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ITO Three Stars and OHL Power Rankings: Week 17

The Ontario Hockey League is entering the most crucial time of year, that being the final eight weeks leading up to the end of the season. Certain teams are beginning to stand out and are putting distance between themselves and the rest of the league, while other teams continue to fight week in and week out, either to secure a playoff berth, or even to improve their seeding. With all the roster transactions behind us, the next few weeks will determine who we look to as favourites to represent Ontario this Spring at the Memorial Cup, being held this year in Shawinigan, Quebec.

ITO 3 Stars

1. Ryan Murphy (Kitchener Rangers) –No one player would stand out more for his club this week than rearguard Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers, who has been playing much better hockey since returning from injury last month. This week, the Carolina Hurricanes 1st round pick would ignite his squad from the backend, notching a pair of goals and seven points on a three game Eastern road swing. Friday night, Ryan would earn an assist in the Rangers 9-1 beating of Kingston, but it would be his play in a pair of weekend tilts that set him ahead of the pack. In Belleville on Saturday night, Murphy would score a goal as part of a four point game, leading his Rangers to a hardfought 5-4 win. The following afternoon in Ottawa, Ryan would register another multi-point game, scoring once and adding an assist, despite the Rangers loss. Ryan’s production from the blueline would be too much to ignore, and is a clear choice as ITO’s First Star for week 17.

2. Shane Prince (Ottawa 67’s) –This marks the second straight appearance for Shane Prince in the ITO Three Stars, and his fourth selection overall this season. In a season where so much was expected from the 67’s and its high flying offence, it has been Prince who has lifted the team up on his back on many nights, this past week being no exception. Shane’s six point outburst, including a pair of goals, on Thursday night in Peterborough would help lead the 67’s to an impressive 9-4 victory, and move himself ever closer to the top of the OHL’s scoring leaders. Prince would wrap up the weekend with points in each of his team’s two other contests, picking up an assist on Friday night against Oshawa, and a goal on Sunday afternoon versus Kitchener, both Ottawa 67’s victories. With three goals and eight points in three games this past week, Shane Prince earns yet another ITO 2nd Star selection.

3. Greg McKegg (London Knights) – (3-5-2-7-4)Nobody in the Ontario Hockey League would score more goals over the last week than London Knights forward Greg McKegg, who struck twine on five different occasions over three games this week. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ pick was essential in a 3-0 win over Owen Sound Friday night, scoring twice, and would score another, to go along with an assist, in the rematch the next night. Sunday afternoon would mark McKegg’s third straight multi-point game, as he would score a pair of goals in a three point game, including notching the overtime winner against his former club from Erie. The five goals and seven points Greg would register this week would be more than enough to earn this week’s nod as the ITO Third Star.

ITO Power Rankings

1. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) The London Knights continue to show themselves to be the class of the Ontario Hockey League, and have been ranked number one on the OHL Power Rankings for fifteen of the season’s seventeen weeks to date. Another three win week would stretch their winning streak to five in a row, and ten of their last eleven overall, as they continue to make it tough for teams in the West to keep up. The Knights would take both ends of a home and home series with Owen Sound to start the week, posting a shutout at home on Friday night, but requiring a shootout to earn the win the following night. Sunday afternoon, London would require extra time again, defeating Erie in overtime. The Knights will play three games in four nights over the upcoming week, which begins for them on Wednesday night, as they play host to Kitchener. Two nights later, London will get a visit from Windsor, before finishing the week in Saginaw on Saturday night.

2. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 4) Three more victories this week for the Ottawa 67’s would extend their winning streak to four, as they continue to lead all teams in the Eastern Conference, and move up two spots this week in the OHL Power Rankings. The 67’s would outscore their opponents this past week by a combined score of 21-10, starting Thursday night with a lopsided win in Peterborough. A night later, the scoring would continue in bunches, as they would run up the score at home to Oshawa. The 67’s wrapped up a perfect week on Sunday afternoon, turning aside a stiff challenge from Kitchener. Ottawa faces a three game weekend ahead of them, however, beginning Friday night when they play host to Sarnia. After the game, the 67’s take to the road for a pair of weekend contests, playing first in Barrie on Saturday evening, before ending the weekend in Owen Sound.

3. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 3) With wins in two out of three contests this past weekend, the IceDogs continue to remain in contention for the Eastern Conference top spot, and are quickly chasing down the Brampton Battalion for the division lead. On Friday night, Niagara started the weekend with a victory in Erie, before returning home to face Sudbury the next night, a game they would lose by a goal. On Sunday afternoon, the IceDogs would answer with a much better performance, shutting out the visitors from Peterborough by a 9-0 score. Niagara remains at home to start the week ahead, hosting Belleville on Thursday night, before hitting the road for games Friday in Guelph, and a big contest in Brampton Sunday afternoon.

4. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 2) Following a bit of a rough week, the Plymouth Whalers find themselves falling two more spots this week, landing at number four in the OHL Power Rankings. The top team just two weeks ago have been unable to maintain the frantic pace with which they played much of December, and would lose games this week in Owen Sound Wednesday and in Brampton Thursday. The Whalers would salvage something from the week, returning home to lay a beating on Sault Ste. Marie Saturday night. If Plymouth is to right the ship this week, they will do so on the road, as they play three games this week away from the confines of home. The Whalers play in Barrie on Thursday night, and move on to Sudbury a night later. Plymouth finishes the week in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday night.

5. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 5) The Rangers hold firm at number five this week, after a road trip that would take the team through the province’s Eastern-most cities over the past weekend. Starting Friday night in Kingston, the Rangers would find an offensive outburst, handling the Frontenacs easily. The following night, Kitchener would play in Belleville, and manage to win another, this time a much tighter affair. A Sunday afternoon loss in Ottawa would spoil the Rangers thoughts of a perfect weekend, coming up just short in a one goal loss. Kitchener faces three more tough games in the week ahead, none more so than a big Western Conference battle in London on Wednesday evening. From there, the Rangers return home to play host to Owen Sound on Friday night, then head back out on the road for a Sunday afternoon matinee in Guelph to wrap up the week.

6. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 6) The Battalion continue to be one of the hottest teams in the Ontario Hockey League, and this past week would be no exception, as they would earn five out of a possible six points. Brampton has now earned at least a point in sixteen of their last seventeen matchups, going 11-1-2-3 in the process. The Battalion began their week with a huge victory on home ice against Plymouth on Thursday night, but would drop a shootout decision in Mississauga on Saturday. Sunday afternoon, Brampton continued to roll at home, defeating Sudbury. The Battalion are now off until Friday night, when they begin a three game weekend by hosting Barrie. The next night, they play in Oshawa before returning home to face Niagara to end the week.

7. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 7) The Wolves manage to retain the seventh spot this week, despite losing two of their three games over the weekend. Friday night, Sudbury and Saginaw would combine for 17 goals, an eventual 9-8 win for the Spirit. The following night, the Wolves would pull out a tough victory in Niagara, but a loss on Sunday in Brampton would restrain Sudbury from climbing further up in the Eastern Conference. Sudbury faces another three game weekend ahead of them, beginning Friday night at home to Plymouth. A night later, the Wolves host Erie, before heading out on the road to end the week in Mississauga Sunday afternoon.

8. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 9) The Barrie Colts have been steadily climbing the rankings over the last few weeks, and, with wins in two out of three contests this past week, they continue to chase the leaders in the Eastern Conference. Thursday night, the Colts would win on home ice over Saginaw, and would turn that momentum into another home win against Guelph Saturday night. Barrie would wrap up the weekend on the road in Oshawa Sunday evening, a shutout loss that would spoil a perfect week. The Colts have three games in as many nights this week, starting Thursday night when they host Plymouth. The next night, Barrie travels down the road to Brampton for a night game, before coming back home to face Ottawa Saturday night.

9. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 11) The Oshawa Generals climb into the top ten in the OHL Power Rankings, as they continue to push to get back into the Eastern Conference picture, and wins in two out of three games over the weekend would see the Generals climb into the final playoff spot in the East. Oshawa started the week roughly, losing big in Ottawa on Friday night, but would return home to blowout Kingston on Saturday. In the final game of the weekend, the Generals would post a shutout over the visitors from Barrie. Oshawa faces another three game weekend coming up, starting with a rematch in Kingston on Friday night. The Generals then return home for a pair of weekend contests, first playing Brampton on Saturday night, and then hosting Peterborough Sunday.

10. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 12) The Spirit find themselves up two spots this week, climbing to number ten after earning five points from three games in the last week, and the team has earned points in seven of their last eight contests to climb back into a playoff position in the West. After a tough loss in the shootout on Thursday night in Barrie, the Spirit would win a different kind of shootout the following night in Sudbury, winning 9-8. Saginaw won again on Sunday afternoon, earning points in Mississauga. Saginaw will enjoy a bit of a break this week, playing just twice, beginning Thursday in Windsor. Saturday night, the Spirit return home to host London.

11. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 8) The Attack fall three spots after winning only once in three tries over the last week. Owen Sound would start the week strong on Wednesday night, winning at home over Plymouth, but would earn just a single point from a home and home series with London, losing on Saturday in the shootout. The Attack are another team facing a three game weekend, playing in Kitchener on Friday, then coming home to face Guelph on Saturday and Ottawa on Sunday.

12. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors – (Last Week: 13) The Majors have managed to keep themselves in the Eastern playoff picture, and winning two of three games this past week certainly helped their cause. After winning in Belleville on Wednesday night, the boys came home to Mississauga, where they would defeat Brampton in a shootout on Friday. The Majors would lose once this week as well, dropping a game on home ice to Saginaw on Sunday. Mississauga plays twice in the week ahead, hosting Peterborough on Friday night, before Sudbury visits on Sunday afternoon.

13. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 10) It was a tough week for Peterborough, who fall three spots this week after losing two out of three games. On Thursday night, the Petes would lose on home ice to Ottawa, then went out on the road, using overtime to win in Erie on Saturday, but losing big in Niagara Sunday. Peterborough plays three more times this week, starting on Thursday, when they host Kingston. From there, the Petes leave town for a pair of games, playing Friday in Mississauga, and Sunday in Oshawa.

14. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 16) The Guelph Storm are up two spots after winning twice in three tries this past week. On Thursday night, the Storm would win convincingly in Windsor, but would lose a tight contest in Barrie Saturday night. Guelph returned home to host Sarnia on Sunday afternoon, a game they would win to stay in the Western Conference playoff picture. The Storm face a three game weekend coming up, beginning Friday night, when they host Niagara. On Saturday, Guelph plays in Owen Sound, then returns home to play against Kitchener on Sunday afternoon.

15. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 15) Despite losing two out of three games this week, the Sarnia Sting retain number fifteen in the OHL Power Rankings. The week started well for the Sting, with a win at home to Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday, but would quickly turn sour, as losses to Windsor Friday, and in Guelph Sunday would drop Sarnia further behind the Western Conference leaders. The Sting face a three game road trip through eastern Ontario this weekend, beginning on Friday night, when they play in Ottawa. One night later, Sarnia will play in Belleville, and on Sunday afternoon, the Sting do battle in Kingston.

16. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 17) By winning two of three games, the Spitfires climb up one spot in this week’s Power Rankings, and continue to hang around in a tough Western Conference. After being bounced on home ice by Guelph Thursday night, Windsor would respond well, winning in Sarnia a night later. On Sunday, the Spits would win again, this time at home to Sault Ste. Marie. Windsor only plays twice in the next week, both weeknights battles against stiff competition. On Thursday, Saginaw comes to town for a big game, before the Spitfires play in London Friday night.

17. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 14) With losses in all three games this past week, the Bulls have now dropped five straight, and ten of their last eleven overall, causing them to fall out of the Eastern Conference top eight. Belleville would lose a game on home ice Wednesday night, defeated by Mississauga, and would lose again Saturday when Kitchener came to town. The Bulls would end the weekend in Kingston, a tough game lost to the last place team in the conference. Belleville has but two games this week to try and get back on track, but they won’t be easy, as the Bulls play in Niagara on Thursday, then come back home to host Sarnia Saturday night.

18. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 18) Three more losses this week did nothing to help the Greyhounds playoff chances, as they have slipped to ninth in the West, and are losing ground on the pack. The Soo would lose all three contests on the road this past week, beginning Thursday night in Sarnia. On Saturday, the ‘Hounds would lose again, this time in Plymouth, followed by another loss the next afternoon in Windsor. Sault Ste. Marie returns home for a pair of games over the next week, starting Friday when Erie comes to town. On Sunday, the Hounds host Plymouth to end the week.

19. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 19) It seemed as though teams could score at will against the Frontenacs this past week, but the team showed a lot of heart in battling to win one of three games over the weekend. After being blasted 9-1 at home to Kitchener on Friday, the Fronts hit the road, losing again on Saturday in Oshawa by a score of 11-3. After two lopsided losses, Kingston would return home to face Belleville on Sunday afternoon, and would earn a hard-fought two points. The Frontenacs begin the upcoming week with a road game in Peterborough on Thursday, then return home for a rematch with Oshawa on Friday. Sunday afternoon, Kingston plays host to Sarnia, as former Front Cory Spooner returns to his old stomping grounds.

20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 20) The lowly Otters would lose all three games this past week, driving their losing streak up to eleven, though they would earn a pair of points in the last seven days. Friday night, Erie would lose at home to Niagara, but would earn a point the next night when Peterborough came to visit, as the Otters would lose in overtime. On Sunday afternoon, Erie would lose another overtime contest, this time in London. The Otters play a pair of road games in Northern Ontario this week, playing in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, and in Sudbury Sunday.

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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