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 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.