, DSP was always an after thought up until last year when the Majors (under heavy CHL Promotion) took Canada by storm and really made it known that we have 'stars' on the team. At 6'0" 210 (has to be heavier) pounds, DSP is just a wrecking ball of a man with the softest set of mits on the team. Whether he is a 3rd or 4th liner sent out to swing momentum the other way. Whether he is used on the PP to be a nuisance in front of the net. Or whether he is used on the top line to head down the wing and crash the net and opponents hard. Many people will walk away from this tournament going 'WOW! The Ducks picked him up in the 3rd round? What did my team do that year?' Many players have coming out parties during this tournament but the Notorious DSP will have the best Tournament.

ITO Three Stars and OHL Power Rankings: Week 13

Welcome back for another edition of the ITO Power Rankings, as well as our Three Stars for the week of December 12th-18th. It was a difficult week for many teams around the OHL, as many top players have already left for various World Junior camps in advance of the annual tradition. Those remaining with their respective clubs needed to step up to fill important minutes, or risk watching their team drop out of tight races in both Conferences. The OHL has begun a league-wide ten day mandatory holiday break, which means that we won’t see action again until December 28th, and that these will be the last Power Rankings and ITO Three Stars of 2011.

ITO 3 Stars

1. Andrew Agozzino (Niagara IceDogs) – It was an easy choice this week as the ITO First Star, as Niagara IceDogs Centre Andrew Agozzino would take full advantage of extra playing time, scoring two goals and seven points in just two games. Andrew’s big performance came on Thursday evening, when he would score both his goals as part of a five point night in a romp over Erie. Saturday night, Andrew added two more assists, with helpers on the eventual game winning goal and the insurance marker. With such a good performance in back to back games, Andrew was assured this week’s First Star Selection.

2. Chris Marchese (Windsor Spitfires) – If you want an example of how to make an impact with your new club, look no further than to Chris Marchese, acquired from the Erie Otters on December 13th. Chris would play his first game as a Spit on Thursday, scoring a goal as part of a three point night against Owen Sound. Chris would score two more goals in his second game for Windsor, an eventual defeat in Saginaw. With three goals and five points in a pair of games, Chris Marchese, now of the Windsor Spitfires, is the ITO Second Star for Week 13.

3. Michael Santini (Brampton Battalion) – Nobody in the league found the back of the net as often as Michael did this past week, despite being another player to play just twice. Santini’s heroic goal in Overtime Friday night lifted the Battalion to victory in Ottawa, but Michael would be even better Sunday afternoon, scoring three goals in a big win over Sarnia. For scoring four times in two games, Michael Santini of the Brampton Battalion is our choice as ITO Third Star.

ITO Power Rankings

1. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) It should come as no surprise that London remains in top spot in the OHL Power Rankings, the same spot they have maintained since the opening week of the season. The lead over the pack has diminished greatly in recent weeks, and the Knights now find themselves looking over their shoulders at some of the top teams in the league. London was only able to earn a split in a pair of games this past week, losing on Thursday night in Peterborough, but bouncing back to defeat Guelph a night later. The Knights are off now until Wednesday, Decemeber 28th, when they travel to Plymouth.

2. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 2) At one point this week, it appeared as though the Whalers were poised to knock London out of the top spot in the Power Rankings, especially after an impressive shutout victory in Oshawa on Friday night. Plymouth was unable to capitalize the following night, dropping a tough game in Belleville. The Whalers now break until Wednesday, December 28th, when they host London in a battle for control of the ITO Power Rankings.

3. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 3) Another team poised to take a run at the top of the OHL Power Rankings, the Kitchener Rangers are doing their best to keep up with the high-flying teams from London and Plymouth. Kitchener nearly leaped ahead this week, after an impressive win in a shootout over Sault Ste. Marie on Friday. The following night, however, the Rangers would lose a low scoring affair in Owen Sound, preventing them from gaining ground on the Whalers and Knights ahead of them. Kitchener’s next game is Thursday, December 29th, when they play in Windsor.

4. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 5) The Brampton Battalion have been one of the most impressive teams consistently throughout the first half of the season, and sit atop the Central Division, just one point out of first place in the Eastern Conference. Brampton picked up a huge overtime win in Ottawa Friday night, gaining a point on the Conference leaders, and would return home to earn an impressive victory over Sarnia on Sunday afternoon. The Battalion are now off on break until Thursday, December 29th, when they play a big division rival in Barrie.

5. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 4) Even earning five out of a possible six points this past week wasn’t enough to keep the Ottawa 67’s from sliding a spot in the Power Rankings. An overtime loss on home ice to Brampton on Friday night really cost Ottawa, despite the 67’s picking up wins in Barrie and Oshawa over the weekend. Still atop the Eastern Conference, the 67’s are now off until Wednesday, December 28th, when they host Kingston.

6. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 9) The Niagara IceDogs were impressive again this week, even moreso considering they are playing without arguably their top four players, who are all away with the Canadian National Junior program. Thursday evening, Niagara posting a 7-0 blanking over Erie, with backup Chris Festerini earning his first OHL shutout against his former club. Two nights later, the IceDogs would earn another two points, knocking off Sudbury. Niagara gets eleven days off now before playing in Owen Sound on Wednesday, December 28th.

7. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 6) The Sudbury Wolves remain at number six this week, managing to earn three points from as many contests in the last week. The Wolves started strong, hammering Erie on Friday night, but would lose a tough contest in Niagara a night later. Sudbury would earn another point on Sunday afternoon, losing a shootout in Mississauga. While the Wolves remain competitive in a tough Eastern Conference, they remain just six points ahead of 9th place, and are now off until Wednesday, December 28th, when they play host to Barrie.

8. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 8) The Belleville Bulls are another team that seems to play drastically different on any given week, and will need to find consistency in order to succeed in the second half of the season. Belleville earned a split from a pair of games this week, dropping a disappointing decision at home to Kingston on Wednesday, but came right back to defeat one of the top teams in the league, knocking off Plymouth on Saturday night. After the holiday break, the Bulls return to action on Thursday, December 29th, playing on the road in Sault Ste. Marie.

9. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 7) The Barrie Colts are another team that shows the potential to contend in the Eastern Conference, if they can only find some consistency. Despite winning two out of three contests, the Colts slide two spots in this week’s OHL Power Rankings. Barrie would earn two points in a low scoring game against Mississauga on Thursday evening, but would drop a tough decision to Ottawa on Saturday night. The Colts earned a positive week on Sunday afternoon, by picking up an overtime win in Peterborough. After the break, Barrie returns to action in Sudbury on Wednesday, December 28th.

10. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 11) Right in the thick of things in the Western Conference, the Owen Sound Attack continue to earn points against tough competition, and will be another team to keep an eye on down the stretch. The Attack would win two out of three games this week, starting with a win Thursday night in Windsor. A night later, Owen Sound would lose a tough contest in Sarnia, but the Attack would reply on Saturday, when a tired club would earn a victory back at home over Kitchener. Owen Sound doesn’t return to action until Wednesday, December 28th, when they host Niagara.

11. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 10) For much of the first half of the season, the Sarnia Sting were mentioned in the same breath as the London Knights among the elite in the Ontario Hockey League, but a series of losing weeks has seen them plummet down the OHL Power Rankings. Again this week, the Sting would drop two of three decisions, as they struggle with the loss of many of their top stars. Sarnia began the week with a big win at home against Owen Sound on Friday night, but replied with losses in Erie Saturday, and Brampton on Sunday, causing the Sting to slide another spot this week. Sarnia is now off until Wednesday, December 28th, when they travel to Sault Ste. Marie.

12. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 12) The Windsor Spitfires manage to remain in the number twelve spot this week, despite losing both of their contests in the last week. Thursday night, the Spits would drop a game on home ice to Owen Sound, and Windsor would lose again two nights later in Saginaw, sending them to the holiday break on a two game losing streak. The Spitfires get a quick chance at revenge on Wednesday, December 28th, when they play another game in Saginaw.

13. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 13) The Greyhounds appear to be a team unsure about its identity so far this season. Every great week is followed with a poor one, and General Manager Kyle Dubas has not been afraid to make a move to help his team now. Even so, the Hounds find themselves in the thick of the pack in a tough Western Conference, and are looking more like they’ll play the role of spoiler as opposed to contender. The Hounds earned three points from three games this past week, good enough to hold firm at number 13. The Soo would pick up a win on Wednesday over Saginaw to start the week, but lost in a shootout in Kitchener two nights later. On Saturday, the Hounds would be outclassed in Guelph, preventing any possible climb up the rankings this week. Sault Ste. Marie is now off until Wednesday, December 28th, when they play host to Sarnia.

14. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 16) Toiling near the bottom of the OHL Power Rankings much of the season, the recent better play of the Saginaw Spirit has seen them rise up the rankings, landing at number fourteen this week. Even so, the Spirit still remain on the outside looking in on the Western Conference playoff race, and will need to be much better in the second half of the season. Saginaw would start the week with a loss in Sault Ste. Marie, but responded well a few days later, when they defeated Windsor Saturday night. The Spirit don’t play again now until Wednesday, December 28th, when the same team from Windsor returns for another visit.

15. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors – (Last Week: 17) It’s been a tough first half of the season for Mississauga, as they continue to struggle with the loss of some key players from last year’s club. The Majors do climb two spots this week, landing at number fifteen after winning two out of three low scoring contests over the weekend. Mississauga would lose the opening contest of the week in Barrie on Thursday, but came back a night later to defeat Kingston on home ice. Sunday afternoon, the Majors would use the shootout to dispatch the visiting Sudbury Wolves, ensuring a rise in the rankings this week. Now on break, Mississauga returns to action in Guelph on Wednesday, December 28th.

16. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 14) Through the opening half of the season, the Guelph Storm have found a way to compete in a tough conference, yet, despite their .500 record, the Storm find themselves clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference, looking ahead to 2012. Guelph would split a pair of games over the last week, keeping their record even with a loss in London on Friday night, followed by a win over Sault Ste. Marie Saturday afternoon. The Storm are now off until Wednesday, December 28th, when they play host to Mississauga.

17. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 15) A promising start over the first month of the season has rapidly vanished, as the Petes who were once competing with Ottawa for the division lead now cling to eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. Peterborough somehow drop two spots this week in the Power Rankings, even though they would earn three out of four possible points. A victory at home over London would snap an eight game losing streak Thursday evening, but the Petes failed to capitalize on their next game, losing in overtime Sunday afternoon to Barrie. Peterborough will look to get back on track starting Thursday, December 29th, when they host Erie.

18. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 18) The Oshawa Generals win this year’s award for most disappointing first half, as a team that was expected by many (including myself) to contend for the Eastern Conference crown has sputtered out of the gate, fighting injury and suspension, and have never found their rhythm. Another pair of losses in as many tries extends their losing streak to four games, and they have just three wins in their last twelve. The Generals were embarrassed on home ice Friday night, shut out by an elite team from Plymouth, and Oshawa couldn’t muster enough two nights later, losing on home ice once again, this time to Ottawa. The Generals go off on holiday break, returning Wednesday, December 28th with a visit from Erie.

19. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 19) The Kingston Frontenacs haven’t had much to cheer about this season, as they sit dead last in the Eastern Conference, and a full eight points behind the next team in the standings. Kingston did pick up another win this week, splitting a pair of games before the holiday break. The Frontenacs would earn a hard fought two points by defeating the Bulls in Belleville, but would find themselves on the wrong end of a defensive battle in Mississauga. Kingston’s next game is on Wednesday, December 28th, when they play in Ottawa.

20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 20) Already over 20 points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, much of the attention on the Erie Otters has been who might be moved, and to where, as the Otters have begun to retool for next year. Having already dealt Chris Marchese to Windsor, Erie has a number of other assets who may find themselves with new homes in the new year, as the Otters chances of salvaging this season have long since evaporated. That said, the Otters continue to fight, finding themselves earning another win this week, giving them five now on the season. After being shutout on Thursday in Niagara, Erie returned home to be dropped by Sudbury the next night. On Saturday, what should have been a tired Otters squad found a way to defeat Sarnia for the second time in eight days. Erie is off on break now until Wednesday, December 28th, when they travel to Oshawa.

The ITO Three Stars and Power Rankings will be on hiatus next Tuesday here at In The O… The Radio Show, but Week 14 will be up at it's usual time on Tuesday, January 3rd. Meanwhile, check back next week to see our thoughts on your favourite team ranks. If you can’t wait for your OHL fix, find me on Twitter anytime, @N24Nicholson.

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