OHL Power Rankings and Players of the Week: Week 8
The Ontario Hockey League looked to make it a perfect 19 wins against the Russians in the Subway Super Series, as they took to the ice Thursday night at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph. Pregame festivities included a tribute to the 1972 Canada/Russia Super Series, as Canadian icon Paul Henderson dropped the puck in a ceremonial faceoff between Team OHL Captain Boone Jenner of the Oshawa Generals, and Nail Yakupov, the former Sarnia Sting forward taken first overall in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft.
Both teams seemed willing to take their time in feeling each other out, and were content to play a scoreless opening frame. In the second period, it would be Team OHL to open the scoring, as Ottawa 67’s sniper Tyler Graovac would finish on a shorthanded rush, set up by 67’s teammate Sean Monahan. The OHL squad would hold the lead until the Russians finally figured out Jordan Binnington in the third period. Anton Shenfeld brought the Russians even with just over seven minutes remaining, ripping a shot that beat Binnington after a tremendous rush up ice. Just 24 seconds later, the Russians would strike again when Maxim Shalunov crossed the blue-line and hammered a shot through Binnington, giving Russia a lead with just under seven minutes to go.
Team OHL would push for the equalizer of the final few minutes, but Igor Ustinski would come up big when needed, making a number of key saves to preserve Russia’s first ever victory against the OHL in the ten year history of the Subway Super Series. Ustinski’s 23 stops were good enough to earn Russian Player of the Game honours, while Team OHL goalscorer Tyler Graovac earned honours for his team. Team OHL has a chance at redemption, as they play the Russian team again on Monday night in Sarnia.
Players Of The Week
Connor Brown (Erie Otters) – It was an impressive week offensively for the Erie Otters, who exploded for twelve goals in just two games, and perhaps no Otter was more impressive than Connor Brown, who was in on over half of Erie’s goals. Friday night, Connor scored two and helped out on two more, as the Otters came out on top of Peterborough. A night later, Brown was just as good, if not better, as he would set up three different Erie goals, helping the Otters knock off Oshawa. Connor would register two goals and seven points in his two games this week, and +6 rating to go along with it, and is our choice as the OHL’s Top Forward.
Adam Pelech (Erie Otters) – For the second week in a row, two of our three players of the week come from the same team, as Brown’s teammate on the Erie Otters, Adam Pelech, stood out from all other defenders in a wild week around the OHL. Pelech would play a pivotal role in both Erie Otters victories over the weekend, as his shorthanded goal against Peterborough on Friday night would turn the momentum of the game in Erie’s favour. The next night, Adam would score again, and add a pair of assists in the Otters victory over Oshawa. In his two games, Pelech would score twice, doubling his season’s output to date, as part of a four point week to go along with a +4 rating. Try as we might, there was no ignoring Adam Pelech this week, and we name him our OHL Top Defenceman.
Mike Morrison (Kingston Frontenacs) – When the Kingston Frontenacs acquired Mike Morrison from their East Division rivals in Peterborough this summer, they did so with the plan that he would be a stabilizing force between the pipes for their young squad. While things have been shaky at times this season, Mike came through with flying colours this week, leading the Fronts to three big wins. While not at his best, Morrison was good enough on Tuesday, stopping 31 shots as Kingston won in Ottawa. Friday night, Mike would post his first shutout of the season, fourth of his career, as the Fronts defeated Belleville. Sunday, Mike would make it a perfect week, stopping 33 of 37 Saginaw shots, plus all five he faced in the shootout to preserve the victory. With a 2.59 goals against average and a .920 save percentage over three games this week, nobody is more deserving of the OHL Top Goaltender honour than Mike Morrison.
OHL Power Rankings
1. Owen Sound Attack – (Last Week: 1) The Owen Sound Attack remain in our number one position this week, having recovered from a tough loss to post consecutive victories over the weekend. The Western Conference leaders were defeated at home on Wednesday night, shutout, in fact, but Guelph, but the Attack would be much better on Friday, winning in Brampton. Back at home the next night, Owen Sound outlasted Sault Ste. Marie in a high-scoring affair. It’s shaping up to be another tough week for the Attack, who begin things on Friday night in London. From there, Owen Sound returns home for contests Saturday against Kitchener, and Sunday afternoon versus Windsor.
2. Mississauga Steelheads – (Last Week: 2) Another week as the top runner-up for the Mississauga Steelheads, as a team who has been flying under the radar for much of the season is finally getting the credit they deserve. Tuesday night, the Steelheads would lose a tough, one-goal decision in Kitchener, but rebounded Friday with a huge home ice victory over Niagara. Mississauga would win again at home on Sunday afternoon when Peterborough visited. Looking ahead, the Steelheads look to remain on the roll they have been on, with a busy four game road trip over the next week. Tuesday night, the trip begins in Ottawa, before Mississauga travels to Guelph Friday, Peterborough on Saturday, and finally in Oshawa on Sunday evening.
3. Kitchener Rangers – (Last Week: 5) Up two spots to enter the top three this week, the Kitchener Rangers have fully recovered from a tough eight-game road trip to start the season, and have been an impressive 10-1-1 since their home opener. The Rangers won all three games this past week, extending their winning streak to five games. Tuesday night, Kitchener won at home to Mississauga, and won again on home ice Friday, defeating Sault Ste. Marie. The Rangers completed the perfect week with a Sunday evening win in Oshawa. A three-game weekend awaits Kitchener this week, as they host Erie on Friday night, before a pair of tough contests, in Owen Sound Saturday, and back at home to London on Sunday.
4. London Knights – (Last Week: 7) The London Knights climb three spots this week after winning all three of their games, extending their own winning streak to five as well. Now back in the top five, the Knights were able to make the best of a three-game weekend, defeating Sudbury Friday night at home before earning a shutout victory in Plymouth Saturday. Sunday, London came home to win again, this time over Sault Ste. Marie. The Knights will look to add to the streak with three more games in the week ahead, beginning Thursday night when they play host to Oshawa. The next night, Owen Sound pays a visit to London, before the Knights end the week in Kitchener Sunday night.
5. Barrie Colts – (Last Week: 3) Tough sledding near the top of the OHL Power Rankings for the Barrie Colts, who win two of three games this past week, yet still fall two spots, landing at number five. The Colts remain at the top of the Eastern Conference with a midweek win Tuesday night in Peterborough, followed by a win on Friday night in Oshawa. Back on home ice Saturday night, Barrie was unable to keep the winning streak alive, losing to Brampton. The Colts have three games, two of them at home this week to keep pace with the rest of the top five, hosting Sarnia on Thursday, and Windsor Saturday. Barrie finishes the weekend with a Sunday afternoon contest in Sudbury.
6. Sarnia Sting – (Last Week: 10) The Sarnia Sting may have only played twice in the past week, but they would take full advantage, winning both to leap four spots in this week’s Power Rankings. Friday night, the Sting would pull off an impressive victory in Guelph, which they followed by defeating Sudbury on Sunday afternoon, back at home. All of this week’s games are on the road for Sarnia this week, as they play three times, including in Barrie Thursday. A night later, the Sting play in Sudbury, and finish the weekend Sunday night in Sault Ste. Marie.
7. Niagara IceDogs – (Last Week: 4) Down three spots this week after an impressive leap up the Power Rankings, the Niagara IceDogs land at number seven by splitting a pair of games in a quiet week on the ‘Dogs schedule. Friday night, Niagara would come up short in Mississauga, but answered well back at home, defeating Peterborough on Saturday. The IceDogs play a rare mid-week game south of the border, playing in Erie on Wednesday, and follow that with two more on the road over the weekend, Saturday in Ottawa, and Sunday in Kingston.
8. Plymouth Whalers – (Last Week: 9) Wins in two out of three home games this week is enough for the Plymouth Whalers to climb another spot, up to eight on our rankings. The Whalers won their first two contests of the week, defeating Saginaw on Tuesday and Windsor on Friday, but would fall on Saturday, losing to London. After playing three at home this past week, Plymouth heads out on the road for three games this week, beginning on Wednesday in Saginaw. Saturday, the Whalers travel to Belleville, and finish Sunday afternoon in Ottawa.
9. Belleville Bulls – (Last Week: 11) The Belleville Bulls leap back into the top ten of the OHL Power Rankings, earning three points in as many games, and, in the process, have made an interesting race for the lead in the East Division. Things didn’t start out smooth for the Bulls, who were shutout in Kingston on Friday night, and they lost again Saturday, this time in overtime, back at home to Saginaw. Sunday afternoon, Belleville would pick up two big points by winning in Ottawa. The Bulls aim for first in the division this week, with three big games in front of them, beginning Wednesday at home to Guelph. Friday, Belleville plays a divisional game in Oshawa, then returns home to end the week the next night, facing Plymouth.
10. Guelph Storm – (Last Week: 6) After surging to the top of the OHL Power Rankings, the Guelph Storm have begun a descent back down, falling four more spots this week, landing at number ten. After starting the week with a big shutout win in Owen Sound on Wednesday, the week would turn sour for the Storm, as they lost at home Friday night to Sarnia, and lost again Sunday in Brampton. Guelph looks to get back on track in the week ahead, with points up for grabs Wednesday in Belleville, Friday, back at home to Mississauga, and finally Saturday in Erie.
11. Brampton Battalion – (Last Week: 15) One of the week’s big jumps belongs to the Brampton Battalion, who won twice in a very tough three-game weekend to climb to number eleven this week. After starting the weekend with a loss on home ice to Owen Sound on Friday night, the Battalion were much better a night later, winning a hard-fought game in Barrie. Building on that momentum, Brampton would win again on Sunday afternoon, back at home over Guelph. The Battalion begin a five game road trip with three games this week, beginning in Sudbury Wednesday. From there, Brampton plays in Sault Ste. Marie on Friday, and in Saginaw Saturday.
12. Kingston Frontenacs – (Last Week: 18) No team would leap more spots this week than the Kingston Frontenacs, who find themselves up six at number twelve on the strength of three straight wins. Tuesday night, the Fronts offence would lead them to a victory in Ottawa, and Kingston would return home to win twice more, defeating Belleville Friday, and Saginaw by way of a shootout on Sunday afternoon. The Frontenacs remain at home this week, playing just twice, but can begin to push up the standings with some victories. Friday night, the Fronts host Peterborough, and Niagara pays a visit on Sunday.
13. Windsor Spitfires – (Last Week: 12) With a loss in their only game over the last week, the Windsor Spitfires only fall a single spot, landing at number thirteen. On Friday night, the Spitfires couldn’t muster enough in Plymouth, but have the benefit of nearly a full week off before their next game. Windsor plays host to Saginaw on Thursday night, hoping to get a good start to a week that will see them play games in Barrie Saturday, and in Owen Sound Sunday.
14. Oshawa Generals – (Last Week: 8) The Oshawa Generals are one of the week’s biggest movers, but unfortunately, it’s not in the right direction, as they freefall down to number fourteen after a pointless three-game weekend. After losing at home to Barrie on Friday, the Generals dropped a Saturday night contest in Erie on Saturday. Returning home, Oshawa played better, but not good enough to earn a victory over Kitchener. It doesn’t get any easier for the Gens this week, as they start the week in London on Thursday night. From there, they return home to Oshawa, playing games against Belleville on Friday and Mississauga Sunday evening.
15. Saginaw Spirit – (Last Week: 17) Facing a four-game road trip over the last week, it may be surprising to hear that the Saginaw Spirit are up two spots in the OHL Power Rankings, but the Spirit have been playing good hockey as of late. After a Tuesday night loss in Plymouth, Saginaw went out on the road over the weekend, earning five out of six possible points. A Friday night win in Ottawa was followed with an overtime victory in Belleville on Saturday. Thoughts of a three-game winning streak were dashed on Sunday, as the Spirit lost a shootout in Kingston. A busy schedule for Saginaw continues this week, with games Wednesday at home to Plymouth, and Thursday in Windsor. Saturday night, the Spirit are back at home, facing Brampton.
16. Sudbury Wolves – (Last Week: 16) The Sudbury Wolves seem to have entrenched themselves at sixteen on the OHL Power Rankings, as they have been unable to find any consistency throughout the early part of the season. A pair of losses would extend the Wolves winless streak to four games, as they were unable to come up with points in London Friday or in Sarnia on Sunday. Sudbury returns home this week to try and turn things around, as they host Brampton on Wednesday to start the week. Friday, the Wolves play against Sarnia, and Barrie visits on Sunday afternoon.
17. Erie Otters – (Last Week: 20) With only two games over the last week, the Erie Otters would surprise people by winning both impressively, and leaping up from the bottom of the OHL Power Rankings. The Otters would win back-to-back games for the first time since the beginning of February of last season, taking advantage of home ice in victories over Peterborough on Friday, and Oshawa on Saturday. Erie will look to keep the winning streak alive with three big games in the week ahead, hosting Niagara on Wednesday to start things off. Friday night, the Otters are in Kitchener, before returning home to deal with Guelph on Saturday.
18. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – (Last Week: 14) Three more losses this week would extend the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds winless streak to five games, and some of last season’s problems have begun to creep up once again, as the team has been prone to extended slumps. The Hounds were unable to pick up any points on a tough weekend road-trip, losing in Kitchener, Owen Sound, and London from Friday to Sunday respectively. Now back at home, Sault Ste. Marie will look to stop the slide with a pair of games over the coming week, hosting Brampton on Friday and Sarnia on Sunday.
19. Ottawa 67’s – (Last Week: 13) After a promising leap a week ago, the Ottawa 67’s take a big step backwards this week, losing all three of their home-ice contests, and sliding all the way down to number nineteen. Losses to Kingston on Tuesday, Saginaw on Friday, and Belleville on Sunday crippled any momentum the 67’s had built from last week, and, with four games on the schedule in the coming week, things won’t get any easier. Tuesday night, Ottawa hosts Mississauga, then heads down the road to play in Peterborough on Thursday. Games back at home against Niagara Saturday and Plymouth Sunday wrap up a busy week for the 67’s.
20. Peterborough Petes – (Last Week: 19) This may be rock-bottom for the Peterborough Petes, who saw a busy four-game week turn up fruitless, with no points to show from it. The Petes were defeated on home ice by Barrie on Tuesday before heading out on the road, losing Friday in Erie, Saturday in Niagara, and finally, Sunday afternoon in Mississauga. The Petes must stop the bleeding, and soon, or risk becoming an afterthought in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and it begins this week, with three games in as many nights. Thursday night, the Petes open up the week at home to Ottawa, and play down the road in Kingston on Friday. Saturday, Peterborough returns home to end the week with a game against Mississauga.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the newest edition of ‘In The O... The Magazine’, with a one-on-one interview with Toronto Maple Leaf draft pick Tyler Biggs of the Oshawa Generals. There’s also an in-depth look at the Ottawa 67’s, profiles of Erie Otters’ Nick Betz and Niagara IceDogs Anthony DiFruscia, and a look at Interns in the OHL. The November edition of ‘In The O... The Magazine’, as well as all past issues, are available for free download at www.intheoradio.com/ito-monthly-e-zine. 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.
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 email@example.com.
Photo: Even though he only played two games, Connor Brown of the Erie Otters had a week that was impossible to ignore. (Photo Courtesy: Aaron Bell/OHLImages)