Happy New Year! Hope you have a healthy and prosperous year. Thanks to all of you for reading and supporting the work that we do (a labour of love).
Today is also a very special day as the London Knights face a historical game at home versus the Sarnia Sting. If they are able to fabricate a win, they will tie the OHL record for most consecutive regular season wins. What do you think will happen?
Ottawa at Kingston
This is the 2nd half of a home and home between these East Division rivals. Prior to yesterday's contest, there wasn't much to choose between the two teams, as each team had won one, and lost one in each other's rink, despite the fact that the Fronts were 13 points ahead of them in the standings.
Coach Gill wasn't pleased with his team's effort in Friday night's 5-2 home ice loss to the basement dwelling, Peterborough Petes. He refused to use the fact that they are shorthanded (U-17 tournament) as an excuse for his team's poor play. Missing 6 regulars for the game certainly didn't help his team's chances.
This game was "lowlighted" by a 10 minute video review on a Peterborough goal which was eventually allowed, much to the chagrin of the robust K-Rock crowd. Mike Morrison of the Frontenacs and Jacob Blair were both busy in a game which featured plenty of end to end rushes and few whistles. Ryan Kujawinski burst out of his scoring slump with 3 goals and an assist at Scotiabank Place yesterday for the Fronts, including 2 of the team's 5 goals in the 3rd period. Kingston won 7-5. Henri Ikonen, in his first game back from his tryout for Finland's WJC team, scored 2 goals and had 2 assists, as well.
The 67s are showing signs of putting it together after a disastrous first half - including a 10 game stretch without their captain, Sean Monahan. They managed only 3 of 20 points during that time frame, which they may look back on at the end of the season, as a turning point. 9 of those 10 games were on the road. They have won 6 of 19 road games this season.
After Friday night's game, the Fronts are 11-5 on home ice.
My prediction Ottawa 3 at Kingston 4
Guelph at Oshawa
The Guelph Storm (20-11-0-4) have lost 3 straight, and are 4th in the Western Conference, just a single point ahead of the Kitchener Rangers. The Storm haven't played since they were beaten 6-3 on home ice by the Belleville Bulls on Friday night. Coach Scott Walker was disappointed in his team's effort, but gave the Bulls credit for playing "a lot tougher and harder than we did." The game wasn't as close as the score indicated, as the Storm scored a couple of late goals, when the game was out of reach.
The Oshawa Generals (21-13-1-2) also lost their last home game, to the Owen Sound Attack 4-2, on Sunday evening. The Attack scored 3 times in the final 7 minutes of the game to beat an undermanned Generals team. Oshawa dressed 10 forwards and 4 defensemen for this one, and seemed to run out of gas in the third, as they were outshot 17-8. This loss snapped Oshawa’s 4 game winning streak.
My prediction Guelph 4 at Oshawa 2
Peterborough at Belleville
The Peterborough Petes (9-24-3-1) are in a stretch where they are playing division rivals. On Friday night, they beat the Frontenacs 5-2, and lost to the 67s, 6-3 on home ice on Saturday night. They come into the game in 20th place in the OHL. New Head Coach Jody Hull is looking for a better second half for his team.
The Petes have won just 4 of 17 road games this year. Their power play ranks 19th in the league, and their penalty kill 20th. Their ‘go to’ goalie D’Agostini, has only 2 of their wins the last one coming on Friday night against the Fronts. It stands to reason that they will be sellers at the trade deadline, with names like Slater Koekkoek, Alan Quine, Clark Seymour, and Derek Schoenmaker coming up. Nick Ritchie’s trade value is questionable as he has struggled with injuries (only playing in 19 games this season – last game action on December 16).
The Belleville Bulls (21-11-3-1) are starting to meet expectations, even with Daniil Zharkov (Russia) and Malcolm Subban (Canada) at the WJC. Brendan Gaunce is back after a shoulder separation, and Joseph Cramarrosa and Austen Brassard are playing better offensively. George Burnett has built a team that should be strong in the playoffs. Their penalty killing has been at or near the top of the league all season. Charlie Graham is playing well in goal in Subban's absence. The real strength of the team is their balanced attack, with players being responsible in all three zones of the ice.
My prediction Peterborough 1 at Belleville 4
Sarnia at London
This is a rematch of last night’s game at Sarnia. In that match the Sting were able to create a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. A few ill-timed penalty calls in London’s favour gave the Knights two powerplay opportunities – which they would convert. Bo Horvat scored one of the powerplay goals and also added a full strength goal to give the Knights a 3-2 victory and extend their regular season consecutive victory streak. He had 8 goals and 7 assists in December’s 11 games. Ryan Rupert notched 3 assists in this game and now has 99 career points in 130 regular season games. The team’s top point man – Seth Griffith collected 13 points in December’s games and sits one point behind league leader Ryan Strome (and is currently tied with Alex Galchenyuk at 61 points). The Knights continue their torrid pace with 32 wins and 66 points in 36 games played this season.
Charles Sarault had a helpful month for the Sarnia Sting amassing 14 assists in his team’s 9 December games. He is fifth in league scoring. His scoring partner Alex Galchenyuk continues to play well for the USA team at the WJHC in Russia. Reid Boucher is tied for fourth in the league with 10 powerplay goals (27 total this season). He also has a 5 game scoring streak in process (10 pts so far). Goalie JP Anderson gets the lion’s share of starts and has 17 wins in 31 appearances this season. The Sting continue to lead their division and are in second place in the conference with 20 wins and 43 points in 36 games this season. Plymouth is 3 points behind them in the division standings (tied for sixth in the conference).
My prediction Sarnia 1 London 5