Plenty of squeakers last night with 3 of the 4 games going into extra time. Tonight 16 of the 20 teams in the league are in action.
Belleville at Kingston
The Belleville Bulls (22-12-3-2) look ready to make a run at the Eastern Conference title. With Malcolm Subban back in goal, and two former 67’s, Tyler Graovac, and Jake Cardwell, producing offensively, the “defense first” Bulls are rolling. They are 6-3-0-1 in their last ten, which includes a convincing 6-2 home ice victory against the Soo in their last game. Tyler Graovac, playing his first game with the Bulls was teamed up with Brendan Gaunce, and Austen Brassard, and tallied 4 points. This new line threatens to dominate opponents, as the smallest guy on the line is 6’2” and well over 200 lbs. Newly acquired Alan Quine will add some offense, and will make his Bulls’ debut in familiar surroundings, as he started his OHL career in Kingston. Quine was Kingston’s top pick (2nd overall) in the 2009 priority selection, and was dealt to Peterborough for Ryan Spooner.
The Kingston Frontenacs (20-17-2-0) are expecting a big crowd for this one. Estimates are for about 5000 to be in the stands to watch these arch rivals compete. While the Bulls were very active in “retooling” for a playoff run, Kingston was not. They are currently sitting in the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, ahead of only the rebuilding Petes, and 67s. The Frontenacs’ future is clearly a bright one. Kingston’s coaches aren’t satisfied with where they are sitting in the standings and are expecting big things from the young team in the second half of this season. Braydon Blight impressed the coaching staff, when he was called up over the stretch when Kingston was without their 4 U-17 participants, and has been signed for the rest of the season. Blight is a defenseman, but can play forward, as well, and will likely fill Mitchell Fitzmorris’ skates on the 4th line (he was dealt to Niagara, immediately after Sunday afternoon’s game). Billy Jenkins is close to returning to the Fronts’ lineup. Ryan Kujawinski(5G, 3A in last 4 games) has been one of the league’s hottest players, and has developed some chemistry with Fronts’ import, Henri Ikonen (3G, 4A in last 4 games).
Belleville and Kingston have met 3 times this season with Kingston winning 2-0, and 3-1. Belleville won the first meeting of the season 1-0. Despite the low scoring, this series has been exciting so far.
My prediction Belleville 3 at Kingston 4 (in a SO)
Brampton at Plymouth
The Battalion were smothered last night in Windsor. The Spits were able to push past them by a 3-0 with goaltender Pavelka stopping all 38 shots sent his way. Machovsky was relieved after 2 periods by Jake Smith, but the Troops couldn’t post any goals on the scoreboard in this game. With the loss, Brampton now sits in fifth place with 45 points. The Steelheads are only one point behind and the Wolves are two points behind.
The Whalers were last in action against Saginaw on Wednesday night. The Spirit pushed ahead early in the game and led 4-2 after one period. The game was tied 5-5 in the middle of the third period, but the Spirit were able to pot another goal for the 6-5 victory. Matthew Mistele had a great game with 2 goals and 2 assists. Carrick Connor and Mitchell Heard each had a goal and an assist. The Whalers are sandwiched in sixth place – Guelph is in fifth place one point ahead – Sault Ste Marie is only one point behind.
My prediction Brampton 2 Plymouth 3
Erie at Saginaw
The Otters are the fourth hottest team in the Western Cofnerence in their past 10 games, as they continue to fight out of the last place slot. They have gained points in their last three consecutive games as well. Their last game was a 4-3 home ice victory over the struggling Owen Sound Attack. After one period, newly returned Oscar Dansk had allowed 3 goals and both teams were tied at 3-3. The Otters would score the only goal the rest of the way and held on for a 4-3 victory. Connor Brown continued his hot play with 3 goals in this game – he leads the team with 23 goals and 28 assists. His 13 poweplay goals leads the league in that category.
Saginaw will host the Otters again next week as the lead in to a home/home series on Jan 19 and Jan 23. Their last action was a 6-5 home ice win on Wednesday over the state rival Plymouth Whalers. Last weekend they would take 4 of 6 points against top end Western Conference teams as well. They currently sit alone in the last playoff spot with 41 points – 7 ahead of the rejuvenated Otters.
My prediction Erie 4 Saginaw 5
Barrie at Guelph
Last night the Colts hosted the Steelheads. After falling behind 3-1 early in the second game, Barrie continued to chip away at the lead. They would hold the balance of play in the third period and outshoot the visitors 14-2 in the third period and 44-32 in the game. The Colts have stretched a 6 point lead ahead of the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference. Barrie will host Niagara on Saturday night to complete their weekend schedule.
Guelph has scored 2 goals in every game that they have played this month (5 games). Their recent record is 0-3-1-0 with only 3 wins in their last 10 games. They seem to be stuck in fifth place with 47 points – only one ahead of Plymouth and 2 behind the surging Greyhounds. Rogers has a promo on tonight where the first 1000 fans will get a cowbell to cheer on their team (new additions to the ‘cowbell nation’ for sure). Big Brothers / Big Sisters is also doing a promotion for this game with some complimentary tickets to some worthy recipients. The Storm will host the Fronts on Sunday to complete their weekend schedule.
My prediction Barrie 4 Guelph 3
Sarnia at Kitchener
Sarnia brings their strong January record to the Aud for a tangle with the newly minted Rangers squad. They lost their last game, but have won their last 7 of 10. While Alex Galchenyuk was away at the WJCH, super rookie Nikolay Goldobin went on a tear – he notched 7 goals and 4 assist in the first three games of the calendar year. He leads rookies with 21 goals and is only 3 behind Connor McDavid for the overall rookie scoring lead. Recent news of Connor Murphy’s season ending diagnosis will definitely be felt at the blueline for the rest of the season.
The Rangers were able to pull things together quickly for their newly minted players to get involved in their first game with the team on Tuesday night. They were able to push around the Guelph Storm to the tune of 6-2. Last night at Peterborough they would run into a stubborn Petes squad. After surrendering 2 first period goals, the Rangers were able to chip back in the third period to push the game into overtime notched at 2-2. None of the 4 Kitchener shooters were able to score in the shootout allowing the Petes to escape with 2 points. The Rangers are now in fourth place just three points ahead of the Guelph Storm and 4 points behind the slumping Owen Sound Attack.
My prediction Sarnia 4 Kitchener 5
Ottawa at London
The Ottawa 67s (2-28-0-3) are in rebuild mode. They have traded vets, Tyler Graovac, Jake Cardwell, Cody Ceci, Remi Giftopolos, and Steven Janes. While they believe they have received some value in return, in young players, and picks, the remainder of the season will be tough for this team. Their goaltending hasn’t been good enough this year, and their defense has been porous, at best (league worst 183 goals against, second worst is Saginaw with 164).
The 67s had 5 new players in their lineup in their 2-0 loss to Oshawa on Wednesday night. 17 year old John Urbanic was in an awkward position, as he was forced to face his old team in his first game with the 67s. Joseph Blandisi, and Jacob Middleton looked good in their debut as did Marc Petaccio, despite the loss. Coach and GM, Chris Byrne felt that his team got stronger as the game progressed, and if not for a strong game from Daniel Altshuller, they would have had a better result. Jacob Blair played a good game in goal for Ottawa.
The London Knights (34-5-1-2) may have surprised many by not making many deadline deals. They added toughness, with the acquisition of Justin Sefton from the Sudbury Wolves for Kevin Raine. Sefton is a third round pick of the San Jose Sharks in the 2011 NHL Draft. Anthony Stolarz was signed to an OHL contract. He was a 2nd Round pick (43rd overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers, and played the first part of the season with the U of Nebraska-Omaha.
Since the Knights are 18 points ahead of their next closest competitor in the OHL, and 26-0-1-0 in their last 27 games, perhaps you shouldn’t be surprised they didn’t make many deadline moves. They continue to be ranked 2nd in Canada in the BMO CHL rankings.
My prediction Ottawa 2 at London 5
Peterborough at Oshawa
Peterborough (11-24-3-2) is in a “full rebuild” as well, as they are tied for last in the OHL with 27 points after 43 games. It’s hard to imagine where their offense is going to come from, as they have traded away their 3 top point getters in Francis Menard, Alan Quine and, defenseman, Slater Koekkoek. Big Nick Czinder was acquired from Kitchener and will add some offense. Michael Clarke was acquired from Windsor, and has the potential to add some offense as well, but clearly the Petes made their trades (with the exception of the Czinder trade) for the future, and will suffer in the short term. Last night the in Peterborough, the Petes built up a surprising 2-0 lead after one period vs the Kitchener Rangers. The Rangers were fortunate enough to notch 2 third period goals which sent the game to overtime. In the extra frame, the Petes outshot the struggling Rangers 5-2 and then Tanus scored the only goal in the shootout for the victory.
The Oshawa Generals (23-15-1-2) made some deadline deals yesterday. They picked up John Maguire from Erie for picks, and Simon Karlsson from Plymouth, in exchange for Sebastian Uvira. They also acquired Justice Dundas from Sarnia for Tyler Hore, and a pick. This may be the last game for Tyler Biggs (Leafs) and Boone Jenner (Blue Jackets) for a while, as they will be attending NHL training camps, and may play some regular season games this season. Daniel Altshuller has had a tremendous season, and leads the OHL with 23 wins.
My prediction Peterborough 2 at Oshawa 5
Mississauga at Sudbury
The Steelheads were in Barrie last night and continue their northern Ontario road trip with this game. Last night Dylan DeMelo would score three times (2 on the PP) which helped the Steelheads build up an early 3-1 lead. Barrie would continue to press on and outshoot Mississauga in the second period (17-10) and in the third period (14-2). The game was tied 4-4 and overtime would be required. In the shootout, only Steven Beyers would be able to score and the home side would escape with the victory. The single point pushed the Steelheads into sixth place only one point ahead of the Sudbury Wolves. Brampton is one point ahead of them and the Fronts are only 2 points behind.
Sudbury traded away their top offensive and top defensive player for some of Kitchener’s lesser players so they will be looking for offensive production from any source. Campagna is the team leader in points now (42) and has scored in 16 consecutive games dating back to November 24. Goaltender Franky Palazzese will be patrolling the nets now with Villeneau traded away. The Wolves will visit Peterborough and Brampton to complete their weekend action.
My prediction Mississauga 3 Sudbury 4