It’s the middle of October, typically the time of year when we all turn our attention to the National Hockey League for another season. Instead, the NHL players remain locked out, and, with no professional hockey in the near future, eyes around the province instead fall to the Ontario Hockey League, which has been underway for nearly a month. We will take some time each week to acknowledge the best players from around the OHL in our Players of the Week, and bring you the second installment of the OHL Power Rankings.
ITO Players Of The Week
Dylan Smoskowitz (Mississauga Steelheads) – Despite a quiet week for the Steelheads, Dylan Smoskowitz had everyone’s attention this week, posting impressive numbers in both games. His two goal performance on Friday night helped Mississauga past the visitors from Ottawa, and the next night in Erie, he had a three point night, scoring two more goals, including the game winner with less than three minutes remaining. Dylan made the most of his two games this week, registering four goals and an assist in earning the ITO top forward recognition this week.
Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) – The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds are off to a terrific start to the season, but the loss of defenceman Ryan Sproul left a gaping hole on the Soo blueline. People wondered who would step up in his absence, and Darnell Nurse, the second year pivot has really come into his own. Nurse showed this week that he can handle the pressure of leading the Hounds from the point, scoring a goal and adding two assists Thursday night in Windsor. Saturday night, he would set up Andrew Fritsch for the overtime winner in Plymouth, and would be a plus two on the night. While Darnell was held off the scoresheet Sunday in Sarnia, his performance this week is good enough to be our top defenceman.
Mathias Niederberger (Barrie Colts) The Barrie Colts have risen to the top of the Ontario Hockey League, based in large part on the play of the man between the pipes again this season, Mathias Niederberger. Having played all but two of the Colts games this season, Niederberger played every minute over the last week, and faced a ton of rubber in the process. Thursday night, Mathias may not have been at his best, beaten five times on 39 shots, but his teammates bailed him out with a great game in front of him. A night later, he was much better, leading the Colts into Oshawa, and stopping 51 of 54 shots, and three more in the shootout to preserve the victory. Mathias would get better as the week went on, and, playing in his third game in as many nights, he would stop 33 of 34 shots on Saturday night, a 2-1 win over Sudbury. Niederberger’s .929 save percentage and 3-0-0-0 record this week ensures his status as the OHL’s top goaltender this week.
OHL Power Rankings
1. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 4) An impressive start by the Barrie Colts has seen them rise to the top of the OHL Power Rankings, up three spots from last week. With three games in three nights this past week, the Colts would take all six points, shooting to the top of the league standings. Barrie would sandwich home wins over Saginaw and Sudbury with a shootout victory in Oshawa to extend their winning streak to seven games. The Colts will need to continue their success at home, with two of three games on home ice this week. Thursday night, Ottawa comes into town, before Barrie hosts London Saturday night. Sunday afternoon, the Colts are in Brampton to wrap up the week.
2. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 3) The Attack made the most out of their light schedule last week, winning both games they played to extend their winning streak to four games and climb one spot this week. Owen Sound continues to lead the Western Conference, and are in the middle of a five game home stand that saw them defeat Plymouth on Wednesday night, and beat Peterborough in a shootout on Saturday. The Attack have another pair of home games in the week ahead, as Ottawa comes to town on Friday night, followed into town by Oshawa the next night.
3. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 1) Last week’s leaders atop the OHL Power Rankings, the Oshawa Generals slide two spots to number three this week. Three was a special number for the Generals, as it also accounts for the number of games they played this week, and the number of points they were able to muster. Friday night, the Generals took their first defeat on home ice, losing a shootout to Barrie. A night later, Oshawa would lose again in Belleville, but the Generals bounced back on Sunday evening back at home, defeating London. Oshawa now faces their second straight three game weekend, which begins Friday night in Kitchener. The Generals travel to Owen Sound for a Saturday night game before returning home to end the weekend Sunday evening against Plymouth.
4. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 10) One of the week’s biggest jumps belongs to the Belleville Bulls, who won all three games played, and have nine points in their last five games. The Bulls took both ends of a home and home series with Brampton, a pair of games that saw just five goals scored between both clubs. Saturday night, Belleville kept it rolling with a home win over Oshawa. The Bulls head out on a small two game road trip this week, playing in Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday, and Friday in Sudbury.
5. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 7) The Guelph Storm continue to surprise some around the league, as they have quietly put together an impressive start to the season, and have earned 11 of 12 possible points over the past six games. A pair of home ice victories over the last week helped the Storm creep into the top five in the Power Rankings, defeating Erie on Friday night and winning a wild overtime game over Peterborough Sunday afternoon. Guelph faces a three game weekend ahead, hosting Sarnia Friday night, before heading out on the road for games in Saginaw and Sault Ste. Marie over the weekend.
6. London Knights – (Last Week: 6) No change this week for the defending Champions, as the London Knights hold steady at number six. London split their pair of games this past week, defeating Plymouth at home on Friday, and losing in Oshawa Sunday evening. Like many teams, the Knights also have a three game weekend ahead, beginning Friday night at home to Erie. London travels to Barrie Saturday night, and moves onto Sudbury for a Sunday matinee game.
7. Mississauga Steelheads – (Last Week: 11) The Steelheads are playing very good hockey as of late, and the points have followed. Mississauga has earned seven points in their last four games, and won both contests over the past seven days. The Steelheads beat Ottawa at home on Friday night, and won again in Erie the next night, finishing off a quiet yet successful week. Mississauga stays on the road for a pair of games this week, playing Thursday night in Sarnia, and a night later in Saginaw.
8. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 2) It was a tough week for one of the leaders of last week’s Power Rankings, as the Niagara IceDogs fall six spots, landing at number eight. Niagara was in action four times this week, and managed three points, losing Tuesday in Peterborough and back at home Thursday against Ottawa. The IceDogs earned a point from an overtime loss on Saturday in Sarnia, and won a shootout the next afternoon in Windsor to salvage valuable points for the week. Just a pair of games this week gives Niagara a chance to rest after a busy week, as they host Brampton on Thursday, and Kingston comes to town Saturday night.
9. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 5) The Soo Greyhounds fall four spots this week, winning just one of their three games, yet they remain right in the thick of the race in the Western Conference. Thursday, the Hounds fell in Windsor, but bounced back on Saturday with an overtime win in Plymouth. Sunday afternoon, Sault Ste. Marie lost in Sarnia to wrap up the weekend. The Greyhounds return home this week for three games, beginning Wednesday night, when they host Sudbury. Belleville pays a visit the following night, before the Hounds finish the week Sunday night against Guelph.
10. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 13) Sarnia climbs to number ten this week, up three spots after winning both games over the last week. Saturday night, they would use overtime to defeat Niagara, sending the fans home happy, and they would go home happy again Sunday afternoon, after the Sting beat Sault Ste. Marie. Sarnia plays three times in as many nights this week, beginning Thursday night, when they host Mississauga. Friday, the Sting travel to Guelph, then return home for a contest with Kitchener on Saturday night.
11. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 17) The Kingston Frontenacs exemplify hot and cold so far this season, as a three game winning streak to start the season was quickly erased by a three game losing streak, causing them to bounce around the Power Rankings like a yo-yo. The Fronts jumped back into the win column this week, scoring in overtime Thursday in Peterborough, and returning home to defeat Kitchener the next night. Kingston hopes that the pattern can be broken this week, as they face a three game weekend, which starts Friday night at home to Plymouth. The Frontenacs then head on the road, playing in Niagara on Saturday night, and in Kitchener Sunday.
12. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 14) The Windsor Spitfires climb a pair of spots this week, after earning three out of four possible points in a pair of games. The Spits took advantage of home ice this week, defeating Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday before dropping a shootout game to Niagara on Sunday afternoon. Windsor wraps up their homestand this upcoming Thursday, hosting Erie, before jumping on the bus for a pair of games, playing in Brampton Friday night, before a rematch in Erie on Saturday.
13. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 9) The Sudbury Wolves drop four spots this week, failing to record any points from a pair of contests. Friday night, they were beaten on home ice by Saginaw, and the next night the Wolves lost in Barrie. Sudbury has three contests this week to attempt to bounce back, but all three matches are against quality opposition. Wednesday, the Wolves play in Sault Ste. Marie, then return home for games against Belleville Friday, and London Sunday.
14. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 16) The Brampton Battalion find themselves up two spots this week in the Power Rankings, landing at number fourteen despite dropping two out of three contests. The Battalion were unable to find an answer in a home and home series with Belleville, scoring just once and losing both. Brampton would show great composure on Sunday afternoon, winning a gut-check game at home against Saginaw. The Battalion have three games coming up this week, visiting Niagara on Thursday to get things started. Friday night, Brampton returns home to play Windsor, and finish the weekend hosting Barrie Sunday afternoon.
15. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 8) The Plymouth Whalers find themselves in a Felix Baumgartner type of free-fall this week, dropping seven positions in the Power Rankings after losing all three of their games this week. After losses Wednesday in Owen Sound and Friday in London, the Whalers returned home Saturday night, and picked up a valuable point, losing to Sault Ste. Marie in overtime. Plymouth begins a four game road trip this week, playing three times, beginning Thursday night in Peterborough. A night later, the Whalers play in Kingston, before finishing the weekend in Oshawa Sunday evening.
16. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 15) Winning just once in three tries this week, the Saginaw Spirit are down to number sixteen this week. The week started on the road, where the Spirit lost in Barrie on Thursday, but won Friday night in Sudbury. Sunday afternoon, Saginaw lost a tough contest in Brampton, wrapping up a week-long road trip. The Spirit have a pair of home dates on the calendar this week, playing Friday against Mississauga, and a night later against Guelph.
17. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 12) A team many expected to be a contender in the Western Conference this season, the Kitchener Rangers plummet five spots to seventeen this week, after losing both games at the end of a mammoth eight game road trip to start the season. The Rangers couldn’t find success in Kingston Friday, or in Ottawa on Sunday. Kitchener should be happy to finally see OHL action on Friday night, as they host Oshawa before heading back out to play in Sarnia Saturday night. The Rangers will return to their newly-renovated rink for a Sunday night tilt with Kingston.
18. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 19) After a slow start for last year’s Eastern Conference finalists, the Ottawa 67’s bounce back up one spot this week after winning two of three games, and just missing out on a perfect weekend. The 67’s picked up a huge road win in Niagara Thursday night, but were unable to make it two in a row a night later, losing in Mississauga. Ottawa would come home and ensure a winning weekend, defeating Kitchener on Sunday afternoon. The 67’s will look to continue their winning ways this week, but face a pair of tough road games. Ottawa plays in Barrie on Thursday, and in Owen Sound Friday.
19. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 20) Give them credit, the Peterborough Petes have attempted to push back after a slow start that cost Dave Reid his job as General Manager. The Petes are up a spot this week after registering points in all four games they would play, beginning with a big win on the day of Reid’s firing at home to Niagara. Thursday, Peterborough would earn a single, losing in overtime to Kingston, then over the weekend, the Petes would lose a shootout in Owen Sound, and another overtime contest in Guelph. The points are huge as Peterborough attempts to stay in the Eastern Conference picture, and they play just once in the upcoming week, Thursday night at home to Plymouth.
20. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 18) Losing both games they played this past week, the Erie Otters find themselves back at the bottom of the OHL Power Rankings, a position they held for more weeks then they cared to last season. After losing in Guelph on Friday night, the Otters returned home a night later, losing again to Mississauga. Erie looks to turn things around this week, with three games in as many days, beginning in Windsor Thursday. Friday night, the Otters play in London, then come home to finish the weekend Saturday night in a rematch with Windsor.
The ITO Players of the Week and OHL Power Rankings can be found every week for the rest of the season, right here at OHLWriters.com. Until then, join me on Twitter for conversation anytime, @N24Nicholson. If you join me on Twitter this week, you have a chance to win a pair of tickets to an OHL game in your nearest city!
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: Top Goaltender of the week Mathias Niederberger also has his Barrie Colts at the top of the OHL Power Rankings this week. (Photo Courtesy: Terry Wilson/OHLImages)