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ITO Three Stars and OHL Power Rankings: Week 21

Five teams punched their tickets into the Ontario Hockey League post-season this past week, the first group of teams to do so this year. The London Knights, Plymouth Whalers, Kitchener Rangers, Niagara IceDogs, and Ottawa 67’s have all guaranteed themselves a berth in the playoffs, with little left to be decided over the next four weeks except for final seeding and first round opponents. Only the Erie Otters find themselves officially eliminated from post-season play, leaving fourteen teams who still have some work to do, to lock up the remaining eleven spots.

While all four division leaders would secure a playoff berth in the last week, the race for the playoffs is hotter than ever, especially in the East, where the difference from sixth to ninth has been within two points for the last two weeks. Mississauga, Oshawa, Peterborough, and Belleville are all in the mix, and will partake in a long game of Russian roulette over the next month, as one of those four teams will likely be watching post-season play. In the West, Guelph currently sits outside of a playoff spot, but are just one point behind Sault Ste. Marie with a game in hand.

Three forwards earn recognition in this week’s edition of the ‘In The O’ Three Stars, we’ll take a look at those great performances, as well as recap the week that was in our weekly OHL Power Rankings.

ITO 3 Stars

1. Ivan Telegin (Barrie Colts) – After back to back week’s where our top performer of the week was awarded to a goaltender, we are back to seeing some scoring atop the ITO Three Stars this week. With his club battling Sudbury for home ice advantage in the playoffs, Ivan Telegin would take his team on his shoulders, and was the best player on the ice every shift. On Friday night, Ivan would score a goal and add a helper, both in the third period, as his Colts won in Kitchener, and a night later, Ivan would be even better, scoring twice as part of a three point night against Oshawa. Telegin’s best game, however, may have come on Monday afternoon, as he would strike for three goals in the rematch in Oshawa. In three contests, Ivan would register eight points, six of them goals, and is the ITO First Star for week 21.

2. Michael Sgarbossa (Sudbury Wolves) – No player scored more points in the Ontario Hockey League over the last week than Michael Sgarbossa, who recorded nine points over four games in a very active week. Wednesday night, Michael scored once and added two helpers as his Wolves would win in Sault Ste. Marie, and he would add another helper in a loss to Niagara on Friday night. Sgarbossa would register a hat trick on Sunday as part of a four point game in Brampton, and he would score again Monday in Mississauga. With five goals and nine points in his four games, we chose Michael Sgarbossa as our ITO Second Star for the week.

3. Josh Shalla (Saginaw Spirit) Much of the rise of the Saginaw Spirit over the second half of the OHL schedule can be attributed to a collection of experienced players who have taken turns leading their club. One of those experienced leaders is Josh Shalla, who has become one of Saginaw’s most consistent players, as proven yet again over the past week. Josh would start the week by scoring a goal and adding an assist in an overtime loss in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, and would score again the next night, as part of a four point night against Sarnia. Shalla would add another goal Sunday against Owen Sound, and with three goals and seven points in just three games, Josh is the ITO Third Star for the week of February 14th-20th.

ITO Power Rankings

1. London Knights – (Last Week: 1) Another edition of the OHL Power Rankings means another week of seeing the London Knights riding high in the coveted number one position. It was a bit of an off-week for the Knights, who would drop two of three games over the weekend, nearly knocking themselves out of the top spot. Friday night, the Knights would lose to Windsor in a Nationally televised game, but would minimize the damage with a convincing victory over Kitchener on Sunday afternoon. London would drop a bit of a stinker on the holiday Monday, losing in Sarnia. The Knights play three games in three days over the upcoming weekend, as they hit the road for an Eastern road trip. London plays in Kingston on Friday night, in Belleville a night later, and finishes the weekend in Ottawa on Sunday afternoon.

2. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 2) The Niagara IceDogs continue to nip at the heels of the London Knights for the prime position on the OHL Power Rankings, but for a seconds straight week, they remain at number two. The ‘Dogs let a great opportunity to overtake the Knights slip through their fingers on Wednesday, losing in Erie, but Niagara would counter with wins in Sudbury on Friday, and Saturday in Sault Ste. Marie. The IceDogs face a rematch with Sault Ste. Marie, this time on home ice, to start the upcoming week on Thursday night. A night later, Niagara plays in Mississauga, before wrapping up the weekend Sunday afternoon, back at home to Kingston.

3. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 4) The Ottawa 67’s climb back into the top three in this week’s Power Rankings, after winning three out of four contests since we last spoke. The 67’s picked up where they left off the week before, winning in Belleville on Wednesday night, but would let a three goal lead disappear on Saturday afternoon, losing at home to Peterborough. Sunday afternoon, Ottawa would rebound by defeating Erie, and carried that momentum into another victory Monday afternoon in Kingston. After a busy week, the 67’s can relax, if only just a little, with but two games this weekend, both at home. On Friday night, Ottawa plays host to Barrie, before London visits for a Sunday matinee.

4. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 6) A perfect weekend is enough to vault the high-flying Barrie Colts back into the top five this week, as they are playing their best hockey of the season at just the right time. The Colts got things started this past week with a huge win in Kitchener on Friday night, and would follow that up by taking both ends of a home and home series with Oshawa, Saturday and Monday afternoon. Barrie plays three games in as many days this week, which begins on Thursday, when they play in Peterborough. A night later, the Colts take to the ice in Ottawa, before returning home to end the weekend Saturday against Mississauga.

5. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 3) The Kitchener Rangers slide two spots this week, after starting the week with back to back losses. Friday night, the Rangers would fall on home ice to a stiff challenge from Barrie, and Kitchener could find no success in London on Sunday afternoon. Only a convincing win in Guelph on Monday afternoon would stop the Rangers from sliding even further down the OHL Power Rankings, despite being one of the teams to clinch a playoff spot over the last week. A three-game weekend lies ahead for Kitchener, who begin the weekend at home to Peterborough Friday night. On Saturday, the Rangers travel to Owen Sound, before venturing back to Guelph for a Sunday afternoon tilt.

6. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 5) The Plymouth Whalers are down a single spot this week, falling out of the top five after losing two of their last three contests. While the week would start well for Plymouth with a victory in Windsor Thursday, the Whalers would find themselves thoroughly pummeled in back to back games on home ice. Plymouth would lose games to Owen Sound on Friday and Guelph on Saturday, by a combined score of 14-2, hardly what is expected from a division leader and potential league contender. Whatever the woes on home ice, the Whalers need to rectify it immediately, as they play two more home games in the upcoming week. Friday night, Plymouth receives a visit from Oshawa, before Sudbury comes to town the next night.

7. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 7) Cracking the top six has proven to be tough for anyone, let alone a team that spent much of the first half of the season fighting amongst the bottom of the OHL standings. Even earning five out of six possible points over the last week wouldn’t be enough to allow Saginaw into the top six, as they remain firm at number seven this week. On Friday night, the Spirit would lose a tough decision in Sault Ste. Marie in overtime, extending their winless streak to three, before Saginaw would earn victories over the weekend on home ice, defeating Sarnia on Saturday, and Owen Sound Sunday. The Spirit remain at home for the week ahead, playing a pair of games from the comfort of familiar surroundings. Sudbury is the visitor for Saginaw on Friday, while Oshawa comes to town a night later.

8. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 10) After a long slide down the Power Rankings, the Sarnia Sting seem to have gotten back on track in recent weeks, and find themselves climbing back up to join the leaders. Wins in two of three games over the last week continued a streak of winning weekends, and the Sting are now fighting for home advantage in the playoffs in the West. On Friday night, Sarnia would win in Guelph, but the Sting would lose a night later in Saginaw. Monday afternoon, the Sting would earn a big two points on home ice, defeating top-ranked London. Looking ahead, Wednesday night, Sarnia plays in Owen Sound, then returns home for games against Windsor Friday, and against Guelph Saturday.

9. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 11) The Owen Sound Attack are back up two spots this week, climbing back into the top ten with wins in two of three contests on the road over the weekend. Friday night, the Attack earned a big two points in Plymouth, and they would follow up with another big victory in Windsor on Saturday. A tired crew from Owen Sound wouldn’t have enough in the tank to make it a perfect weekend, as they would fall on Sunday afternoon in Saginaw. The Attack get back home this week, beginning Wednesday night when they host Sarnia. Friday night, Owen Sound plays in Guelph, before coming back home to end the weekend Saturday night against Kitchener.

10. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 8) The Sudbury Wolves are down two spots this week, after earning just three out of eight possible points in a busy week. Things started well for Sudbury, who would win at home to Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday, before falling to Niagara Friday night. On Sunday, the Wolves would pick up the pity point in an overtime loss in Brampton, but would be unable to build on it, losing the next afternoon in Mississauga. Sudbury continues their long road trip this weekend with three games in as many days, beginning Friday night in Saginaw. On Saturday, the Wolves play in Plymouth, before ending the weekend in Windsor Sunday afternoon.

11. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 12) With Coach Stan Butler back at the helm, the Brampton Battalion have quickly gotten themselves back on track, and three more wins this week extends their undefeated streak to four games. Friday night, the Battalion picked up a big win in Mississauga, and they would win again at home on Sunday, defeating Sudbury in overtime. The Battalion made it a perfect week on holiday Monday, when they would win in Peterborough. Brampton only plays two games in the upcoming week, as they host Belleville on Friday night, before Sault Ste. Marie pays a visit for a Sunday afternoon matinee.

12. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 9) One of the week’s biggest slides belongs to the Oshawa Generals, who fall three spots out of the top ten this week after dropping two of three games. The week started off with a bang for the Gens, as they would come out on top of a lopsided affair at home to Belleville on Friday night. A home and home series with Barrie put a stop to any momentum Oshawa may have been building, as the Generals would lose in Barrie on Saturday night, and again back at home on holiday Monday. Oshawa has but two games to try and get back to their winning ways, as they head south of the border for games in Plymouth on Friday and in Saginaw Saturday.

13. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 13) Three points in as many games is enough for the Windsor Spitfires to hold firm at number thirteen this week, as the Spits continue to stay a few points ahead of the crucial playoff line in the Western Conference. Thursday night, Windsor would lose on home ice to the visitors from Plymouth, but the Spits would bounce back with a big win Friday in London. Windsor would pick up a bonus point from an overtime loss to Owen Sound Saturday night, breaking even for the week. The Spitfires are another team with just two games in the coming week, as they play Friday night in Sarnia, before returning home to host Sudbury Sunday afternoon.

14. Mississauga St. Michaels Majors – (Last Week: 14) Much like the Spitfires ahead of them, the Majors hold on to their position this week after earning three points in three games over the last week. Friday night, the Majors would fall to their rivals from Brampton by way of the shootout, and the Majors would lose again the next night in Belleville. Just when you thought they were down and out, a huge win at home to Sudbury on Monday afternoon would vault them back into a playoff spot in the East. The Majors are in for another three game weekend coming up, beginning Friday night when they host Niagara. On Saturday, the Majors travel to Barrie, then return home to host Erie on Sunday afternoon.

15. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 15) If the Bulls are unsuccessful at qualifying for this year’s post-season, this past week will be one they look back on with regret. Four games on the schedule gave Belleville an excellent chance to climb up the Eastern standings, but the Bulls would manage only a single win. Wednesday night, Belleville would lose at home to Ottawa in the back end of a home and home series, and the Bulls would be crushed on Friday night in Oshawa. A night later, Belleville would wind up winning big over Mississauga, but failed to climb into a playoff spot when they would lose at home on Family Day to Erie. The Bulls have a three game weekend in front of them, which begins Friday night in Brampton. Saturday night, Belleville returns home to host London, then wraps up the weekend Sunday afternoon in Peterborough.

16. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 18) After reaching the bottom three of the OHL Power Rankings, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds are working their way back up, and trying to cling to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference in the process. The week was a tough one for the Hounds, beginning with a midweek loss in Sudbury. On Friday night, the Greyhounds would defeat Saginaw in overtime, but they would be shutout by Niagara on Saturday, ending the week on a sour note. The Hounds head out on a three game road trip, which begins on Thursday, when they tackle with the same team from Niagara. Friday night, they travel to Erie, before wrapping up the weekend Sunday afternoon in Brampton.

17. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 19) The team that has spent most of the year at number nineteen in the Power Rankings has found themselves surging as of late, and are rewarded for their recent success by climbing two spots this week. Thursday, the Fronts began the week with a huge divisional win in Peterborough, which set the tone for the next night, when they would defeat Erie on home ice. The win extended Kingston’s undefeated streak to six, but a tough one goal loss in Ottawa Monday afternoon would stop that streak. The Frontenacs are another team with a three game weekend ahead of them, starting Friday night when London comes to town. Kingston hits the road for the weekend, playing games in Erie on Saturday, and in Niagara Sunday.

18. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 17) With just one win in three tries this week, the Petes seem to be going in reverse at the worst possible time, and find themselves in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs again this year. Thursday night, the Petes would lose on home ice to Kingston, and their scheduled game Friday in Ottawa would be postponed due to a leaky roof. The game would be rescheduled for Saturday, and the Petes would take advantage of their divisional leaders, defeating Ottawa for the second time in as many weeks. Monday afternoon, Peterborough would lose again on home ice, this time to Brampton, denying themselves the opportunity to sit as high as sixth in the Eastern Conference. Another three games lies ahead for the Petes, who begin the week at home to Barrie on Thursday, before a big test in Kitchener on Friday night. Peterborough will finish the weekend back at home on Sunday afternoon when Belleville visits.

19. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 16) Winners only once in three games this past week, the Storm continue to sit on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff picture. A loss on Friday night at home to Sarnia was rebuffed by a big win the next night in Plymouth, but another loss Monday afternoon against Kitchener would keep the Storm from leaping over Sault Ste. Marie in the standings. Guelph can look to get back into the top eight with a three game weekend ahead of them, which starts Friday night at home to Owen Sound. On Saturday, the Storm play in Sarnia, then return home to finish the weekend against Kitchener on Sunday afternoon.

20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 20) While the Erie Otters remain at the bottom of the OHL Power Rankings, they have been playing much better as of late, and it is beginning to show in their record, as the team has begun to pick up points down the stretch. The Otters were winners in two of the teams four games over the last week, marking quite a successful week for this young squad. On Wednesday night, Erie shocked Niagara, as well as the rest of the league, when they knocked off the IceDogs on home ice, before heading out on a three game road trip over the weekend. The Otters would lose in Kingston on Friday and in Ottawa on Saturday, but would return home with some points from the trip, after winning in Belleville on the holiday Monday. Another team with a three game weekend ahead of them, Erie gets things started again on Friday night at home to Sault Ste. Marie, before Kingston pays a visit on Saturday. Sunday afternoon, the Otters finish the weekend with a big tilt in Mississauga.

The ITO Three Stars and Power Rankings can be found every Tuesday here at In The O… The Radio Show and OHLWriters.com. 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.

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