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ITO Three Stars and OHL Power Rankings: Week 22

There were no noticeable changes to the OHL playoff picture this past week, as no new team found themselves able to secure a playoff spot, and no team found themselves officially eliminated since we last spoke, but that doesn’t mean that there was no action around Ontario over the past seven days. In the biggest news of the week, the Ottawa 67’s clinched the East Division crown, with a nineteen point lead over any other team in what can only be considered a bit of a disappointing division.

Staying in the East, the battle for the final playoff spots has really begun to heat up, as Mississauga leads a pack of four teams fighting for three spots. Oshawa holds onto 7th in the Conference with 60 points and eight games remaining, but Belleville is hot on their tails, with 59 points and nine games remaining. Not to be overlooked in the race is ninth place Peterborough, who, like Belleville, have 59 points, but have just seven games left.

Moving over to the Western Conference, the Guelph Storm and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have found themselves battling each other for the final playoff spot, and the Storm would overtake the Soo this week to claim eighth in the conference. Guelph has 55 points with ten games left, while the Greyhounds have 54 points, and only eight games remaining.

Last week, three forwards were recognized the ‘In The O’ Three Stars, but this week, not a single one appears, as our selections are comprised of a defender selected in the first round of the NHL draft, sandwiched between two netminders helping their teams with pushes down the stretch. We’ll take a look at them right now, before our weekly recap of the OHL Power Rankings.

ITO Three Stars

1. Brandon Maxwell (Mississauga Majors) – For the third time in four weeks, our top performer of the week is awarded to a goaltender, as Mississauga’s Brandon Maxwell would leave little to no doubt as to who we should pick. Despite being outshot 45-22, the Majors would ride Maxwell’s 43 stops to an impressive 3-2 win over Niagara on Friday night, and he would get even better as the weekend wore on. Brandon would stop 38 of 39 shots the next night in Barrie, as Mississauga would claw out another one goal victory against a top Eastern Conference club. On Sunday, Maxwell was truly the star, turning aside all 37 Erie shots he faced for his third shutout of the season, and picking up an assist in the process. Brandon would make a staggering 118 saves on 121 shots, and was a clear choice as ITO First Star for Febraury 21st-27th.

2. Dougie Hamilton (Niagara IceDogs) – After an extended absence from the Niagara IceDogs lineup, Dougie Hamilton has been on fire since returning, posting four goals and thirteen points in seven games. Seven of those points were registered over the last week, including three goals, as Dougie would lead the IceDogs from the back end. Thursday night, Hamilton would score a goal and add a helper in a victory over Sault Ste. Marie, and he would add another assist a night later in Mississauga. Sunday afternoon, Dougie would come up clutch, scoring twice as part of a four point game against Kingston. In addition to his three goals and seven points, Hamilton was also a +7 in those contests, and is a worthy recipient of this week’s ITO Second Star.

3. Scott Wedgewood (Plymouth Whalers) The Plymouth Whalers found themselves able to right the ship this week, winning a pair of games, based heavily on the play of their starting netminder, Scott Wedgewood. While gaining recognition while playing for Team Canada over the holidays, Scott has been a force in goal for the Whalers all season long, and would be in goal this week for both victories, as Plymouth remains atop the West Division. Friday night, Wedgewood would make 31 saves as the Whalers edged Oshawa in overtime. The next night, Scott was even better, stopping 42 of 43 Sudbury shots in a 4-1 win. With 73 saves on 77 shots, and by winning both games he would play, Scott Wedgewood is the ITO Third Star for Week 22.

OHL Power Rankings

1. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) While some may argue that the Knights finally blinked this week, winning two out of three on the Eastern Ontario road trip can hardly be overlooked, and London retains the top spot for the 20th time this season. Still the team to beat in the Ontario Hockey League, the Knights were dominant on Friday night, winning 10-3 in Kingston, before dropping a tough 3-2 game in Belleville the next night. Sunday afternoon, London would take two points from a hotly contested battle in Ottawa to finish the trip. It’s another three game weekend ahead for the Knights, who get things started on Friday night, when they host Oshawa. Ottawa comes to London for a rematch on Saturday night, before the Knights finish the weekend with a rematch in Oshawa Sunday afternoon.

2. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 2) Given a rare opportunity to catch London for top spot in the OHL Power Rankings, the Niagara IceDogs found themselves unable to capitalize, but would still win two of three in a busy week. On Thursday night, the ‘Dogs would be impressive in defeating Sault Ste. Marie at home, but Niagara would lose a heartbreaking decision the next night in Mississauga. The IceDogs would prevail big in their final contest of the weekend, defeating Kingston back at home on Sunday afternoon. Niagara faces a much better schedule this week, though no game can be considered easy at this time of year, as they start the week on Thursday night with a visit from Saginaw. On Saturday, the Dogs play in Belleville, before finishing up back at home Sunday afternoon against Erie.

3. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 4) The Barrie Colts climb into the top three of the OHL Power Rankings, continuing a rapid rise from the middle of the pack. This week, Barrie would use a pair of shootout victories to leap up the charts, winning in Peterborough on Thursday, and again in Ottawa a night later. Sunday afternoon, the Colts would return home, but would be unable to sustain their momentum, losing a close decision to Mississauga. Looking ahead, Barrie begins the week with a game in Owen Sound on Wednesday, then returns home for a battle with Kitchener Thursday. The Colts remain home, wrapping up the weekend Saturday against Oshawa.

4. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 6) After a bit of a slide, the Plymouth Whalers find themselves back in the top five this week, climbing two spots after a pair of home ice wins. Plymouth would defeat Oshawa via the shootout on Friday night, and would knock off Sudbury Saturday. After a light week, the schedule gets considerably tougher in the week ahead, as the Whalers play four times, beginning Tuesday morning (after writing) in Saginaw. Plymouth then tackles a three-game weekend, hosting Brampton on Friday, Windsor Saturday, and finishing the weekend in Sarnia Sunday afternoon.

5. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 3) Comfortable in first place in the East Division, the Ottawa 67’s can be excused for having a bit of an off week, but losing both contests on home ice would not help them retain a spot in the top three of the OHL Power Rankings. The 67’s would grab a point from a shootout loss against Barrie Friday night, before losing outright to London a night later. With little success at home, perhaps a road trip is just what the doctor ordered, as Ottawa heads out for a three game weekend away from the nation’s capital. After playing in Sarnia Friday night, Ottawa moves on to face a rematch in London on Saturday, before ending the weekend Sunday afternoon in Guelph.

6. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 9) One of the week’s biggest jumps belongs to last year’s OHL Champions, who rise three spots this week, after winning two of three games against stiff Western Conference competition. Wednesday night, Owen Sound would fend off a visit from Sarnia, but the Attack would lose in Guelph on Friday against a scrappy club playing for their playoff lives. Saturday night, the team returned home to Owen Sound, where they dismantled the visitors from Kitchener.

7. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 5) The Kitchener Rangers would fall two spots this week, after picking up but a win in three tries over the last seven days. After a big win on home ice against Peterborough on Friday night, the Rangers would go flat on the road, losing in Owen Sound on Saturday, and in Guelph Sunday. If Kitchener is to get back on track, this week would be the week to do it, as they play just twice, but on the road against divisional opponents. The Rangers play in Barrie on Thursday, and a night later in Sudbury.

8. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 8) While they find themselves no higher than they were a week ago, the Sarnia Sting have put some distance between themselves and the rest of the field behind them, after earning five out of six possible points. After losing an overtime affair in Owen Sound on Wednesday night, the Sting would fire off a pair of wins at home, defeating Windsor on Friday and Guelph the next night. The first of Sarnia’s three games in the coming week is on Wednesday night, when they travel to Sault Ste. Marie for a weeknight tilt. Returning home, the Sting play host to Ottawa on Friday and Plymouth on Sunday.

9. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 7) Down two spots this week, the Saginaw Spirit can attribute the slide to a pair of home ice losses, where the hosts found themselves with a single point to show from the week’s work. On Friday night, the Spirit couldn’t defend a strong offence from Sudbury, and Saginaw would lose again the next night, this time to Oshawa in a shootout. Saginaw plays in their Education Day game Tuesday morning (after writing), playing host to Plymouth, kicking off a busy four game week. From there, the Spirit head out on the road, playing Thursday night in Niagara, traveling to Erie Friday, then finishing the weekend in Windsor on Sunday afternoon.

10. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 11) The Battalion climb another spot this week, securing on of the coveted top ten spots in this week’s OHL Power Rankings, splitting a pair of games in a relatively quiet week’s schedule. Brampton would lose a tough game on home ice to Belleville to start the weekend on Friday night, but would bounce back with a win Sunday afternoon when Sault Ste. Marie would visit. The Battalion have a more regular schedule in the week ahead, which begins for them on Thursday night when they play in Windsor. A game in Plymouth on Friday follows, before the Troops return home for a Sunday afternoon battle with their rivals from Mississauga.

11. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors – (Last Week: 14) Another of the week’s top jumpers, the Mississauga Majors have climbed from a team on the bubble to miss the playoffs this year, now sitting rather comfortably in 6th place in the Eastern Conference. At a time when wins were needed most, the Majors found a way to get the W in all three contests this week, putting some distance between themselves and those fighting for a playoff berth. Friday night, Mississauga would earn a huge win on home ice against the visitors from Niagara, and kept on rolling a night later, when they put an end to Barrie’s five game winning streak. A shutout victory over Erie on Sunday afternoon would be the feather in the cap of the Majors this week, but the team gets little time to celebrate, with two more big games coming up. Friday night, the Majors play host to Belleville in a game with huge playoff implications, before playing in Brampton Sunday afternoon.

12. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 10) The Sudbury Wolves fall two spots in the OHL Power Rankings this week, after winning just once on a three game road trip. While things would start out okay for Sudbury, as they defeated Saginaw Friday, things would quickly sour, resulting in losses, Saturday in Plymouth, and Sunday in Windsor. The Wolves have a great opportunity to regain their footing in the Eastern Conference this week, playing two games, both at home. Friday night, Sudbury hopes to capitalize on a reeling club from Kitchener, before Peterborough visits on Saturday.

13. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 12) Interestingly enough, the Generals slide another spot in the OHL Power Rankings, despite taking three out of four possible points in a tough road trip south of the border this week. Friday night, the Generals would score two late goals before falling in overtime in Plymouth, but Oshawa would answer nicely a night later, picking up a big shootout win in Saginaw. Another tough week lies ahead for the Generals, however, as they open the weekend Friday night in London, taking on the top team in the country. Saturday, Oshawa challenges in Barrie, against a team who beat them handily twice last week, before the Generals return home for a Sunday afternoon rematch with London.

14. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 13) While the Windsor Spitfires would play just twice this week, earning a split in the contests would result in a drop of one spot. The Spits would get off to a rocky start to the week, as they were shutout in Sarnia on Friday night. Sunday afternoon, Windsor would get back into the win column, outlasting Sudbury in a high scoring affair. The Spitfires face some tough opposition this week as they continue their push towards the post-season, starting on Thursday night when they host Brampton. A game in Plymouth on Saturday is followed by a return home, as Saginaw visits Sunday afternoon.

15. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 15) Meatloaf once said that two out of three ain’t bad, and the Belleville Bulls are living proof, coming off of a near-perfect three game weekend. A big win in Brampton on Friday night would be followed by an equally impressive win at home to London a night later. By Sunday afternoon, a tired Bulls squad couldn’t muster enough to hang on, as they would lose in Peterborough. Belleville has a big chance for points on Wednesday when they host Kingston, before the competition gets tougher, with games in Mississauga on Friday, and back at home to Niagara Saturday.

16. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 19) After sliding way down the OHL Power Rankings, the Storm have pulled themselves out of the fire, at least in part, with three quality games in the last week, resulting in four big points for a club in the Western Conference playoff race. On Friday night, the Storm won on home ice, knocking off Owen Sound, but Guelph would lose in Sarnia the next night, quashing what could have been an even larger leap up the rankings. Sunday afternoon, the Storm rebounded, winning another game at home, this time over Kitchener. Starting the week in Erie on Wednesday night, Guelph has a big chance to gain some points on the rest of the West, and a visit from Kingston on Friday night could serve as another big opportunity. Sunday afternoon, the Storm host Ottawa to wrap up the weekend.

17. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 18) The Peterborough Petes are one of a handful of teams who are refusing to go quietly as the league enters the final month, and after a brief visit in the bottom three, the Petes climb up a spot this week after earning three points in as many games. Thursday night, Peterborough would lose a shootout on home ice to the visitors from Barrie, and things wouldn’t get easier the next night, as the Petes lost in Kitchener. With perhaps their playoff lives on the line, Peterborough would come out on top of a huge game at home Sunday afternoon, defeating Belleville. The Petes need to continue to rack up the points this week, as they play just twice on a northern road trip. Friday night, Peterborough plays in Sault Ste. Marie, before moving on to play in Sudbury Saturday night.

18. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 17) After a big leap last week, the Kingston Frontenacs slide back down a spot this week, re-entering the bottom three of the OHL Power Rankings after losing a pair of lopsided games against a couple of the league’s top teams. The Fronts were downed on home ice by London Friday night, but showed their resolve Saturday, winning in Erie. Sunday afternoon, a tired Kingston squad was no match for one of the league’s heavyweights, and they would lose in Niagara. The Frontenacs play three games on the road in the coming week, starting Wednesday night in Belleville. Kingston will also play in Guelph Friday, and in Owen Sound Saturday.

19. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 16) Once a team with much promise, the ‘Hounds are looking more and more like a longshot to make the playoffs in a competitive Western Conference, and they fall three spots this week to land at number nineteen. It was a long roadtrip for the Soo this week, as they would lose big in Niagara Thursday night, win in Erie on Friday, then lose again in Brampton Sunday afternoon. The greyhounds don’t have too much time to shake the bus legs, as they are back in action Wednesday night when they host Sarnia. Friday, the ‘Hounds host Peterborough, ending a fairly quiet week on the schedule.

20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 20) With the pressure off, things have turned around in Erie as of late, and a team long since written off by many has been able to grind out some important victories over the past few weeks. This week was not one of those weeks, however, as they would fall in all three contests. Friday night, the Otters would lose on home ice to Sault Ste. Marie, and the next night, Erie would be handed another home loss, this time at the hands of Kingston. Sunday afternoon, the Otters wouldn’t manage any offence, being shutout in Mississauga to end the week. Looking ahead, Erie will host Guelph on Wednesday night, and will have Saginaw visit on Friday. The Otters wrap up the week’s schedule Sunday afternoon in Niagara.

The ITO Three Stars and Power Rankings can be found every Tuesday here at In The O… The Radio Show and Be sure to check back next week to see the week’s best players, and to find out where your favourite team ranks. If you can’t wait for your OHL fix, join me on Twitter for conversation anytime, @N24Nicholson.

What's Wrong With the East Division Champion 67's?

by Alex Quevillon
The Ottawa 67’s have been officially crowned the winner of the OHL’s East Division, but their play this past weekend has to be cause for concern for a team looking to avenge last season’s first-round sweep at the hands of the Sudbury Wolves.

Friday night's game against the Barrie Colts had its' merits. Shortly after taking a 2-1 lead in the third period, however, the 67's allowed Barrie's Colin Behenna, Alex Lepowski and Ivan Telegin score three times in less than five minutes. Ottawa was the beneficiary of a pair of weak goals on rookie goaltender Alex Fotinos, but the 67's really didn't deserve to take this to overtime.

More of the same frustration at the end of regulation. Ottawa blew a golden chance to win the game on a powerplay and Zach Hall won the game in a shootout for Barrie (34-21-2-2). The Belleville Bulls won both of their games on Friday and Saturday, meaning that while the 67's were pretty much assured a division win, it wasn't official.

So on Sunday, the ball was in Ottawa's court. Sure, they were playing the London Knights, the top ranked team in the OHL and CHL, but Ottawa usually brings their 'A' game at home against top notch opponents. Ottawa had a glorious chance to clinch themselves the division, and they blew it; everything went wrong on Sunday afternoon.

Petr Mrazek allowed a goal in the first three minutes from well outside the blueline, London stormed to a 4-0 lead, and while Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli made the game interesting, Greg McKegg put it out of reach and the London Knights walked out of Ottawa with a relatively easy two points.

Belleville lost 4-3 in Peterborough, so by default Ottawa did win the division that day, but moving towards the playoffs, there are a lot of things to consider if the East Division Champs want to make a splash in the post-season

What's Going Wrong?
Goaltending: The goalie position is going to be Ottawa's key to success in the next couple of months. Fact is, Michael Nishi hasn't been bad of late and Shayne Campbell was expected to be back by now. As a result, Mrazek should only play one game next weekend. But, because of reputation, he will probably play two-to-three.

I'm not saying that Mrazek was to blame for the last two seasons' playoff losses. In 2010, he came off the bench in relief of Chris Perugini and played pretty well. But, he was outdueled in Game 7 by Mississauga's JP Anderson, who came off the bench to relieve Chris Carrozzi. Still, you can't blame a rookie backup for not being able to carry a team too far in the playoffs.

Last year's playoffs were a nightmare for the entire team, Mrazek included. He was pulled after allowing 7 goals in an 8-7 loss in Game 1, stood on his head in the one game where the rest of the team decided not to show up for Game 2, and allowed numerous late goals from far out in the final two games, as Sudbury erased four of Ottawa's two-goal leads to sweep them 4-0. Mrazek, in fairness, was coming off an injury and the team infront of him was banged up. But this year, he has a lot to prove, and he has to prove it now.

I'm also not saying that Mrazek was to blame for the last two losses. The first goal, a bouncer from the neutral zone, it happens. But after London made it 2-0, neither goal from anywhere near in close, the Ottawa players tried to do everything individually to make up lost ground. But, as Mrazek showed at the World Juniors, he can keep his team in it when given goal support. I'm sure he will improve by playoff time. The individual efforts, however, tie into the next problem as well

Line Juggling: There are three weeks left in the season. Let the guys build chemistry with one another. I literally cannot name a forward other than the indefinitely injured John McFarland that Shane Prince hasn't played numerous shifts with in the last three games. Remember when Ottawa had the best line in the league in 2003, Scott Sheppard, Matt Foy and Corey Locke? They faltered when split up. Remember in 2011 when the 67's split up Toffoli, Prince and Ryan Martindale? They were swept. Ottawa teams rely on chemistry up front. There won't be too much if this constant line juggling continues.

Team Toughness: Nonexistant. Remember when the 67's played the Remparts in the pre-season and pounded them into the ice when they pulled their nonsense? Where was that yesterday? Neither of London's Rupert brothers hold anything to the likes of Dalton Smith, Ryan Van Stralen or Michal Cajkovsky if the gloves come off, why not send a message?

The Barberpoles did play a very physical game, the only real positive on Sunday. But how can Ottawa watch London bump their goaltender at the benches on a delayed penalty in a 4-0 game and do nothing about it? How can Ryan Rupert deck Brett Gustavsen after the whistle while nobody does anything? Vladislav Namestnikov goes for a low hit on Sean Callaghan in the late moments of a 5-2 game, Callaghan puts him in a headlock and lets him go. I'm not saying a guy like Namestnikov deserves to be hurt, but a message has to be sent to the team that hosts Ottawa next Saturday. A team like Oshawa or Peterborough will walk all over them if they meet in the playoffs, and for a team that's supposed to be tough, that's a scary precedent.

But, with that being said, the 67's are East Division Champs and are only two points out of first in the conference. Yay, I guess. Last season, this was around the same time that the injury bug hit and everything started going downhill. McFarland is out for the year and Marc-Anthony Zanetti went down on Friday after a collision with Telegin. Ottawa fans just hope that with the injury bug hurting their team early in the year (and it really did), that they have their health woes out of the way by playoff time. All hope is not lost in the Nation's Capital. But it's a real gut check time for Ottawa. Let's see how they respond as they head to Sarnia, London, Guelph and Kingston for a four-in-six road trip.

7-Day Buzz: Sarnia Sting Week in Review

The Sarnia Sting continued to play their way to their first playoff berth in three years as they suit up for four games in less than seven days. Coming off an emotional win Monday afternoon over Canada’s top rated team CHL team, London Knights, the Sting’s week continued with a quick trip to Owen Sound Wednesday night to determine the Western Conference’s fourth place team. Sarnia would return home Friday night to play in back-to-back home games against Windsor and Guelph.

Sarnia 3 @ Owen Sound 4 (OT)On less than a few days’ rest, Sarnia travelled north to meet the Owen Sound Attack at Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre to determine what team would hold down fourth place in the Western Conference. Owen Sound and Sarnia both iced diminished rosters as the Attack skated with 17 skaters while Sarnia was limited to just 15 players. Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Latta, Craig Hottot, Craig Duininck, Adrian Robertson, Alex Basso and Nathan Chiarlitti were unable to go for the Sting but Legionnaires’ Daniel Nikandrov and Mike Dipaolo would suit up again.
With an array of scouts in attendance to catch the 2012 draft-eligible players (Yakupov, Gemel Smith, Gavrus among others), the game was of importance from a team and player perspective. The game lacked much action through the first two periods but once the puck dropped for the third period the goals came in waves as a total six pucks crossed the goal line. Owen Sound’s rookie Artus Gavrus notched two goals while Yakupov snuck in one of his own on a wrap-around try giving scouts some material to jot down. After sixty minutes the teams were in a deadlock guaranteeing a single point for both Western Conference squads. Overtime was needed and at the 3:38 mark of the extra frame, Attack’s overage defenseman Jay Gilbert came off the wall and fired the puck into the Sting net sending the water bottle flying and the Sting home with a single point.
With the Attack win, Sarnia and Owen Sound were tied for fourth place in the Conference with Sarnia having a game in hand. Owen Sound leads the season series two games to one as the home team has won every game. The Attack will return to Sarnia’s RBC Centre on March 10th to complete the season series.

Windsor 0 @ Sarnia 5
The seventh ranked Windsor Spitfires arrived in Sarnia to take on Sting in their fifth meeting of the season. The Spitfires and Sting had split the previous four games with each team winning once at home and once on the road. Friday’s game was delayed by about fifteen minutes as the RBC Staff attempted to restore the lighting. The puck dropped and the game was underway in front of 3748 spectators eager to see the Sting return to the win column.

The first period witnessed two fights and a sting goal that energized the home crowd. Legionnaires’ call-up Mike Dipaolo dropped the mitts with Spits’ rookie John Bowen minutes into the game and a few shifts later Sarnia’s Justice Dundas squared off with the OHL’s penalty minute leader Ty Bilcke. Dundas gave up over two inches and close to thirty pounds to Bilcke but showed his fighting skills as the two gave the crowd a good show.

At 13:48 minute mark of the first, Dominic Alberga capitalized on a large rebound from Nikandrov’s shot to bury his 14th goal of the season to open the scoring.

Despite the one-sided final score, Windsor outplayed Sarnia through the first two periods outshooting them 21-18 and putting the Sting on their heels through most of the first 40 minutes. Sarnia spent most of the second period on the penalty kill as the team struggled to stay out of the box. Connor Murphy and Jack Kuzmyk were outstanding at killing off Tyler Brown’s checking from behind penalty and several 5-on-3 Windsor powerplays. Craig Duininck showed great character in his first game back from his foot injury blocking shots with no fear.

Sarnia’s Reid Boucher broke out of his scoring slump as he banked in his first goal in seven games to put the Sting up 2-0. Anthony DeAngelo was dazzling fans all night long with his superb skating and puckhandling skills and he eventually netted his fifth goal of the season.

Ryan Spooner scored the only Sting powerplay goal as he batted in his 26th of the season from a Brett Thompson cross crease pass to elevate the Sting’s lead to 4-0.

Unfortunately, Legionnaires’ call-up Daniel Nikandrov took a puck off the foot in the second period, leaving the game and did not return. Nikandrov impressed in his sixth OHL game registering an assist and showing a knack for good puck pursuit. Nikandrov was especially efficient in the faceoff dot winning them at will. Nikandrov confirmed via twitter late Friday night that he fractured his foot adding another injury to the Sting infirmary and a big loss for the Sarnia Jr. B Legionnaires as they enter the playoffs.

For the second time in less than a week, congratulations are due to a Sting for scoring their first career OHL goal. Congratulations to Justice Dundas on scoring his first career OHL goal as he picked up his rebound and fired the puck into the Spitfires net to give the Sting their fifth goal on the night.

Sarnia dressed Strathroy Jr. B Rocket forward Justin Thomas and he found the gamesheet earning an assist on Justin Dundas’ goal.
JP Anderson played a strong game between the pipes stopping 28 shots to earn his second shutout in a Sting uniform and his 10th career doughnut. Anderson’s first shutout as a Sting was back in his debut on January 6th. The biggest save for JP Anderson was when Spitfires’ star forward Alexander Khokhlachev knocked down an air-mailed pass for a breakaway late in the first period. Anderson would earn first star honours with his impressive performance.

Windsor and Sarnia wrap up their season series March 11th when the Sting travel to the WFSU Centre in Windsor.

Guelph 4 @ Sarnia 5
Saturday night’s game versus the Guelph Storm was another fan friendly event as there was plenty of excitement and heroics in the building. Nail Yakupov entered the game pointless in two games against the Guelph Storm this season but he was the difference maker….yet again. Sarnia entered Saturday’s game with a record of one win, one loss and another overtime loss in their three games they have faced Guelph this season.

As the puck dropped (on time tonight), Guelph jumped on a tired Sarnia Sting team, playing with only 15 skaters for the consecutive night, scoring two goals in the opening eight minutes by. JP Anderson started in his sixth straight game for Sarnia and on the opening two goals by Guelph he was down and out as Mitchell and Menard slid pucks past him. Sting’s Reid Boucher scored in his second consecutive game a minute into the second period on the powerplay as he cleaned up a Yakupov one-timer from Ryan Spooner to cut the Storm lead to one. As the second period dwindled down, Tyler J. Brown cleared the puck over the glass in the Sting’s zone sending him off for two minutes for delay of game. Brown would only need to spend twelve seconds in the sin bin as Guelph’s Cody McNaughton picked up a loose puck and performed a quick wrap-around to restore the Storm’s two-goal lead.

For the second straight night, Sarnia came out of the second period intermission hungry for goals as the Sting tallied four third period goals. Ryan Spooner started the third period comeback as he backhanded in the puck past Guelph’s Garrett Spark for the Sting’s second goal. Minutes later, Ludvig Rensfeldt was the beneficiary of a nice play by overager Brett Thompson as he kept the puck in at the blueline while on his stomach. Rensfeldt would score seconds later as he fired one top shelf for his 18th goal of the season. Forty-one seconds later, Nail Yakupov inched closer to the 30-goal mark as he pounced on a Spooner rebound and sent a back hand shot over Spark’s glove giving the Sting their first lead of the game. Characteristically Yakupov, Nail grabbed the front of his jersey and enthusiastically showed the fans that the players were playing for the “Sting team” in his goal celebration. The lead did not last long as rookie Storm forward Jason Dickinson scored to tie the game as Tyler J. Brown sat in the penalty box for a hooking infraction.

The exciting back and forth action continued as the officials let both teams decide their fate. Sting netminder JP Anderson showed his veteran demeanor making several key saves for the Sting as Guelph pinned Sarnia deep into their zone. The Sting struggled to clear the puck and worked frantically to in an attempt to earn that single point and force overtime. With seconds remaining Ryan Spooner picked up the puck off the half-boards to Anderson’s right and fired a laser pass up the middle to a streaking Yakupov. The Russian game breaking winger split defenders Andrey Pedan (New York Islanders prospect) and Matt Finn (2012 NHL Draft eligible) and went in alone on Maple Leafs’ prospect Garrett Sparks sending a shot between his five-hole with 3.7 seconds remaining on the clock sending 3392 fans at the RBC Centre into celebration. Yakupov continues to add to his highlight reel OHL plays and for the second time in less than a week Sarnia fans left the rink with an extra bounce in their step.

JP Anderson made 29 stops for the win. The Sarnia Sting travel to Sault Ste Marie on Wednesday as the team looks to continue their strong play as of late and finish the month of February on a strong note. The Sting have three road games remaining (Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor, London and Plymouth) and fans have five more home regular season home games to catch Nail Yakupov live in action (Ottawa, Plymouth, Sault Ste. Marie, Owen Sound and Saginaw).

Sarnia’s week includes playing the Western Conference’s 9th place Soo Greyhounds on the road, the Eastern Conference’s second placed Ottawa 67’s team and the West Division leading Plymouth Whalers at home Friday and Saturday.

Current Sting Injuries:
Alex Galchenyuk, Nick Latta, Craig Hottot, Daniel Nikandrov, Nathan Chiarlitti, Alex Basso, Adrian Robertson, Craig Duininck (DTD)

#StingFacts- Sting are 7-2-1 in the month of February outscoring opponents 42 to 32.
- Yakupov scored his 29th and 30th goals of the season becoming the first to reach the milestone this season for Sarnia. Yakupov has eight goals and ten points in eight February games as his production has seemed to switch from playmaking to sniper.
- Sarnia’s powerplay for the week – 3/14 (21%)
- Sarnia’s penalty kill for the week – 12/15 (80%)

Sting Scoring for the Week (3 Games)

Spooner – 3G 2A
Yakupov – 3G 1A
Boucher – 2G 2A
Thompson – 3A
Alberga – 2G
Rensfeldt – 1G 1A
DeAngelo – 1G 1A
Murphy – 2A
Sarault – 2A
Dundas – 1G
Nikandrov – 1A
Tyler J. Brown – 1A
Kuzmyk – 1A
Thomas – 1A
Luciani – 1A

9-3 Ice Dogs Over Frontenacs

The Niagara Ice Dogs re-claimed the top spot in the Eastern Conference Sunday with a 9-3 win over the Kingston Frontenacs. The Ice Dogs now officially have an “x” beside their name indicating they have nailed down a play-off position. They continue the fight in the remaining games of the regular schedule to ensure themselves home game advantage.

Sunday’s game kept time keepers busy as the Ice Dogs came out strong, scoring six goals in the first nine minutes of the game. The second period added another three goals to the Niagara side of the score sheet.

Fans were waiting anxiously a hat trick as Dougie Hamilton, Alex Friesen and Joel Wigle each had two goals heading into the third period. Most were hoping for Wigle as he has become a crowd favourite with his tenacious play and increasing prominence on the team. Wigle is also on everyone’s radar since it was announced last month his name is on the Central Scouting 2012 NHL Draft Midterm Rankings. Wigle had numerous chances for the third goal in the third period but alas, the period was scoreless for all.

Alex Friesen lost out on his hat trick opportunity as he didn’t play the third period at all. After the game Friesen was seen limping slightly but insisted the leg injury was very minor due to falling awkwardly at the end of the second. He assures he will be back in the line up when the Ice Dogs play their next game Thursday at home against the Saginaw Spirit.

Final shots in the game were 54-27, with Christopher Festarini getting the win in net for Niagara.

Scoring Summary
1. NIAG A. Friesen, (21) (A. Agozzino, B. Ritchie), 1:26
1. KGN J. Smith, (1) (C. Stokes, J. Nevins), 1:59
1. NIAG A. Friesen, (22) (A. Agozzino, D. Hamilton), 3:49
1. NIAG D. Hamilton, (16) (A. Friesen, A. Agozzino), 4:16
1. NIAG J. Wigle, (7) (J. Oleksiak), 5:45
1. NIAG R. Strome, (23) (F. Hamilton, J. Graham), 8:15
1. NIAG D. Hamilton, (17) (D. Pacan, T. Kuhnhackl), 8:49
1. KGN R. Kujawinski, (14) (M. Moffat, K. Nixon), 18:54 (PP)
2. NIAG F. Hamilton, (28) (A. Agozzino, D. Hamilton), 5:02 (PP)
2. NIAG J. Wigle, (8) , 11:27
2. KGN P. Beranek, (12) (J. Smith, R. Kujawinski), 17:40
2. NIAG B. Ritchie, (20) , 19:51 (SH)

Dog Bytes:

  • Sunday’s game opened with a presentation to Garry “Bucky” Buxton to honour his 500th game as equipment manager with Ice Dogs. Owners Bill and Denise Burke awarded Bucky with a framed print signifying his hard work and commitment to the team.

  • The Frontenacs had strong ex-Toronto Maple Leaf presence at the Jack as Todd Gill was behind the Kingston bench and GM Doug Gilmour and Goalie Coach Curtis “Cujo” Joseph were also in attendance.

OHL's Draft Eligible Stats Leaders - He's Back !!

OHL's Draft Eligible Stats Leaders - He's Back !!

OHL's Draft Eligible Stats Leaders - He's Back !!

OHL's Draft Eligible Stats Leaders - He's Back !!

ITO Hot-Stove: Which current OHL team should be relocated to Hamilton?

With all the talk of an OHL franchise relocating to Hamilton for the 2012-13 season, I decided it would be a good idea for the hot-stove to debate which team should be on the move. I know Erie is the most likely to move, but that's not what the Hot-Stove is debating today.

Joining me in today's hot-stove is Joshua Newhart, Alex Quevillon, Jason Ray, Phil Phillips, Bryan Theil, and Anthony Nicholson.

Todd Cordell

In my opinion the Brampton Battalion should undoubtedly be the team on the move to Hamilton. Despite their team's great success so far this season, they've only had 2,000+ in attendance a handful of times regardless of which team comes for a visit. In my opinion any team averaging less than 2,000 fans per game should be on the move even if their team is struggling, so with Brampton's on ice success this year it makes things even more puzzling for myself. The Battalion have some good players and a very good coaching staff and I think a move to Hamilton, where they will be in more of a spot light, could be just what the doctor ordered.

Joshua Newhart

I don't think that any team in the OHL should move to Hamilton. There has been a lot of talk that teams are going to move there but, why? They have had a team before and the city couldn't support it. With so many other pro hockey organizations around that area there is just too much competition for a junior team to have any attendance. Hamilton already has an AHL team, the leafs are only 55 minutes away and the Ice Dogs are about the same distance. Tell me who is going to show up? I think that if a city loses a team they shouldn't be allowed to get one back.

Alex Quevillon

There are rumours of Mississauga, Brampton and Erie relocating.  I say, why?  Why move a team if you don't have to?  Why not give Hamilton an expansion team if they're OHL-ready?  The Ice Dogs built a respectable market in Mississauga as an expansion team, so much so that Eugene Melnyk trusted them enough to play home to another new team in 2007.  Is it because the OHL is too complacent with the 20-team system that they don't want to add one more?  I mean, the QMJHL is doing okay with 17 teams.  I say try the 21-team system.  If that doesn't work as planned, fold a team and hold a dispersal draft.  Besides, I don't think Hamilton will go after an OHL team until the AHL Bulldogs move to Laval (assuming the plan goes through).  And with Laval's arena controversy, that may be a ways away still.
Jason Ray

I gotta say it needs to be the majors I've been to a few games and that building is empty most of the games I've attended. I swear I heard crickets, not to mention that they ate right beside the Brampton Battalion to me it waters down where fans will go and watch a game. They should spread out the OHL wealth. Although I'm not sold in them going to Hamilton. Hamilton has the Bull Dogs of the AHL might just be too much of a good thing.

Phil Phillips

I'm not sure if any team should move to Hamilton, what would they name the franchise ? The Steelhawks or the Dukes of Hamilton, maybe the Fincups? I'm not sure why the OHL didn't work in Hamilton the last time, and I wonder why people think it would now. Its the same building? and The Economy is worse off? I think maybe Buffalo might be a better option. Securing New York born players for the league.

As far as a team moving there, I'm not sure what team should move, but I know one that could move: the Belleville Bulls.
A few reasons:

1- The Team -The on ice product isn't the problem. The Bulls have done their part on the Ice. Only missing the playoffs 3 times since 1981. Three trips to the OHL final, winning in 1999 on home ice in game 7, two trips to the Memorial Cup, five division titles. Many OHL and CHL individual awards. 56 players that have played for the Bulls have played in the NHL.

2-The Yardman- I know it was the only barn in the Ontario Hockey League to have a second level of seating until the John Labatt Centre was built, in 2002. But the Yardbarn was built in 1978, its old and over the years its had some upgrades but just band aids really, nothing that would put it on par with other rinks in the OHL. The Ice making equipment is old and this year its showing its age a bit. There is no real bar, no restaurant, it feels like the store is in an other building (because it is), during Intermissions the concourse is tight. Good luck getting a drink, using the bathroom and getting back to your seat on time.

3- The Owner- Belleville no longer have the advantages of local ownership. Gord Simmonds purchased the Bulls in 2004-2005. At the time it was known that the Yardman was in need of being seriously upgraded or replaced. Mr.Simmonds has stepped up and did his part, he's upgraded the dressing room and workout area, asked for and got the OHL All-Star Game in 2006, he was reasonable for the Yardman getting the Video Score Broad it now has, and has been more they patient with the City of Belleville. He has said he wont be signing a new lease if something is not in place. And if a City has a beautiful empty building waiting for a tenant, he is a business man, why would he not go? If it's going to be more profitable to do so?

3-The City of Belleville- Its time for City council, to make a decision , and let everyone know what are the plans to secure the Bulls stay in Belleville? The Mayor has stated that it can't be done on the backs of taxpayers alone and that private industry has to be on board. Okay, so get it done, get every one together and make it happen, I understand its not that black and white, but whats the hold up, get together with Mr.Simmonds, and who ever else and at least start.

4-Fans- #MORECOWBELL, We have to support this team win or lose, I think the Bulls have only topped 3000 tickets sold in 2 or 3 games this season. Old building or new building it can't sit half full. At one time Bulls fans were named the Best fans in the OHL by the Global OHL Game of the Week. All division games should be standing room only, when Kingston or Ottawa are in town it should be sold out.

So in short the Belleville Bulls could be forced to move? The Hamilton Bulls just sounds wrong.

Bryan Theil

With everything that has come out about this possible relocation, we have to consider the difference between 'will' and 'should'. The team that probably will get relocated, as it stands right now, is the Erie Otters. The argument for that is as simple as the team's lease. Of all the teams you would consider 'eligible' for a move, the Otters' lease is up at the end of the season, while the Brampton Battalion's lease is up after next season. Many will look at the record and suggest the fact that Erie is 19 points out of 19th in the league as another prime reason for relocation, but the last-place team has actually outdrawn Brampton (if we go strictly on paper numbers).

In terms of teams that should? I would suggest either the Battalion or the Mississauga Majors. The Toronto market has enough trouble supporting one OHL team let alone two, and both franchises may stagnate given the fact that the AHL's Marlies can't even advance. There are markets that would welcome a team with stronger numbers than both Toronto teams combined, and while Hamilton may or may not be that market, they are out there and may be where the future of the OHL lies.

Anthony Nicholson

With talk of an OHL franchise moving to Hamilton, many have pointed to the Erie Otters, who, at least behind the scenes, have been making it known that Hamilton would be a prime destination for them. While it is quite likely that the Otters will be the team on the move, though the team is still negotiating with the City of Erie on a lease that would keep the team there long-term.

Much has been made of the recent struggles of the Mississauga Majors and Brampton Battalion, two teams who have become used to playing in front of empty arenas. The proximity of these two teams to one another only compound the problem, and it is a very clear case of the league wanting hockey to succeed in these cities, with no regards for the dynamics involved in keeping an OHL team afloat. If Erie does in fact move to Hamilton, another city will need to step forward to be a permanent home for at least one of these two franchises, and both Cornwall and North Bay have been bandied about as possible destinations.

Prospect Files: Scott Laughton

In June, this player’s National Hockey League allegiances may change if a team other than the Toronto Maple Leafs calls his name in Pittsburgh at the NHL entry draft. This former Toronto Marlboro minor hockey player has left an impression in many scouts’ eyes over the past 12 months. This week we take a look at Scott Laughton.

The Line:

Height: 6’ 1”
Weight: 178 lbs
Shoots: Left
Plays: Centre
Draft Eligible: 2012

Born and raised in Oakville, Ontario, this gritty two-way center has taken the Ontario Hockey League by storm the past season and a half after the Oshawa Generals took him 3rd overall in the 2010 OHL Entry Draft.
Last year, as a 16 year-old rookie, Laughton put up 23 points in 63 games which is respectable for a rookie but this season he has already amassed 46 points in just 54 games, not to mention piling up 84 penalty minutes in that same span.

The last 12 months have been very busy for Laughton, playing in the Under 17 challenge last Christmas and then the Ivan Hlinka U-18 tournament in the summer for Team Ontario and Team Canada respectively. Laughton not only won gold in both tournaments but he scored the game winning golden goal for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament.

Laughton, like I described above, is a gritty two-way center. He will go into the rough areas and isn’t afraid to use his big frame to his advantage, separating guys from pucks and finishing every check. Laughton is not the type of player who skates by pucks. He starts and stops instead; using his explosive first three steps to get himself back into the play and helping his defensive game. Using this style, he is often the first forward back on defense.

When Laughton picks up a puck at the blue line or red line and gets flying he is tough to stop. He is also able to make fast laterall east-west style moves on opponents like only elite players can. Scott will often drive the net with authority and has a great set of hands to go with his aggressive play. He scores a lot of dirty goals but isn’t missing from the highlight reel as he can make defenders look silly as he gains the line with speed.

Laughton is a well-rounded player that really needs to just continue the growth of his overall skill set. I don’t believe that his offensive upside is as high as many who will be drafted in the first round but I think he is more of a lock to be a pro hockey player than most of them. The intangibles are too obvious to miss. He does the little things so well and isn’t a reliability in any facet of the game.

Laughton shouldn’t have to wait long to hear his name in Pittsburgh. I believe he is a first round talent for the 2012 NHL entry draft.

NHL Player Comparison: Shawn Horcoff – Edmonton Oilers

February 23rd - Game Day Previews

by Dwayne Williams

Only action in the league last night was the back and forth contest at Owen Sound.  Gavrus scored twice for the home side and three different players scored for the Sting. The game went to overtime where Jay Gilbert scored his 9th goal of the year (17 in his career). Both teams are now tied for fourth place with the Sting earning one point for going into overtime.  I had the score right, but picked the wrong team.

Niagara at Sault Ste Marie
The Icedogs are back in the 905 area code for this weekend after going 2-1 last weekend. Part of that northern road trip saw the Icedogs drop into the Essar Centre to play these same Greyhounds on Sunday.  In that game Mark Visentin continued his dominance anchoring a 3-0 victory. That put the Phoenix Coyotes property in the record books with 14 shutouts this season – and also helped give him recognition on the national stage as the CHL goalie of the week.  The Dogs are in a back and forth battle with the nationally ranked Ottawa 67’s squad – currently trailing them by 1 point in the standings.  My hunch says to look for Strome and F Hamilton to get on the scoreboard in this game.
The Greyhounds have been up and down recently – having  a record of 4-4-2-2 in their past 10 games. They are in a back and forth battle at the bottom of the Western Conference standings against the Guelph Storm.  The Greyhounds have 52 points and the Storm have 51 points (and haven’t been helping themselves with only 2 wins in their past 10 games).  Nick Cousins was on an offensive tear before the Dogs came to town – he had scored 4 goals and 5 assists in the previous 4 games.  The Greyhounds are the 5th most penalized team – and the Dogs are clipping along with the #1 OHL powerplay  (28%) – so this could be the difference in the game today (Greyhounds are #9 Penalty kill squad – 80.3%).  Goalie Jack Campbell has been disappointing with only 11 wins in the 27 games that he has played since THE TRADE.
My prediction Niagara 5 Sault Ste Marie 2

Barrie at Peterborough
The Colts are the hottest team in the OHL right now with a 8-1-0-1 record in their past 10 games.  Last weekend they defeated a strong Kitchener team and then pushed past the Generals twice. They scored 5 goals twice and 6 goals once – allowing 7 goals total on the weekend.  They sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference 3 points behind Brampton and 3 points ahead of Sudbury.  Pearson leads the team with 80 points (tied for second in the league) and 7 points in 8 games this month. Colin Behenna has 10 points in those games as well.  Goalie Niederberger has 6 wins, 1 loss and 1 shootout loss this month to go along with a stingy 1.63 GAA to go along with a .949 save %.
Peterborough is in charge of their own fate this weekend – they are clinging to a 1 point lead over the Belleville Bulls for the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.  Recent play has not helped their fortunes – with a 3-7-0-0 record in their past 10 games.  The Petes only victory of the weekend was a 5-3 shocker against the #1 Eastern Conference 67’s. They also dropped a 3-1 game vs. Brampton as well as a 5-4 squeaker against Kingston a week ago.  Quine had only 2 assists last weekend but a solid 11 points in the 9 games played this month – Yogan has 13 points in that span as well (and a career high 57 points this season).  Two upcoming games vs. the Bulls and 2 against the Generals will be important on their calendar, but they have to work hard to get a point or two from every game possible.
My prediction Barrie 5 Peterborough 1

The Coach for $1000 Alex...

by Phil Phillips

After the embarrassing 4-1 loss on home ice to the Erie Otters on Family Day, There are questions surrounding the Belleville Bulls. No disrespect to the Otters, but their record speaks for it self , with only 23 points on the season they are the worst team in the OHL. They have the honour of being the team that has scored the fewest goals, allowed the most goals, have the fewest wins and the most loses. But on Family Day with their great effort, coupled with the Bulls lackluster performance they looked like a playoff team. Belleville did not.

So we ask the Question, Has Head Coach and GM George Burnett and his staff lost this team ?

I've always been a big supporter of George Burnett as a Coach and GM. Something not all fans can say. He came to Belleville in 2004-2005, and right away he put a sour taste in a lot of fans mouths. Never mind that he came to town as a proven winner, having won the Matt Leyden Trophy as the OHL coach of the year for the 1990–91 and 1991–92 seasons when he coached the Niagara Thunder, No one cared that he Coached the Cape Breton Oilers of the AHL to a Calder Cup in 1993, they could have cared less that he won J. Ross Robertson Cup with the Guelph Storm in 1997-98. There was respect but not much love for the fact that he was an assistant and briefly a Head Coach in the NHL. What they cared about was the fact that he was replacing one of our own in former Bulls Winger and then Head Coach James Boyd.

Burnett came to Belleville, a year after the Bulls had missed the playoffs for the 1st time in 21 years. Belleville had new Ownership for the first time ever. And the New owners brought with them a new GM and Head Coach and fans were bitter. At one time there was even a petition going around the Yardman to have him fired.

I'm not sure if he was responsible for drafting John Hughes 1st overall, but he took the blame. He traded away some fan favorite's early as well, in Mike Roelofsen, John Adams and Cody Thornton. In my opinion trading Thornton was his smartest move, I didn't think so at the time, but when Andrew Gibbons arrived at the Yardman he was instantly loved for his work ethic and team first attitude. Starting a long line of Grinders that Burnett help turn in to fan favorites. Jeff Leavitt, Cory Tanaka, Andrew Self, Matthew Tipoff, and Brett Mackie come to mind.
Some of the best defence men in Bulls history have played under Burnett. The likes of Geoff Killing, Nick Pageau, P.K. Subban, and Shawn Lalonde.
It doesn't stop there we have seen some great Forwards on Burnetts watch as well, Marc Rancourt, Matt Beleskey, Shawn Matthias, Bryan Cameron, Tyler Donati, and Eric Tangradi.
For me Coach and GM Burnett's strong suit though has been goal tenders. He had to trade away Edward Pasquale, Sebastian Dahm, Philipp Grubauer and Daniel Altshuller before we would even see their best hockey because the cupboard was full with the likes of Eric Tobia, Kevin Lalande, Parker Van Buskirk, the Great Mike Murphy and now Malcolm Subban. We have seen 14 players drafted and 8 Bulls go to the show since his arrival. With a few more to come in Brendan Gaunce and Garrett Hooey. For argument sake will will say that his weak spot with the roster has been European Imports. Its not that bad if your, Jan Mursak, Daniil Zharkov or a back up goaltender, the rest not so much.
We have seen some real beauties and this only scratches the surface of players we love from the Burnett era in Belleville.

Burnett and his boys have gave us lots to cheer about over the years, the team has never been better defensively then it is under his watch. We seen the team record for points (102), wins (48) and Least goals against (175), all be broken in 2007-08. 3 division titles in 06-07,07-08,08-09 hang in the rafters of the Yardman. All of this highlighted by a trip to the Memorial Cup in 2008. We have only not seen playoff hockey in one spring under Burnett.

With all that said, In a season where Burnett coached in his 1000th game and won his 500th in the OHL we ask, What have you done for me lately ?

We could miss the playoffs this year. This is the third year that the PP has struggled big time, or that we haven't had a real top of the league point producer. Belleville fans came in to this season with high hopes, then in November those high hopes turned in to lofty expectations, in January those kind of hopes became distant memories. And the Bulls aren't just losing, its the way their losing (especially in February). 15 times this season the Bulls have lost by two or more goals.
In must wins games or games Vs beatable opponents, the Bulls have nothing, no jump, no swagger, very little drive to the net, they play soft and rarely do you see any puck support, in the process looking like anything but a playoff team.

So my Question is if the Belleville Bulls miss the playoffs for the 2nd time in three years, Is it on George Burnett and his staff? is it not their job to build a system that these kids can play and be successful in? They drafted or traded for them all, Why aren't they prepared for these big games? Why such a drastic drop off in play from earlier in the year to now?

I know injures have hurt this team, and they were playing over their heads a bit, but really ? Something is gone. I don't know what it is , maybe we needed Simon Gronvaldt more then anybody knew. I don't have the answers to turn the Bulls around.
I hope George Burnett does, if not his past success will only carry so much weight and the Question's will be asked about GM and Coach Burnett's future with the club.

7-Day Buzz – Sarnia Sting Weekly Recap

The Sarnia Sting entered this past weekend on the tail end of a five-game road trip that witnessed them go 2-1 defeating the Barrie Colts (3-2) and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (7-6 SO) in close matchups but losing to the Sudbury Wolves (5-3).  After a subpar January record that watched them go 5-7, Sarnia began the month of February winning three of the first four games.
Charlie Sarault gets back on track during his birthday weekend (Metcalfe Photography)

Quick Recap: Sarnia 4 @ Guelph 2
Friday night, Sarnia travelled to the Sleeman Centre in Guelph to face the Western Conference’s ninth place Storm.  The Sting’s leading scorer, Charlie Sarault, was in the midst of a scoring slump coming into the game with no goals in the past ten games and only two points over the last nine.  Charlie would knock the monkey off his back as he assisted on the opening Sting goal by Craig Hottot and potted the eventual game-winning goal halfway through the final frame giving Sarnia back-to-back road wins. Sarnia’s win over the Guelph Storm kept the Sting in fourth place as Owen Sound and Saginaw continued to chase them down in the Western Conference.
The Sting have continued to battle the season-long curse of injuries as Sarnia played without three veteran defenseman including captain Nathan Chiarlitti (ankle), Adrian Robertson (neck) and Craig Duininck (foot).  The Sting’s fourth line was without hustler Nick Latta due to a shoulder injury.  The number of injuries to key players on the Sting roster has been almost laughable this season and as the past weekend unfolded, Sarnia would soon find them losing two other key components. During the Guelph outing, the speedy and offensive-minded defenseman Alex Basso left the game with an upper body injury after a collision in the first period.  The injuries did provide an opportunity for several Sting draftees to enter into the lineup including Davis Brown (3rd Round, 2011) from the Strathroy Rockets and Daniel Nikandrov (4th Round, 2011) and Mike Dipaolo (4th Round, 2010) from the Sarnia Legionnaires. 

Quick Recap: Sarnia 2 @ Saginaw 6
On Saturday night armed with two busloads of Sting fans, Sarnia headed west to take on the Saginaw Spirit without the likes of Chiarlitti, Basso, Robertson, Duininck, Latta, and Galchenyuk in the lineup.  Entering the game, Sarnia has fared well against the Spirit this season winning the four previous games. On this night, Saginaw took advantage of the depleted Sting roster and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period.  Lead by the red hot Josh Shalla with four points that extended his active point streak to eight games (second only to Nail Yakupov’s previous streak of 19 points in 8 games), Saginaw would skate easily to a 6-2 game. 
Defenseman Connor Murphy and Nail Yakupov would add third period goals but it was all that the Sting could muster. Unfortunately, the loss to Saginaw allowed the Owen Sound Attack to pass Sarnia in the standings as they took over fourth spot in the OHL’s Western Conference.  The biggest loss for Sarnia was yet another injury, this time to heart-and-soul player Craig Hottot.  The Sombra native left the game just moments into the first period with an upper body injury. 
In the absence of the Sting’s leading defensive scorer Alex Basso (separated shoulder, 4-6 weeks) and do-it-all forward Craig Hottot (upper body injury, 2-3 weeks) Sarnia will need other players to step up in key roles.

Quick Recap: London 2 @ Sarnia 6
The Sting had a nice welcome back to a packed full RBC Centre on Monday afternoon in the annual Family Day game after going two and a half weeks without a home game.  Playing in front of the largest crowd Sarnia has witnessed in over a decade, the Sting netted two powerplay goals before the halfway mark of the first period by OHL veterans Brett Thompson and Ryan Spooner.  Another game without seven regulars, Sarnia’s depth players stepped up in a big way to take the lead against a strong London Knights’ team. 
The Sting were able to get timely goals from Connor Murphy and Brett Thompson (second of the game) to maintain the lead against the Canadian Hockey League’s top rated team.  Just past the midway point of the third period, 5100 fans witnessed one of the best OHL goals of the season as Sarnia’s Nail Yakupov retrieved the puck, circled speedster Knights’ forward Andreas Athanasiou before ripping a blazing shot through the legs of six-foot-seven defenseman Jarred Tinordi and over the shoulder of a helpless Michael Houser. 

Minutes later with Sarnia playing shorthanded, rookie Daniel Nikandrov exited the penalty box and tracked down a loose puck to the right of an empty Knights’ net and made a swift move to elude the defender before tucking in his first career OHL goal (in his fifth game). The Sting’s final two goals capped off a great day at the RBC Centre in a gutsy win by a depleted Sting lineup.  JP Anderson made 34 saves to earn his seventh win as a member of the Sting giving the London Knights their first road loss in 2012.
Upcoming Week Preview
Sarnia heads back out on the road to take on the Owen Sound Attack Wednesday night to determine fourth place and home-ice advantage.  The importance of Wednesday’s game in Owen Sound cannot be understated.  Sarnia has split the season series with one win a piece with the home team coming out victorious in both games.  Wednesday’s game will mark the third of four meetings between the Attack and Sting.  Reid Boucher (2G, 1A), Brett Thompson (1G, 2A) and Charlie Sarault (1G, 2A) each have three points in two games versus the Attack this season and JP Anderson has posted a record of 1-0-0-1 (both as a Mississauga Major) and has a 2.88 GAA and .924 save percentage.

Hot or Not?

Ludvig Rensfeldt continues to find the scoresheet since returning with his World Junior gold medal as he has accumulated 7 goals and 13 points over his past 14 games.

Ryan Spooner has buried 10 goals and 21 points in 18 games wearing a Sting jersey and has registered a point in 78% of the games.

Nail Yakupov had 22 goals and 32 assists entering February but has since returned to the goal scorer we witnessed last season recording 5 goals and 1 assist in five February games. Despite battling injury and frustration this season, Yakupov has improved his point-per-game pace from 1.55 last season to 1.79 this season.
Reid Boucher has only two goals and 5 points through 19 games in 2012 after starting the season on a tear. 

Tyler J. Brown is still looking for his first goal as a member of the Sarnia Sting.  Brown has seven assists in 18 Sting games after posting over a point-per-game for the Kingston Frontenacs.


  • Only two players, Charlie Sarault and rookie Anthony DeAngelo, have played in all 56 games this season for the Sting (Stat courtesy of Dave Barody)
  • The Sting has 12 games remaining in the regular schedule, seven of them on home ice.
  • The Sting have a record of 6-3-0-1 in their past ten games and currently sit 4th in the Western Conference with 64 points, one point ahead of Owen Sound and three points ahead of Saginaw but with a game in hand on both teams.
  • Charlie Sarault celebrated his 20th Birthday yesterday (February 20th) as Sarnia defeated the London Knights for the second time this season.
  • On Monday, Sarnia wore commemorative red and white jerseys to support the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Jerseys are available for purchase by auction through the website.

Past Week’s Point Leaders (3 Games)
Brett Thompson -  2G 2A
Ludvig Rensfeldt - 1G 2A
Charles Sarault - 1G 2A
Ryan Spooner - 1G 2A
Nail Yakupov - 2G
Connor Murphy - 2G
Craig Hottot - 2G
Daniel Nikandrov - 1G
Anthony DeAngelo - 1A
Dominic Alberga - 1A

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