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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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