Pictured is Radek Faksa who is expected to back in the lineup for the Kitchener Rangers after a very long absence.
Plymouth at Erie
The Whalers finished the month of February with a record of 10 wins and 3 losses including wins at Owen Sound, Kitchener and both of their matches against Sarnia. Last night they were at Niagara where a quiet first period (0-0) would not be indicative of the rest of the game. It seemed like the Whalers got a few lucky bounces and then the landslide of scoring could not be stopped by the much younger Icedogs squad. The final score was 7-1 for the Whalers. The shutout bid by Nedelijkovic was spoiled with only 2:43 to play. The win adds to Plymouths point total of 79 as they push a healthy 7 point cushion over the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds.
The Otters season is winding down and it seems like it couldn’t be sooner. Recent suspensions and injuries continue to add to the team’s trouble. Pelech will be out of the lineup for this weekend and Hodgson is now added to the suspension listing until March 3. They are in the basement of the Western Conference with only 17 wins in their 61 games this season. Their 5 game losing streak will probably continue against the Whalers in this contest.
My prediction Plymouth 6 at Erie 2
Belleville at Kingston
The Bulls have won 10 straight games. The month of February saw Belleville post an 11-1 record. This will be the 7th of 8 meetings between these East Division rivals. Belleville has the edge 4 games to 2. Defenseman, Jake Cardwell returns tonight from his 10 game suspension, and Carter Sandlak from his 2 game suspension. Belleville will continue to miss Michael Curtis (upper body), Niki Petti (lower body), and Stephen Silas (concussion).
Belleville’s powerplay has been good of late and has climbed from last in the OHL to 16th. Much of the credit for this can be traced back to the additions of Tyler Graovac, and Alan Quine. In addition to adding much needed offense, the two newcomers lead the team with a plus-24 and plus-23 rating. What makes these stats most impressive is that they have played on different lines for most of the time, since their acquisition.
The Frontenacs were hoping that the 67s would do them a favour in Peterborough last night, by beating the team that is hot on their heels for the 8th and final playoff spot. Ottawa had a 3-1 lead going into the 3rd period, only to give up 2 shorthanded goals, the last one with just over a minute to play in regulation time. The teams went to a shootout where the Petes gained the extra point, to climb back to within 2 points of the Fronts, who have 2 games in hand.
Kingston will again be without their top point producer, in Henri Ikonen, who is out with a concussion, after a big hit in Erie which cost Hayden Hodgson a 10 game suspension. Forward Jean Dupuy continues to be out after knee surgery, and Ryan Hutchinson with a suspension.
The Fronts were beaten by the Gens on Wednesday night, 4-1. Kingston pushed hard in the third period and came to within one, when Billy Jenkins broke Ken Appleby’s shutout bid. They outshot the Gens 15-2 in the third period, but it was too little too late for the Fronts.
Kingston will need to stay out of the penalty box, and capitalize if they get the man advantage if they have hopes of knocking off the first place team in the Eastern Conference tonight, on home ice.
My prediction Belleville 5 at Kingston 3
Guelph at Sault Ste Marie
Guelph has a slim one point lead over Sault Ste Marie but has played one fewer game than the Greyhounds. They have a record of 6-4-0-0 in their last 10 games. Guelph dismantled the Sudbury Wolves on home ice Sunday to the tune of 7-2. Only 3 skaters in the lineup did not record a point in that game. After all the scoring was completed in the third period, the game was capped off by three separate fights – one by Auger, another by Leslie and the final card was with Bauman. The Storm will be at Sudbury for Sunday afternoon’s game.
The Greyhounds Brandon Alderson should be flying high in this game since he was signed earlier today by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers to an entry level NHL contract. Sault Ste Marie has put together a solid winning streak as they make a push for playoff relevancy. They ended the month of February with a record of 7 wins and 4 losses and have a recent record of 4-0-1-1. Nick Cousins will still be out of the lineup as his suspension is set to expire on March 7.
My prediction Guelph 3 at Sault Ste Marie 5
Sarnia at London
The Sting have acquired 5 wins in their last 5 games and continue to be sandwiched in the lower end of the Western Conference standings. They only trail Sault Ste Marie by 3 points for the #6 spot and have not officially secured a playoff spot yet. Saginaw is a distant 5 points behind still for the final playoff position. Nikolay Goldobin is tied with Connor McDavid in rookie scoring this season with 58 points – Charles Sarault is nibbling at the heels of leader Nick Cousins, only trailing by one point for the overall point scoring lead – Reid Boucher leads the league with an incredible 57 goals in 61 games played this season. Their team total of 223 goals for is fourth best in the league.
London has put together a tidy 5 game win streak as they have hopes of a long run through the playoffs and a potential OHL consecutive crown (there I just jinxed it). They enjoy a massive 12 point lead over the Owen Sound Attack. Goaltender Anthony Stolarz signed with the Philadelphia Flyers today so expect him to have another sharp outing in the nets tonight. Earlier this month the Sting came into London and escaped with a slim 4-3 victory. The rematch of this game is scheduled for March 8 at Sarnia.
My prediction Sarnia 4 at London 5
Barrie at Mississauga
The Colts were able to hold off the Owen Sound Attack last night 4-2 on home ice. After Owen Sound’s initial goal, Barrie rattled off 4 straight goals to break open the game. A very late goal by the Attack (26 seconds remaining) made the score closer than the game felt. The win allowed Barrie to keep pace with the sizzling hot Belleville Bulls and continue to trail them by 4 points for top spot in the Eastern Conference. They are also 4 points ahead of the Oshawa Generals in the standings, but would not be supplanted from the #2 spot due to divisional leaders getting the top 2 spots.
The Steelheads are so close to the Icedogs for the next spot in the playoffs. They only trail them by 3 points and Niagara has 2 games in hand. Both teams have only won 3 of their past 10 games. Mississauga is also looking in their rear view mirror though as the Fronts are only 2 points behind and the Petes another 2 points behind the Fronts. After this game they only have 2 more home games. The Steelheads next 2 games are no joy as they must travel to Owen Sound and then host the solid Plymouth Whalers squad.
My prediction Barrie 5 Mississauga 1
Kitchener at Owen Sound
This is a pivotal game for both teams in the Western Conference standings. Currently the Attack are in third place in the conference and lead the Rangers by only 2 points. Both teams have played 60 games and both teams have won 6 of their last 10 games. Kitchener should have Ryan Murphy back to patrol the blueline and quarterback the powerplay. They will also have Radek Faksa back in action who hasn’t played since Jan 19 – he hasn’t recorded a multipoint night since December 1. Gibson will remain out of the lineup as he is nursing a leg injury.
Last night in Barrie the Attack scored the opening goal of the game, but then were held accountable for 4 straight markers from the home side. Zack Nastaniuk had a two goal game, but it wasn’t enough as the Colts would take the victory 4-2. This will be final meeting between these 2 teams in the regular season.
My prediction Kitchener 3 Owen Sound 4 (OT)
Brampton at Oshawa
The Battalion held off the powerful Bulls on Wednesday night for the first two periods. Going in to the 3rd, they were down 1-0 and held the Bulls to just 21 shots. Bulls’ captain, Brendan Gaunce scored 4 mins into the 3rd on a Bulls’ suddenly hot powerplay, for his second of three points on the night. Brampton eventually lost 4-1 in Belleville, and are now tied for 4th place in the Conference, with the Sudbury Wolves. It looks like the Battalion will play the Wolves in the first round.
The Generals are in 3rd place, 11 points up on the Battalion, and 8 back of the Bulls, so it appears likely that they will face the 6th place team in the Eastern Conference in the first round. Currently that is the Niagara Ice Dogs. The Gens have won 3 in a row and are firing on all cylinders. Boone Jenner scored his 38th and 39th goals of the season on Wednesday night in Kingston to lead Oshawa to a 4-1 victory. He was named the first star in Kingston.
Coach D.J. Smith is cognizant that his team may become complacent with their 3rd place ranking, and not “play the right way” for the remainder of the regular season. He was pleased with their level of compete in the first two periods in this game, but thought that they “cheated” in the third, and it cost his team too many chances and they took too many undisciplined penalties.
My prediction Brampton 2 at Oshawa 3
Peterborough at Sudbury
The resilient Petes spotted the 67s a 3-0 lead before charging back to tie and eventually beat Ottawa 4-3 in a shootout last night in Peterborough. Jonatan Tanus scored a shorthanded goal with just over a minute left in regulation and scored the only shootout goal to complete Peterborough’s comeback. The win snapped Peterborough’s 2 game losing streak and brought them back to within 2 points of the Frontenacs, and the 8th and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Tanus used a deke move that he had practiced back in Finland, a move designed to open up a goalie’s 5 hole. Andrew D’Agostini blocked 33 shots in regulation and overtime, and all 3 shots in the shootout for Peterborough to capture his 13th win of the season.
Sudbury’s last win came by way of the shootout as well. They travelled to the Soo on Wednesday night, and came out with a big 5-4 victory over a very good Greyhounds team. Ray Huether scored the shootout winner. It was his first ever OHL shootout attempt. Coach Cull has been happy with Ray’s recent game, as he has 11 points in his last 13 games, and plays alongside Sudbury’s captain Michael Kantor, on an effective checking line for the Wolves. The Wolves have played with a short roster recently, but may get some relief as defenseman, Kevin Raine, and forward, Brodie Silk will be game-time decisions. Defenseman, Jeff Corbett and forwards, Nathan Cull, and Connor Burgess are expected to remain on the injured list.
The Wolves appear destined to face the play the Brampton Battalion in the first round of the playoffs, but things could change, as the Battalion have 8 games left to Sudbury’s 7. Home ice advantage could be huge in this series, so Sudbury should come out ready to play against a Petes’ team who played last night in Peterborough.
My prediction Peterborough 3 at Sudbury 5