Its hard to believe that there are only three games left in the OHL's regular season. The Belleville Bulls have a record of 41-16-5-3 and are in first place in both the Eastern Conference and the East Division. If you ask anyone involved with the Bulls, I'm sure they would tell you, had they known in September that they would be in this position in the last week of the regular season with three games left and two of them on home ice, they would have taken it quicker then you can say Hawkins Cheezies are made in Belleville. But it won't be easy to stay there.
Both teams chasing the Bulls for top spot in the Conference and the Division are rolling. In the Conference its the Barrie Colts breathing down the Bulls neck with a record of 42-19-2-2, good for 88 points to Belleville's 90. Barrie also has three games remaining, with home games Vs the playoff hungry Kingston Frontenacs and the always tough Niagara Icedogs sandwiching a road game in Brampton Vs the Battalion. All games will be tough, with the mentioned Frontenacs fighting for a playoff spot they will be ready, the Icedogs would love nothing better then to enter the playoffs with a win over division leaders, and as for the game in Brampton, I would guess that these last couple weeks in Brampton will be emotional, as the Battalion prepare to move to North Bay for the start of next season. The Colts are only looking forward and have won six in a row and are 6-3-1-0 in their last ten. Barrie's hot streak includes a 3-2 OT win over Belleville last Saturday night at the Molson Centre. The Colts Mark Scheifele (Jets) is the reining OHL player of the week after putting up nine points (6G,3A) in three games. There are some Belleville connections on the Colts roster, former Bull Dylan Corson takes a regular shift, Belleville native Zack Hall leads the Colts in scoring with 79 points, and former Quinte Red Devil and OMHA Player of the Year Wellington native Alex Yuill patrols the blue line for Barrie. We could could good reel off names like Anthony Camara (Bruins), Ryan O'Connor, Aaron Ekblad, Andreas Athanasiou, Alex Lepkowski (Sabres) and others to show the quality of players the Colts have but for us the one that matters the most is OHL goaltender of the year candidate Mathias Niederberger. The Barrie net minder has been nothing short of spectacular this season, he's in the top three in the OHL in GAA (2.29), & Wins (34) and leads the league in SV% (.934). There is no reason to think that the Colts are going to stop their pursuit of the Conference title.
In the Division its the Oshawa Generals who are looking to knock the Bulls off their perch at the top of the East Division. The Generals have a little more work to do to catch Belleville but it can be done. With 84 points the Generals would need to win their last three and Belleville lose their last three. If I'm Head Coach DJ Smith I'm telling my team that we can't worry about the Belleville Bulls we can only worry about the Oshawa Generals. Saying that he can also use the Bulls for motivation The Generals are 8-2-0-0 in their last 10 and are on a seven game winning streak, to match the division rival Bulls for the second longest winning streak in the OHL with 10 would be no small feat.
The Bulls can help their own cause on Wednesday night when the Generals visit the Yardman Arena. With a win in regulation the Bulls can lock up the East Division. It won't be easy, the Generals are a big physical team that will give the Bulls all they can handle. With the likes of Boone Jenner (Blue Jackets), Scott Laughton (Flyers), Tyler Biggs (Maple Leafs) and one of my favourite non Belleville players Scott Sabourin leading the charge up front, and Matt Petgrave, Geffrey Schemitsch (Lightning), and Colin Suellentrop (Flyers) being the Motor City Crew's top three on defence, its easy to see why Oshawa will be a tough out in the playoffs no matter where they finish. Never mind that we didn't mention Lucas Lessio (Coyotes), Cole Cassels or super rookie Michael Dal Colle. The Generals are a deep squad that can score in bunches but they don't give up a whole lot. Daniel Altshuller (Hurricanes) is one of the best in the OHL has proven in the past that he can win games by himself.
To be successful vs the Generals the Bulls will need Malcolm Subban (Bruins) to continue to play as well as he has in his last few starts. Look for the Generals to come out flying and the Bulls will have to stay calm and weather the storm until the pace slows. The Bulls have had great penalty killing all season and are ranked first in the OHL to show for it, but Oshawa have a power play that operates at over 22% (its not to shabby). Belleville cant afford to get in to penalty trouble, not that they haven't handle the Oshawa power play this season they have, in six games Belleville has killed 16 of 18 minor penalties, but its still better to limit their chances. The Generals are leading the season series 5-1 and out scoring Belleville 26-14. Belleville will have to keep there shifts short as they will play their fourth game in six days.
The Bulls have gone 2-1 since the three game mini slump that followed the ten game winning streak. Monday night the Bulls defeated the Kingston Frontenacs 4-2. Malcolm Subban was the games first star and to be honest looked as strong as he has since the Christmas Break. The Bruins Prospect really shinned in the second period when the Fronts out shot the Bulls 17-5. Belleville got goals from Wild prospect Tyler Graovac (38), Redwings draft pick Alan Quine (22), Joseph Cramarossa (18)(Ducks) and Brady Austin (8). Sabres draft Austin has scored in three straight games for the Bulls.
Notes : Stephen Silas returned to Bulls line up Monday night after missing 8 games due to a concussion... 1st Round Pick Niki Petti also returned to the line up after missing games to a elbow injury...Belleville has ran in to the flu bug with both Chad Heffernan and Daniel De Sousa missing games.....Last week Joseph Cramarossa signed an entry level deal with the Anaheim Ducks...Former Bull Phillipp Grubauer made his 1st NHL start in goal for the Washington Capitals...
After Wednesdays' game with the Generals the Bulls will travel to Mississauga on Friday night and finish out the regular season on Saturday at home vs the Sudbury Wolves.