Welcome back for another edition of the ITO Power Rankings, as well as our Three Stars for the week of December 4th-11th. 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. Looking ahead, this week will be the last week before the OHL goes on a ten day Christmas break, and teams will be jockeying to break on a high note.
ITO 3 Stars
1. Mark Scheifele (Barrie Colts) – The Barrie Colts continue to hang around near the top of the OHL’s Eastern Conference, and veteran leader Mark Scheifele is one of the big keys to the Colts resurrection this season. Mark was only around long enough to play two out of the clubs three contests this week, but scored four goals and six points in those two contests. Scheifele would score two first period goals on Friday night, helping Barrie past Owen Sound, and would score two more goals, as well as a pair of assists, in a big win over Guelph the next night. Despite missing a game after leaving to take part in Team Canada’s World Junior Camp, Mark’s performance this week earns him our ITO First Star selection for Week 12.
2. Tanner Pearson (Barrie Colts) – Perhaps no player, Mark included, has been more crucial to the Colts turnaround this season than Tanner Pearson, who makes his fourth appearance on the ITO Three Stars already this season. Tanner’s numbers this week were virtually identical to Scheifele’s, as he also registered four goals and six points in a pair of games, and travelled with Mark to take part in Team Canada’s camp as well. Tanner would score two goals and add a helper on Friday night against the Attack, and posted the same the next night against Guelph, including scoring the eventual game winner. While we typically shy away from naming teammates in the ITO Three Stars, Tanner’s performance this week was too much to ignore, and he is deserving of this week’s Second Star.
3. Seth Griffith (London Knights) – Seth makes his second appearance in the ITO Three Stars this season, earning a place in the Three Stars for Week 12 after scoring five goals in three contests over the last week. Griffith would score a goal in a losing cause in Kitchener on Tuesday night, but saved his best performance of the week for Friday, when he scored three times and added an assist in a victory over Peterborough. Seth would clinch the Third Star selection by adding another big goal Sunday, in an eventual overtime victory in Guelph.
ITO Power Rankings
1. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) No change yet again at the top spot, as the London Knights have made themselves quite comfortable at the top of the ITO Power Rankings since the beginning of the season. Despite dropping a decision in Kitchener on Tuesday evening, the Knights bounced back for a pair of wins over this past weekend, knocking off Peterborough at home Friday night before getting the win in extra time in Guelph Sunday. A pair of rematches awaits London this week, as they travel to Peterborough Thursday, and return home to face Guelph on Friday.
2. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 2) Plymouth picked up victories in both their games again this week, extending their winning streak to four in the process, and remain at number 2 in the ITO Power Rankings. The Whalers would ride a big first period to a win on Friday night against Belleville, and would be equally impressive the following evening, defeating Sarnia. Plymouth heads out on a two-game Eastern road trip this week before taking off for the holidays, as they play in Oshawa Friday evening, and then play a rematch in Belleville a night later.
3. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 3) With wins in two of three games this week, the Rangers continue to keep pace near the top of a tough Western Conference. After starting the week with a big victory over London, Kitchener found themselves on the wrong end of a hard fought battle with Windsor on Friday. The Rangers ended the week on another high note, winning big in Mississauga Sunday afternoon. Two more games await Kitchener before the holiday break, as they play host to Sault Ste. Marie on Friday evening, and play in Owen Sound on Saturday.
4. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 5) The 67’s find themselves climbing yet another spot this week, landing at number four, despite splitting a pair of games over the weekend on a northern road trip. Ottawa fell victim to Sault Ste. Marie Friday night, allowing the latter to end an eight game slide, but responded well a night later, posting a shutout in Sudbury. The 67’s face a three game weekend ahead, starting Friday night, when they host Brampton. From there, they head out on the road, playing in Barrie Saturday night, and finishing the weekend in Oshawa.
5. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 11) By earning wins in all three contests this past week, the Battalion take the biggest leap in the ITO Power Rankings this week, jumping six spots to once again join the top five. After a win in Kingston on Friday, Brampton would earn another two points in Barrie the following night. The Battalion wrapped up a perfect weekend at home, picking up another win over Kingston. Before they can relax for the holidays, Brampton must face two tough foes in the week ahead, starting Friday in Ottawa. The Battalion close out the week back at home on Sunday, hosting Sarnia.
6. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 9) Sudbury climbs three spots this week, winning twice in three contests in the last seven days. Wednesday night, the Wolves earned the win in a low scoring affair in Sault Ste. Marie. Sudbury returned home to earn another win over Oshawa Friday night, but would drop a tough 1-0 game to Ottawa to round out the week. Looking ahead, the Wolves have a three game road trip ahead of them this weekend, starting in Erie Friday night. Games in Niagara on Saturday and in Mississauga Sunday wrap up the Wolves pre-holiday schedule.
7. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 8) Another winning week for the Colts sees them rise another spot in the ITO Power Rankings. Barrie would win games against Owen Sound Thursday, and in Guelph Friday, before a tired and undermanned squad lost to Brampton Saturday night. The Colts play three more times this week, hosting Mississauga Thursday evening, and Ottawa two days later. Before they break for the holidays, however, they’ll travel to Peterborough Sunday for a matinee contest.
8. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 4) The Bulls were riding a six game winning streak entering the week, but three straight losses on a western road trip brought that momentum crashing to a halt this week, as Belleville slides four spots to land at number eight. A loss in Windsor on Thursday quickly spiralled, as they followed up with losses down South in Plymouth and Saginaw. The Bulls have the opportunity to shake the losing streak with a pair of games at home this week, starting with a visit from Kingston on Wednesday night. From there, Plymouth comes up for a rematch in Belleville on Saturday night.
9. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 7) A fairly decent week for the IceDogs somehow results in a drop of two spots this week, as they find themselves at number nine. After promising wins in Peterborough on Thursday and in Mississauga Friday, a tired and depleted IceDogs group would drop a disappointing decision on home ice to Kingston. Niagara has a couple of games on home ice this week, hosting Erie on Thursday, and wrapping with a game against Sudbury Saturday evening.
10. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 6) It was another tough week for the Sarnia Sting, as the absence of Nail Yakupov continues to hinder their promising start. A shocking loss on home ice to Erie got the week started Friday night, and the Sting would drop another decision on Saturday in Plymouth. Yakupov would return to Sarnia’s lineup for a win over Peterborough Sunday afternoon. The Sting play three games in three days yet again this weekend, starting Friday night at home to Owen Sound. Sarnia gets a chance for revenge in Erie on Saturday, and wrap up the weekend in Brampton Sunday afternoon.
11. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 10) A slight drop for the defending OHL Champions this week, as they earned a split in a pair of games over the last seven days. The Attack would lose a tough decision in Barrie Thursday night, but responded well two nights later, defeating Guelph on home ice. Owen Sound plays three more times before the holiday stoppage, starting with a two game road trip to Windsor and Saginaw, on Thursday and Friday night, respectively. After that, the Attack return home, wrapping up the weekend on Saturday evening with a game against Kitchener.
12. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 16) Windsor jumps four spots this week, after winning three straight one-goal games over the last week. After defeating Belleville at home on Thursday, the Spits would win again the following night in Kitchener. Windsor would use overtime to earn two points yet again on home ice Saturday evening, defeating Erie. Windsor has to play just twice more before the holiday break, as they host Owen Sound on Thursday, and then play in Saginaw Saturday night.
13. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 17) Another team to leap four spots this week, the Greyhounds would win two out of three games on home ice, shaking an eight game losing streak in the process. After a loss to Sudbury on Wednesday that extended the streak, the Soo would break the slump Friday with a big win over Ottawa. Two nights later, the Hounds would begin to build a modest winning streak, knocking off Oshawa to make it two in a row.
14. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 13) The Storm fall one spot, which might be generous after they would lose all three contests in the last week, earning just a single point in the process. After giving up 14 goals in losses to Barrie on Friday and in Owen Sound Saturday, the Storm would tighten up defensively to salvage a point from the week, losing in overtime to a tough team from London. Guelph gets a chance at redemption when they travel to London on Friday of this week, after which the Storm return home for a contest against Sault Ste. Marie on Saturday.
15. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 12) Peterborough finds themselves in full freefall mode, dropping three more games this week, extending their losing streak to eight games. After beginning the week with a loss on home ice to Niagara on Thursday, the Petes went out on the road, where they found themselves on the wrong end of scores in London on Friday and in Sarnia Sunday afternoon. Both games for the Petes in the week ahead are in Peterborough, as they play host to London on Thursday, and wrap up the week with a Sunday matinee against Barrie.
16. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 18) After spending a number of weeks in the ITO Power Rankings bottom three, the Spirit finally find themselves moving upwards, climbing two spots to last at number 16 after a pair of wins in as many tries. Saginaw would earn two points in a highly contested battle at home to Belleville on Saturday night, and followed the next afternoon, winning again over Erie. The Spirit play just two games between now and the Christmas break, playing in Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday before returning home to tangle with Windsor on Saturday.
17. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors – (Last Week: 14) The Majors continue to slide, falling to 8th in the Eastern Conference, and the team that was one game away from winning the Memorial Cup last May are now fighting for a playoff spot this year. Mississauga lost a pair of games on home ice this week, giving away valuable points to Niagara on Friday and to Kitchener Sunday afternoon. The Majors have three chances to redeem themselves this week, playing in Barrie on Thursday, and then returning home for games against Kingston on Friday and against Sudbury on Sunday.
18. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 15) The Generals continue to sputter, struggling badly in a season that many expected them to contend. Every time the team seems like it’s ready to turn it around, they take a step backwards, such as this week, when they fall three spots into the ITO bottom three. Oshawa couldn’t pick up the win in Sudbury on Friday night, and then struggled with the loss of two of their players in a loss in Sault Ste. Marie Sunday night. The Generals return home now for a pair of games before the break, but the schedule doesn’t get any easier, as they host Plymouth on Friday night, before Ottawa comes to town Sunday.
19. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 19) The Frontenacs continue to sit at number 19 this week, but were able to pick up a win in three games over the last week, giving them two wins in their last nine. After losing at home to Brampton Friday, Kingston rebounded with a big win in Niagara the next night. The Battalion seemed to have the Fronts number however, as Kingston would drop another in Brampton Sunday afternoon. The Frontenacs have a pair of road games this week before going on break, playing in Belleville on Wednesday, and in Mississauga Friday.
20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 20) The Otters have been playing much better hockey as of late, and it may finally be beginning to show, as Erie was able to pick up three points in three games this past week. The Otters would start the week with a surprise, earning a big win in Sarnia Friday, and picking up an additional point the next night in Windsor, losing in overtime. Erie would end the weekend on a bit of a sour note, as a tired team was manhandled by Saginaw on Sunday. The Otters will look to keep their recent success going with three games in three nights again this week, starting Thursday in Niagara. Beyond that, they will return home to Erie for contests Friday and Saturday against Sudbury and Sarnia.
The ITO Three Stars and Power Rankings can be found every Tuesday here at In The O… The Radio Show. Be sure to check back next week to see where your favourite team ranks, but if you can’t wait for your OHL fix, find me on Twitter, @N24Nicholson.