While the NHL Lockout has stopped their season from beginning on time, the Ontario Hockey League has gotten underway as scheduled, meaning the next time one of your friends complains about not having any hockey to watch, you should point them in the direction of the nearest junior rink. It’s time to fire up the first edition of the Power Rankings for 2012-13, and unveil a new format as well. Gone are the weekly three stars, replaced this season with naming the ITO Players of the Week, letting you all know who was the top goalie, defenceman, and forward in the OHL over the last seven days.
ITO Players Of The Week
Joshua Leivo (Sudbury Wolves) – Joshua is coming off of an impressive week, where he would lead all OHL players with six points, all of them goals to earn the ITO Top Forward for October 2nd-8th. His performance this week would help the Sudbury Wolves earn three wins on an East Division road trip, as he scored twice on Thursday night in Peterborough, and added another on Saturday versus Kingston. His most impressive game may very well have been Sunday afternoon, as he would net the hat trick, including the game winner, in Ottawa. Joshua was an easy choice this week, as the Maple Leafs prospect would score six times for six points, and was a +5 in three games, which also led all players this past week.
Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia Sting) – Anthony DeAngelo may not be a household name, but he has truly become one of the leader’s on this season’s Sarnia Sting club. Anthony would register points from the back end in all three contests that Sarnia faced off in this week, playing a ton of minutes. DeAngelo would earn an assist Friday night in a loss to Owen Sound, and add two more the next night, helping the Sting pick up a big win in Sault Ste. Marie. On Thanksgiving Monday, DeAngelo would add yet another helper in a shootout victory in Windsor. His four points, all of them assists, would lead all defencemen this week in points, and makes Anthony our choice as ITO Defenceman of the week.
Garret Sparks (Guelph Storm) The Guelph Storm are hanging tough in the Western Conference this season, based, in large part, by the man patrolling the pipes for the Storm again this season, Garret Sparks. The Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick was excellent this week, helping Guelph earn five out of six possible points, and posting his first shutout of the season, a 23 save performance Thursday night in Windsor. Sparks would also be in goal for a Friday night win over Plymouth, and stopped 34 shots to help his team earn a point in a shootout loss to Owen Sound Saturday. In his three contests, Garret would post a goals against average of just 2.27 and a save percentage of .925, earning the distinction of the ITO Goaltender of the Week for Week 3.
OHL Power Rankings
1. Oshawa Generals – The Oshawa Generals find themselves at the top of the Power Rankings in the Ontario Hockey League after three weeks, perhaps living up to some of the hype that they failed to deliver on last season. The Generals were perfect for the second straight week, winning at home Friday night to Kingston, and defeating Belleville on Thanksgiving Monday to extend their winning streak to five games. The week ahead will go a long way to showing whether this Oshawa team is here to stay, as they play three times in as many days, against quality opposition. Friday night, the Gens play host to Barrie, before heading down the highway for another encounter with Belleville. Sunday evening, Oshawa returns home for a date with London.
2. Niagara IceDogs – Last year’s Eastern Conference Champions, the IceDogs have picked up right where they left off last season, jumping out to a fast start and a share of the Central Division lead. This past Thursday, Niagara earned a hard two points over their rivals from Mississauga, then won again a night later in Saginaw. The IceDogs failed to complete a perfect three-in-three weekend, however, falling Saturday night in Plymouth. The week ahead is a busy one for Niagara, who play four times, beginning Tuesday night (post-deadline) in Peterborough, before returning home for a contest with Ottawa on Thursday night. From there, the ‘Dogs head back out on the road for another pair of games, playing in Sarnia on Saturday night, and in Windsor the next afternoon.
3. Owen Sound Attack – The Owen Sound Attack have jumped out of the gate, perhaps catching some in the Western Conference off guard in the early part of the schedule. The Attack only played a twice over the last week, but a win in Sarnia on Friday night, paired with a shootout victory over Guelph a night later ensured that the Attack remained on top in the West. The schedule for Owen Sound is light again this week, as they play just twice for the second week in a row. Wednesday, the Attack are at home to Plymouth, and Saturday night, they get a visit from Peterborough.
4. Barrie Colts – The Colts are another team off to a terrific start in the Central Division, and are expected by many to be a top contender in the Eastern Conference this season. Barrie made the most of their two contests this past week, winning a shootout in Mississauga on Froday night, before returning home to defeat Peterborough on Saturday. As the Colts look ahead to this weekend, they see three games in as many days, beginning Thursday night at home to Saginaw. A night later, they travel to Oshawa, before returning home to face Sudbury on Saturday night.
5. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – One of the league’s pleasant surprises in the early part of the season has been the play of the Soo Greyhounds, who have put last year’s troubles behind them and are right in the mix of things in the Western Conference. With three home games in the last week, the Hounds were successful Wednesday night over Saginaw, and again on Friday night versus Kitchener. Sault Ste. Marie failed to complete the perfect weekend, however, dropping a Saturday night contest to Sarnia. The Greyhounds now head out on the road for three games this week, which begins Thursday night in Windsor. After a day off, Sault Ste. Marie is back in action Saturday night, playing in Plymouth, before wrapping up the weekend Sunday afternoon in Sarnia.
6. London Knights – Last year’s OHL Champions came one game away from a Memorial Cup Championship this past May, and are back this season looking even stronger than a year ago. The Knights are currently in a quiet part of their schedule, playing just twice over the past week, and just twice more in the coming one. Friday night, London would crush the visitors from Windsor, but a night later, the Knights needed a shootout to get two points in Erie. London has a home date with Plymouth coming up on Friday night, before they travel to Oshawa for a Sunday evening tilt.
7. Guelph Storm – The Guelph Storm are quietly beginning to turn some heads around the province, with their strong play dictated by solid defence. Earning five out of six possible points this past week only furthers their belief that they can hang with the toughest of opponents in the Western Conference. Thursday night, the Storm defeated Windsor, and a night later, they would win again at home to Plymouth. Their quest for a perfect weekend was foiled on Saturday night in Owen Sound, as they would fall in a shootout to the West’s top team. The Storm will look to continue their strong play at home this week, with a pair of contests on familiar ice. Erie comes to town on Friday night, before Guelph plays host to Peterborough Sunday afternoon.
8. Plymouth Whalers – Splitting a pair of games over the last week keeps the Plymouth Whalers from falling behind in the Western Conference race, as a light schedule to start the season has seen the Whalers take to the ice just five times in the opening three weeks. On Friday night, the Whalers would come up short in a tough battle in Guelph, but the following night, Plymouth would return home to knock off Niagara, earning head coach Mike Vellucci his 400th career win behind the bench. The team finally sees some regular action in the week ahead, playing three times in an attempt to make up ground against some of the Western leaders. Wednesday night, the Whalers are in Owen Sound to take on the top team in the Conference, before they travel to London for a contest Friday night. On Saturday, Plymouth returns to friendly ice, hosting Sault Ste. Marie.
9. Sudbury Wolves – The Sudbury Wolves are yet another team that has been impressing people around the province with their play early on, three road wins over the last week is sure to catch anyone’s attention. Thursday night, the Wolves were winners in Peterborough, and they would keep their streak intact with victories in Kingston on Saturday night, and Sunday in Ottawa. Sudbury returns home for a brief one game stand against Saginaw on Friday night, before heading back out on the road, tangling in Barrie on Saturday.
10. Belleville Bulls – The Belleville Bulls continue to hang around in the Eastern Conference, and have proven to be a tough team to beat on any given night. Though they split their two games over the past week, Belleville did earn three out of a possible four points, as they would defeat Ottawa on Saturday night, then fight back late to earn a point in Oshawa on Thanksgiving Monday, eventually losing in Overtime. The Bulls begin the week ahead with a pair of games against Brampton, first at home on Wednesday night, and the rematch in Brampton on Friday. Belleville wraps up the week back at home on Saturday night, hosting Oshawa.
11. Mississauga Steelheads – Formally known as the Mississauga St. Michaels Majors, the Steelheads came into existence over the off-season, as new owner Elliott Kerr rebranded the franchise that went to the 2010 Memorial Cup Final. Mississauga is another team looking to keep pace early in the season, and were able to earn three points in as many games over the past week. Thursday night, the Steelheads lost a tough decision in Niagara, and the team could only earn a single point the following night at home, losing in a shootout to Barrie. Mississauga got back in the win column on Thanksgiving Monday, picking up the overtime decision in Brampton. Just two games ahead for the Steelheads, as they host Ottawa on Friday night, before traveling to Erie for a game the next night.
12. Kitchener Rangers – The Kitchener Rangers tour of the Ontario Hockey League continued this week, as they continue in the midst of an eight game road trip to open the season while their arena is upgraded. The team struggled some this past week, losing Friday night in Sault Ste. Marie, but earning a point from a shootout loss in Saginaw a night later. The traveling show finally comes to an end this week for the Rangers, as they play two more road games before returning home to Kitchener. Friday night, the Rangers play in Kingston, and finish the week with a Sunday afternoon contest in Ottawa.
13. Sarnia Sting – The Sarnia Sting look to prove that last year’s success was no fluke, and plan on playing a role in the OHL’s Western Conference this season. With wins in two of three games last week, the Sting have leapt back into the early race, as they rebounded from a Friday night loss to Owen Sound with wins Saturday in Sault Ste. Marie, and Monday, using the shootout to win in Windsor. With only a pair of home games this week, Sarnia hopes to continue their winning ways, as Niagara comes to town Saturday night, followed by a visit from Sault Ste. Marie the next afternoon.
14. Windsor Spitfires – It was a tough week for the Windsor Spitfires, who found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard in all three contests they played. Thursday night, the Spits were shutout at home by Guelph, and things got no better the next night, as they were bounced out of London. Windsor would pick up a valuable point on Thanksgiving Monday, losing a long shootout at home to Sarnia. The home stand for the Spitfires continues with a pair of games this week, starting Thursday with a visit from Sault Ste. Marie. Sunday afternoon, Windsor faces a tough test, playing host to Niagara.
15. Saginaw Spirit – The Saginaw Spirit find themselves in danger of watching the rest of the West run away from them, as they cannot seem to find the consistency needed each game. A tough loss in Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday night opened the week on the wrong foot, and a whitewashing at home to Niagara on Friday night compounded the problem. The week wasn’t a total waste for Saginaw however, as they would win a shootout over the visitors from Kitchener on Saturday. The Spirit now head out on the road for three games this week, beginning in Barrie on Thursday. A night later, Saginaw plays in Sudbury, before finishing up the week on Sunday afternoon in Brampton.
16. Brampton Battalion – Things haven’t gone as planned for the Brampton Battalion early in the 2012-13 season, as the team has struggled out of the gate. The past week saw the Troops garner three points from as many games, and it started on the right note, as they handed Kingston their first loss of the season on Thursday night. The next night, a tired Battalion squad was outclassed in Erie, and on Monday, Brampton returned home, losing in overtime to Mississauga. With three games over the next week, the Battalion have a chance to pick up some ground. Brampton plays in Belleville on Wednesday, before the teams return to Brampton for a rematch Friday night. Sunday afternoon, the Battalion play host to Saginaw.
17. Kingston Frontenacs – After winning their first three games over the opening two weeks of the season, the Frontenacs fell back to earth this week, dropping all three contests and falling, at least temporarily, out of the East Division race early on. Thursday night, Kingston suffered it’s first setback, a loss in Brampton, before losing another heart-breaker in Oshawa the following night. Back at home for their third game in as many nights, the Frontenacs suffered another loss, this time to Sudbury. If Kingston is to get back on track, this week is an excellent time to do so, as they play only twice, in Peterborough on Thursday, then a night later back at home against a travel-weary team from Kitchener.
18. Erie Otters – After earning just three points in their first five games, the Erie Otters were able to grab three more points over a pair of games in the last week. Friday night, the Otters were too much for Brampton, and the following night, Erie stood toe-to-toe with a strong club from London, eventually dropping a shootout decision. Suddenly, the Otters have points in four of their last five games, and can begin to leap up the OHL Power Rankings with another good week. Much like last week, Erie plays only twice this week, first in Guelph on Friday night, and then again 24 hours later, back at home versus Mississauga.
19. Ottawa 67’s – After making it to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, I don’t think anybody could predict that the Ottawa 67’s would stall out to start the season the way they have. Off to a 1-5-0-0 start, the 67’s dropped both games played last week, first in Belleville on Saturday night, and then again the following afternoon, back at home against Sudbury. With three games this week, Ottawa must find a way to start earning some points, or risk watching their Eastern Conference playoff competition pull away from them. The 67’s start with a pair of road games, playing in Niagara on Thursday and in Mississauga Friday, then return home to finish the weekend Sunday afternoon against Kitchener.
20. Peterborough Petes - After missing the playoffs in back to back seasons, the Peterborough Petes are desperate to get back into the post-season, and a slow start by the team has now cost their General Manager, Dave Reid, his job. After a pair of losses, at home to Sudbury on Thursday and in Barrie on Saturday, the axe fell on the team’s GM, who had held the position since the summer of 2010. Peterborough will look to begin their climb back into the Eastern Conference standings with four games in a busy week, beginning Tuesday night (post-deadline), when they play host to Niagara. Two nights later, Kingston pays a visit to the PMC, before the Petes head out for a pair of games on the road, playing Saturday night in Owen Sound, and again Sunday afternoon in Guelph.
The ITO Players of the Week and OHL Power Rankings can be found every week for the rest of the season on Toronto News 24 and OHLWriters.com. Have a question? Join me on Twitter for conversation anytime, @N24Nicholson.
Anthony Nicholson is the Sports Editor for Toronto News 24 and regular contributor to OHLWriters.com, and can be heard occasionally on ‘In The O... The Radio Show’. Contact Anthony anytime for a conversation by joining him on Twitter, or send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: New Head Coach D.J. Smith has his Oshawa Generals in first place in the Ontario Hockey League, and at the top of our OHL Power Rankings this week. (Photo Courtesy: Aaron Bell/OHLImages)