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ITO Three Stars and OHL Power Rankings: Week 14

Welcome back to another edition of the ITO Power Rankings and OHL Three Stars for the week of December 28th-January 1st. As teams across the league return to action after the league-mandated ten day break, many begin the second half of the season without their top stars, who are still off with their respective World Junior clubs in Calgary. Back at home, OHL teams enter the heart of the season this week, and both conferences feature a number of tight races that are still to be determined. With only one week to go before the OHL trade deadline, General Managers around the league are running out of time to tinker with their lineup, and the next seven days should go a long way towards determining which teams are contenders, and which teams are packing it in for the season.

ITO 3 Stars

1. Alex Aleardi (Plymouth Whalers) – Whatever Alex Aleardi ate at Christmas dinner should become his everyday pre-game meal, as Alex returned to the Whalers ready to lead the team into a big three game weekend. On the first night of league action, Alex would make a statement in a huge battle for first place against London, scoring three times as part of a five point night. Held pointless Friday in a victory over Saginaw, Aleardi would have another huge game Saturday afternoon in Windsor, scoring a goal and adding three assists in another Whaler win. His four goals and nine points in three games this past week helps the Whalers topple the mighty Knights, and Alex is a deserving ITO First Star for Week 14.

2. Riley Brace (Mississauga St. Michaels Majors) – With the Majors fighting to maintain one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, nobody has been as consistent as Riley Brace so far this season, and this past week was no exception, as he would register points in each of the team’s three games, and act as the inspirational leader of this year’s Majors squad. Wednesday night, Riley would assist on two goals, including the game winner, in a victory in Guelph. His two third period goals, as part of a four point night, would lead the Majors back to earn a point against Niagara. Saturday night, Riley would pick up another helper on his team’s only goal in a loss in Brampton. With two goals and seven points in three games this week, Riley Brace earns the ITO Second Star selection for the Week 14.

3. Andy Andreoff (Oshawa Generals) – With two of the teams top players away, Andy Andreoff has really stepped up to fill the void left on a struggling Oshawa Generals squad. Andy would register multi-point games in all three contests the Generals would play this week, a big reason why his team would win all three of their games. Wednesday night, Andreoff would record a pair of first period assists, helping his team past Erie. On Friday night in Kingston, Andy’s three assists were instrumental in another victory, and he would add a goal and another helper in another win Sunday over Owen Sound. In his three games, Andy would score seven points, including six assists, and becomes our ITO Third Star for the week.

ITO Power Rankings

1. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 2) For the first time all season, the London Knights have been knocked out of the top spot in the OHL Power Rankings, as the Plymouth Whalers leap to the head of the class on the strength of three more wins after Christmas. A big win over London on Wednesday afternoon temporarily gave them a share of the Western Conference lead, and the Whalers would follow that with two more victories over the weekend, first defeating Saginaw at home on Friday evening, before winning in Windsor the next afternoon. If Plymouth is to retain the top spot for another week, they will need to keep their positive momentum going forward, beginning in Saginaw Wednesday night. Those teams play each other once again this Saturday in Plymouth, marking their third meeting in nine days. The Whalers wrap up the week ahead on Sunday afternoon, playing in Sarnia.

2. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) The London Knights continue to play great hockey, remaining at the top of the Western Conference standings, and the team would win two out of three games this past week. The Knights found themselves humbled in Plymouth Wednesday afternoon, and despite a pair of victories over Sarnia on Friday and Sunday, couldn’t hold on to the top spot in the Power Rankings. London will have a chance at redemption, as they head out on the road for three games in the coming week, beginning Wednesday in Sault Ste. Marie. From there, the Knights play in Sudbury on Friday night, and the following evening in Barrie.

3. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 3) Returning from the holiday break, the Rangers would keep pace near the top of the Power Rankings by earning three more wins in as many contests over the last week. Thursday, Kitchener would win in Windsor, and another win the next night at home to Owen Sound. The Rangers finished off a perfect week by winning in Guelph Sunday afternoon. Kitchener is now off until Friday night, when they open a quiet weekend by hosting Oshawa. The Rangers play in Erie the following night, their second and final game of the weekend.

4. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 4) By earning five out of six possible points since Christmas, the Battalion continue to keep themselves fighting with Ottawa for first place in the Eastern Conference. After losing in a shootout in Barrie on Thursday evening, Brampton replied with a pair of wins, first beating Mississauga at home on New Year’s Eve, and then earning another two points in Belleville the next afternoon. Now 8-0-0-1 in their last nine, the Battalion face a three game weekend, beginning Friday night in Mississauga. Brampton will also play a game in Owen Sound before returning home for a date Sunday afternoon with Oshawa.

5. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 5) The Ottawa 67’s hold firm at number five on this week’s OHL Power Rankings, as they remain in control in the East Division. This past week, the 67’s started their post-Christmas schedule with a win at home over Kingston on Wednesday night, and followed that up with a shutout win over Peterborough on Friday. Any hopes of a perfect week were dashed in Kingston Sunday afternoon, when Ottawa dropped a tough decision against a division rival. Another tough three game weekend lies ahead for the 67’s who open a home and home series with Belleville at home on Friday night. After playing the back end of the series the next night, Ottawa travels to Mississauga for a Sunday afternoon game to wrap up the weekend.

6. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 9) The Barrie Colts continue to impress critics throughout the season, and climb three spots in this week’s OHL Power Rankings after winning two out of three games after the holiday break. The Colts played a bit of a ‘Turkeybowl’ on Wednesday night, losing in Sudbury, before answering with big wins, first in a shootout over Brampton Thursday night, then again Saturday versus Erie. Barrie can try to avenge their loss to Sudbury when the Wolves come to town this Wednesday, after which the Colts will host London Saturday evening. Barrie wraps up the weekend Sunday afternoon, playing in Kingston.

7. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 6) With their starting goalie off playing for Team Canada, the IceDogs continue to hold their own, right in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference. Niagara would win two of three this past week, returning from the holidays on Wednesday with a victory in Owen Sound. Friday night, the IceDogs would earn another two points, knocking off their rivals in Mississauga via the shootout. The following evening, Niagara returned home to host Guelph, a game they would eventually lose. The IceDogs have a pair of home games ahead of them this week, first hosting Owen Sound on Friday, before playing host to Sarnia the next night.

8. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 7) The Wolves find themselves down one spot this week, which doesn’t accurately reflect how well they have played as of late. Earning five points from three games this week increases their recent hot streak, as the Wolves improve to 9-2-1-1 over their last thirteen. Sudbury would return to action this past Wednesday, defeating Barrie at home, and would use overtime to defeat Belleville Friday night. Overtime karma would return to bite the Wolves on Sunday, as they would lose in Peterborough on an OT penalty shot. This Wednesday, the Wolves play in Barrie to open the week, but return home for a pair of contests over the weekend. London comes to visit on Friday night, and the Wolves host Windsor Sunday afternoon.

9. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 8) Playing without many of their top players, the Bulls found a way to compete this week, earning three points in as many games, keeping pace with the leaders in the Eastern Conference. After a win in Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday night, Belleville would drop an overtime decision in Sudbury a night later. The Bulls would return home for a New Year’s Day loss to Brampton. Three divisional games lay ahead of the Bulls this week, beginning on Wednesday when Oshawa pays a visit to town. After playing in Ottawa on Friday, both teams will travel to Belleville to play again the next night, wrapping up a home and home series with the East Division leaders.

10. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors – (Last Week: 15) The Mississauga St. Michaels Majors haven’t found the same rhythm they had last season, when they led the OHL for much of the season. Instead, they find themselves up this week, after earning three points in as many games. Wednesday night, the Majors started the week with a big win on the road in Guelph, but would lose a shootout heartbreaker to Niagara on Friday night. Saturday, Mississauga paid a visit to nearby Brampton, where they would lose a New Year’s Eve contest. The Majors will get a chance to redeem themselves Friday night, when they host Brampton in the back end of a home and home series, starting a three game weekend. Mississauga plays in Peterborough on Saturday night, before returning home to face Ottawa on Sunday afternoon.

11. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 17) The Peterborough Petes continue to bounce up and down the OHL Power Rankings, and, by winning two out of their last three, find themselves back up six spots after sliding last week. The Petes opened up their post-holiday schedule with a victory over Erie on Thursday night, but would be shutout in Ottawa the following night. Peterborough salvaged a winning week on Sunday afternoon, as Alan Quine’s penalty shot goal gave them the home ice win over Sudbury. The Petes have a chance to keep the momentum going, starting a home and home series with Kingston on Thursday night at home, and finishing it up the following night on the road. Saturday evening, the Petes return home to host Mississauga to wrap up three games in as many nights.

12. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 10) The Owen Sound Attack return from the holiday break slowly, as they have dropped all three games they’ve played since the stoppage. Wednesday night, Niagara would come into town, defeating the Attack in a low-scoring affair. Owen Sound would lose again in Kitchener on Friday night, and the Attack would fail to earn a point from the week after losing in Oshawa on Sunday afternoon. Owen Sound will need to make the most of the next week, as they play just twice in the upcoming week. First, Owen Sound plays in Niagara on Friday night, before the Attack return home to face Brampton on Saturday.

13. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 14) Saginaw continues to climb the OHL Power Rankings, yet are still looking up at the Western Conference playoff picture. The Spirit would win two out of three contests post-break, including Wednesday night’s home ice victory over Windsor. After losing in Plymouth on Friday, Saginaw returned home for a New Year’s Eve win over Sault Ste. Marie. Moving forward, the Spirit face a tough week ahead, facing the division leading team from Plymouth twice in the next seven days. Wednesday night, the teams play in Saginaw, before the Spirit remain at home to face Guelph on Friday. Saturday night, the Spirit travel to Plymouth for another contest with their rivals.

14. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 13) The Hounds slide one spot this week, after winning just one of three contests since Christmas. Wednesday night, the week started well, as the Greyhounds earned two points by defeating Sarnia. A night later, the Soo played host to Belleville, but couldn’t muster a point in a high scoring affair. The Hounds wrapped up the week on Saturday, losing an afternoon game in Saginaw. Sault Ste. Marie begins a five game home stand with three games in the week ahead, starting when London comes to town on Wednesday night. Two nights later, the Hounds get a visit from Windsor, before they close out the week with a game against Guelph on Saturday night.

15. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 11) Once ranked right amongst the league’s elite, the Sarnia Sting have been ravaged by injuries to key players, and have seen their stock plummet in the ITO Power Rankings. Sarnia added three more regulation losses to their record this past week, and have won just four times in the last fifteen games. The Sting began the week with a loss in Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday, before moving on to London for a Friday night game. As the Sting returned home, London followed, and the two teams would hook up again in Sarnia Sunday afternoon. The Sting are rumoured to be very active in the next week, and will look to get back to their winning ways with a three game weekend, which begins Friday in Erie. The following night, Sarnia plays in Niagara, before returning home to face Plymouth Sunday afternoon.

16. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 18) After entering the holiday break on a four game losing streak, the Generals find themselves climbing two spots in this week’s OHL Power Rankings after winning all three of their contests since returning after Christmas. Oshawa opened the week on Wednesday at home, earning the victory over Erie, before traveling to Kingston for a Friday night win. Sunday afternoon, the Generals capped a perfect week by returning home to defeat Owen Sound. Things get much tougher for Oshawa in the week ahead, as they play three times on the road against quality competition. Wednesday night, the Generals play in Belleville, before traveling to Kitchener Friday night. Oshawa wraps up the week Sunday afternoon in Brampton.

17. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 12) After making big strides in the final week before the holiday break, the Spitfires slide back down the Power Rankings this week, dropping all three games this past week to extend their losing streak to five. After a Wednesday night loss in Saginaw, the Spits returned home for a pair of games, losing to Kitchener on Thursday, and to Plymouth on Saturday. Windsor looks to get back on track this week with a trip to Northern Ontario, playing in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, and in Sudbury Sunday afternoon.

18. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 16) The Guelph Storm continue to hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but winning just once in three tries this past week causes them to slide two spots in the Power Rankings. After losing on home ice to Mississauga on Wednesday night, the Storm answered with a victory in Niagara on Saturday evening. Guelph returned home for a New Year’s Day contest, which they lost to Kitchener. The Storm play just twice this week ahead, first in Saginaw on Friday, before traveling to Sault Ste. Marie for Saturday’s contest.

19. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 19) The bottom two spots seem to be firmly in control, and Kingston has become quite comfortable at number nineteen. The Fronts started the week with a pair of losses, first losing in Ottawa on Wednesday night, before returning home Friday night, an eventual loss to Oshawa. Sunday afternoon, Kingston finished the week on a high note, earning some revenge when Ottawa paid a visit. This week, the Frontenacs play a home and home series with Peterborough, playing on the road Thursday, and returning home for the rematch Friday. Sunday afternoon, Kingston hosts Barrie to finish the weekend.

20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 20) The Erie Otters are already looking ahead to next season, and will likely be active this week on the trade front, as they should move some players in their final year for some tangible assets moving forward. Three more losses this week added to the misery in Erie this past week, as the Otters went on the road, losing in Oshawa on Wednesday, again in Peterborough Thursday, and another loss in Barrie on New Year’s Eve. Erie looks to make 2012 a better year than 2011, starting the calendar year on Friday night, when they play host to Sarnia. The following evening, the Otters are at home again, as Kitchener comes to town, wrapping up a relatively quiet week ahead.

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.

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