Pictured is Tyler Graovac of the Belleville Bulls.  He has 24 points since being acquired from the last place Ottawa 67’s at the trade deadline.

 

Oshawa at Kingston

   With 3rd place in the Eastern Conference all but wrapped up, it’s all about staying focused and playing good hockey going into the playoffs for the Generals. For the Frontenacs, it’s all about playing desperate hockey to try to maintain 8th in the standings or moving up to 7th.

  Last night in Peterborough, the Fronts got off to a good start with captain Cody Alcock scoring less than a minute into the game, but that’s all they could muster offensively. They would fall to the Petes 4-1. The signs were positive for the Fronts at the start, as veterans got them on the board early but it was the same old story - specialty teams - let them down in the end. Kingston went 0-6 on their powerplay, and the Petes 2-3 on theirs. OA goalie, Andrew D’Agostini was solid in stopping all but the first of 34 shots that he faced. Kingston had a 2 man advantage and a shorthanded breakaway in the third, but couldn’t solve D’Agostini.

  Henri Ikonen returned to the lineup for the Fronts after suffering a concussion in Erie two weekends ago. Kingston had a bit of a scare in this game as 16 year old rookie, Roland McKeown blasted a shot which glanced off the face of fellow rookie Spencer Watson’s face. Watson never missed a shift the rest of the way. He will be looking to tie former Frontenac, Mike Zigomanis for the 16 year old rookie record of 23 goals in a season tonight. Zigomanis accomplished this feat in 1997-98.

  Oshawa look to build off of their 5 game current win streak, and 8 wins in their last 10. They are playing some of their best hockey of the season at just the right time. They have some highly gifted offensive players in Boone Jenner, Scott Laughton, and Tyler Biggs. Rookie Michael Del Colle looks great on Oshawa’s first line. Daniel Altshuller has been good this season, but he will need to be great if Oshawa is to battle with the top teams in the Eastern Conference in the playoffs. In my opinion, the Bulls and the Colts both have better goaltending.  Kingston needs to be desperate in front of a big home crowd tonight.

  My prediction  Oshawa 3  at  Kingston 5

 

London at Sarnia

  The Knights have clinched their conference title and are interested in keeping their reliable game ‘intact’ heading into the playoffs.   Look for them to put pressure on the Sting early in this nationally televised Sportsnet CHL game of the Week.  The Knights have scored the most goals of any team in the OHL (263) and only 2 teams in the OHL have allowed fewer goals than them – Owen Sound(8 fewer) and Barrie (7 fewer).

  The Sting cannot catch Plymouth for the top spot in their division (and thus the #2 seed in the conference).  They also trail the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds by 2 points but have a comfortable 8 point lead on the Saginaw Spirit who are in eighth place. Last weekend they would be stymied by the Knights on Friday night 4-3 shootout loss before they would erupt for an 8-7 decision at Saginaw on Saturday.  In the shootout loss they were almost doubled up in shots on net 49-27. Charles Sarault had 2 goals and Reid Boucher had 3 asssist. Sarault leads the OHL scoring race by 2 points over Vincent Trochek. Reid Boucher is in sixth place with 91 points.

  My prediction London 5 at Sarnia 4

 

Mississauga at Brampton

  This will be the final battle of Peel in the OHL regular season.  This should be a high spirited affair with lots of appeal to the fans.  The Steelheads were in action last night in St. Catharines where they would battle against the Niagara Icedogs.  After an early 1-1 tie, the Steelheads would notch the next 2 goals to take a healthy 3-1 lead early in the third period.  The Icedogs would tie the game at 3-3 forcing  overtime (no scoring) and then the shootout. Stuart Percy would score the only goal for the visitors – rookie Perlini would score in the fourth round to give the Icedogs the 2 point win.  The single point pushes Mississauga one point ahead of Kingston Frontenacs for the #7 spot in the Eastern Conference.  They have not helped their ‘push for the playoffs’ as they have only 1 win and this shootout loss in their past 10 games.

  Brampton is in the #4 spot of the same conference with 67 points.  Sudbury has the same total, but Brampton has more wins for the advantage.  The Icedogs are suddenly three points behind and putting some pressure on these teams for playoff positioning.  The Battalion have played mediocre hockey as their 5-5-0-0 record will attest.

  My prediction Mississauga 2 at Brampton 5

 

Sault Ste Marie at Guelph

  The Greyhounds were able to fire lots of rubber at Windsor’s Pavelka (42 shots), but would not be able to overcome the Spits gritty second period play and fortunate third period goals.  The Spits were more desperate on this occasion and took the game 7-4.  Goal scorers for the visitors were McCann (2) and Alderson – Fritsch would add three assists for a quiet 48 points on the season.  The loss keeps the Greyhounds 2 points ahead of Sarnia and three points behind the Guelph Storm.

  Guelph is 3-1 in their last 4 games including a win over the same Sault Ste Marie squad on March 1 at the Essar Centre. In that game the Storm erupted for 4 goals in the second period to take a commanding lead and then cruised to a 6-3 final after scoring twice more in the third frame.  Numerous roughing and boarding penalties were assessed in that game – look for more rough stuff to ensue in this contest.

  My prediction Sault Ste Marie 3 at Guelph 2 (OT)

 

Saginaw at Kitchener

  The Spirit are getting closer to outlasting the Spits in their quest for playoff action with a 6 point lead.  Saginaw has 6 games left whereas Windsor has only 4 remaining.  The Spirit have lost 4 straight games but have a record of 6-4-0-0 in their past 10 games on the road. Saturday they will play at Guelph and then return home quickly for a Sunday afternoon game at Plymouth. Next weekend they finish up their regular season with a stop at Sarnia before they host Kitchener and London.  They will need to win at least two of these games to guarantee themselves a playoff entry if Windsor wins all of their remaining games.

  The Rangers are a slim 2 points behind the Owen Sound Attack with 82 points. They have collected points in their last three games and have a record of 6-2-0-2 in their past 10 games.  Tonight will mark the return of John Gibson to the nets after a nagging injury kept him out of the lineup for many weeks.  Radek Faksa scored in his last game – this marked the first goal for him since December 1st last year. Josh Leivo continues to lead the way offensively with 22 points in 24 games since his acquisition from the Sudbury Wolves.

  My prediction Saginaw 2 at Kitchener 6

 

Erie at Owen Sound

  The Otters are in Owen Sound for back to back games against the Attack. Erie is mired in a horrible streak of only 2 wins in their past 10 games.  They did win their last game though – a spirited overtime 5-4 victory over the Windsor Spitfires.  Adam Pelech is scheduled to return to the lineup after a lengthy suspension but Hayden Hodgson remains out due to his suspension by the league.  Spencer and Fox each had 2 goals in the game. Starting goalie Oscar Dansk has a record of 10-21-2-3 this season with a GAA of 5.48 and a save % of .889.  Their schedule does not get any easier as they will host London next week and then play a home/home series with the Guelph Storm.

  The Attack are in the #3 spot with a slim 2 point lead over the Kitchener Rangers.  Owen Sound have gathered points in three consecutive games and have a record of 6-2-0-2 in their past 10 games.  Wednesday night action saw the Attack lose to London 4-3 in a shootout on home ice. Besides Nastasiuk (goal #17), goal scorers were Milne (his fourth goal) and Rose (his first goal this season).  Jordan Binnington is near the top of the league in most statistical categories – he has a record of 29-12-1-5, a GAA of 2.25 and a save % of .931.

  My prediction – Erie 2 Owen Sound 6

 

Belleville at Sudbury

  The Bulls need to get back to the way they were playing in the month of February. They have lost their last 3 games to teams below them in the standings. It was the first time, all season that the Bulls have lost 3 straight. Malcolm Subban has shown that he is human of late. They outshot  the 67s 48-27, but the only Bull that was able to beat Clint Windsor was Alan Quine, and that was with less than 3 minutes remaining in the game. The Bulls have been a bit snake bitten around the net of late. I still believe that they will get their act together, and win the East this year in the playoffs. George Burnett coaches “playoff style” hockey very well, and the Bulls have enough offensive weapons in Quine, Graovac, Gaunce, Zharkov, and Cramarossa to compete with anyone. Their defense is good enough in front of the best (in my opinion) goalkeeping tandum in the OHL.

  The Sudbury Wolves are in a battle for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, likely against the Brampton Battalion, so tonight’s home game should be a good test for them. They play well at home (17-8-3-4).

  The Wolves are a little banged up, especially on the blue line. Rookie, Connor Cummins, and Jeff Corbet will likely miss tonight’s game, along with former Frontenac Nathan Cull. Look for call-ups Zach McFadden and Kyle Fransen to fill in on the blueline.

  Belleville remains without Michael Curtis, Nikki Petti, Stephen Silas, and Chad Heffernan, who are all injured.

  Belleville and Sudbury have split the season series, so far, with the Bulls winning 7-5 at Yardman, on February 26th, and the Wolves winning on home ice, 3-2 back in October.

  My prediction  Belleville  4   at  Sudbury 3