Pictured is Icedogs rookie Aaron Hayden. He is recovering at home in Michigan from a puck to the face on Wednesday night in Erie PA vs the Otters. The rookie defenceman was developing quite nicely in the absence of NHL'er Dougie Hamilton. He will be shelfed for the remainder of the regular season. We wish him a speedy recovery!
Kitchener at Erie
The Rangers were defeated 3-2 in a shootout on home ice last night in an exciting game vs. the Plymouth Whalers,. Matt Puempel scored twice for the Rangers, who ran into sizzling Alex Nedeljkovic, who stopped 52 of 54 shots fired his way, including 7 in overtime. The Ohio native has had a strong rookie season in Plymouth, with 9 wins 1 loss and a shootout loss. What makes it more impressive is that he just turned 17 last month, and won't be draft eligible until 2014. Josh Leivo extended his point scoring streak to 13 games, with a second period assist.
Kitchener has won 7 of their last ten and sit 4th in the Western Conference. They are second in the OHL in penalty killing, behind the Bulls, killing off over 85% of opponents' chances. After a difficult week off ice, Tobias Rieder will be sitting out for the remainder of the weekend.
The Otters picked up a surprising home ice win over the London Knights last night. They started strong and held on for a 4-3 win. Erie jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Luke Cairns and Dane Fox (his 1st of 2), before the Knights came to within 1 after the first period. Rookie Connor McDavid notched the game-winner with just under 7 mins to play in the 3rd.
Despite the victory, the Otters remain mired in last place in the Western Conference, 16 points behind the Spirit for the 8th and final playoff spot. They continue to play for pride, and a spot on next year's team, at this point.
My prediction Kitchener 5 at Erie 2
Sudbury at Belleville
The Wolves had their 15 game regulation unbeaten streak on home ice snapped by the Kingston Frontenacs last night. The Wolves were 9-0-3-3 dating back to December 2nd, at the Sudbury Community Arena. Former Frontenac goalie, Frankie Palazzese kept the home team in the game, especially in the first frame when Kingston outshot them 23-6. The Wolves sit 4th in the Eastern Conference, just two points up on the Battalion.
Sudbury is 7-3-2-2 since their blockbuster trade with the Kitchener Rangers at the deadline. Palazzese has posted a 2.44 gaa, and a 0.929 save percentage. Perhaps the biggest piece in the trade was the Rangers' first round pick in 2012, Matt Schmalz. He is enjoying a bigger role with the Wolves - scoring twice and adding 3 assists in 11 games, after only getting 1 assist in 25 games with Kitchener. The 6 ft 5 in defenseman is a plus-6 with the Wolves, and was a minus-3 with Kitchener.
Belleville beat the Steelheads 1-0 on a 2nd period, powerplay goal by Oilers prospect, Daniil Zharkov. Since an 0-30 slump, the Bulls' powerplay has scored in each of their last 4 games. Charlie Graham stopped 37 of 37 shots to post his 3rd shutout of the season, one more than starter Malcolm Subban.
The Bulls, who were the 2nd East team to clinch a playoff spot with their win last night, will be without Jake Cardwell who will be serving the 5th game of his 10 game suspension. Carter Sandlak (upper body) will probably not be in the lineup either.
Sudbury won the only other matchup between these two teams, 3-2 in Sudbury, back in October.
My prediction Sudbury 2 at Belleville 4
Guelph at Plymouth
The Storm recently completed a home / home series vs. the Owen Sound Attack. Each of the teams won in the other team’s arena by a 2 goal margin. Guelph was in touch with the #3 and #4 spots in the conference, but now to watch out for the teams below them in the standings. They are 5 points away from the #4 Kitchener Rangers – but now find Sarnia only 2 points behind and the Greyhounds 3 points behind. The offence from this team continues to come from multiple sources – 2 players have eclipsed the 50 point mark this season and eight players have 30 points or more. Only 3 players on the roster have a negative +/- rating.
Plymouth would enjoy the 2 points from this contest to distance themselves in their division from Sarnia and Sault Ste Marie. The Whalers are on a 4 game winning streak and have won 7 of their past 10 games. Vincent Trocheck continues to challenge for top spot in the league scoring race – currently trailing Sarault by 2 points and Cousins by 4 points. His 41 goals this season is second only to Charles Sarault of the Sarnia Sting.
My prediction Guelph 3 Plymouth 4 (OT)
Oshawa at Sarnia
The Gens can all but lock up a playoff spot with a win tonight. They would need just a single point in their remaining 12 games, or one Petes' loss in their remaining 12 for the math to play out. Oshawa has won their last 3 games and 7 of their last 10 games. This will be Oshawa's only trip to Sarnia this season, as they face former teammate Justice Dundas, who was traded for Tyler Hore and a 6th round pick. Last night, Dundas was the instigator in a scrap with overager Greg Sutch just 2 minutes into the game in Saginaw.
Oshawa started their western road trip with a victory in Saginaw, Michigan last night 6-4. The Spirit powerplay went 3 for 5 but the Gens were still able to outlast the home side. Flyers' 1st rounder, Scott Laughton recorded a hattrick for Oshawa. Bradley Latour assisted on all three of Laughton's goals. Last weekend the improving Erie Otters beat them 7-4 on home ice on Friday night. Erie swept the season series with the Gens. Oshawa bounced back to win in Niagara, and on home ice over the Soo.
Sarnia Coach Jacques Beaulieu was happy with his team's gritty performance on Sportsnet Game of the Week in Windsor last night, a 2-1 win. He describes his team as very young with one veteran line. Reid Boucher notched his 50th goal of the season last night, becoming the first CHL player to reach that plateau this season. Rookie, Daniel Nikandrov notched his 5th goal of the season with just over 12 seconds left in the third period to cement the victory. It was Sarnia's 17th road win of the season, just two shy of the London Knights, who have 19. Sarnia has a 14-10-0-2 record on home ice.
If Oshawa can stay out of the penalty box and find some way to contain Sarnia's big line of Reid Boucher, Charles Sarault (2nd in league point scoring), and Nikolay Goldobin, they should come out with a win.
My prediction Oshawa 3 at Sarnia 2
Kingston at Sault Ste Marie
The Fronts continue their northern swing in the Soo tonight coming off of a big road win in Sudbury last night. Goalie Mike Morrison had his shutout spoiled with 40 seconds left in the third period, and turned aside 33 of 34 shots for the victory. The win allowed Kingston to keep pace with the "pesky" Petes who remain 2 points behind them. The Fronts moved to within 4 points of the Steelheads for 7th in the Eastern Conference. Beyond solid goaltending, the key to Kingston's victory was solid defensive play.
Assistant coach Darren Keily points to the return of Kingston's only NHL drafted player, Mikko Vainonen, as a key to their recent success. He recently returned from serving a 10 game suspension, a stretch where the Fronts lost every game. Vainonen is a steadying force on a young Frontenac D, and is often paired with 16 year old rookie, and Fronts' first pick (2nd overall) in the 2012 Priority Selection, Roland McKeown. Fellow Finn, Henri Ikonen scored into an empty net to seal Kingston's victory, last night, and with the point took over the point scoring lead on the team, with 39 points in the 50 games that he has played. Darcy Greenaway has 22 goals to lead the team in that department.
Kingston should have defenseman, Ryan Hutchinson back tonight from his two game suspension. They will be without forward Jean Dupuy, who will require season ending, knee surgery.
The Soo Greyhounds are lead by the league’s leading point getter, Nick Cousins, who has tallied 88 points in 55 games, 67 of them assists. The Greyhounds have some ground to make up. A couple of weeks ago they were leading the tight West Division, and were ranked 2nd in the Conference, as a result. Since then the Whalers have won 4 straight, and the Soo find themselves 7th in the Conference, 6 points ahead of 8th place Saginaw, despite the fact that they are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10. They have a 17-7-2-1 record on home ice this year.
In their last game (Wednesday night) they humbled visiting division rivals Sarnia 8-0. Everything seemed to go right on this night, as Coyotes' prospect, Andrew Fritsch had 4 goals and 1 assist. Cousins had 4 assists.
My prediction Kingston 3 at Sault Ste Marie 4
Windsor at Saginaw
The Spits woes continued last night, but this time on national TV. They were able to skate with the Sarnia Sting and at some places in the game were dictating the play. Late in the game, the Sting were able to put one past Pavelka with only 23 seconds remaining in regulation for the 2-1 victory. The Spits have a 7 point gap between them and the #8 Saginaw Spirit – they are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in recent memory. They are the second most penalized team in the league but are #9 in killing off penalties.
The Spirit are plodding along with only 5 wins in their last 10 games and they have also lost 2 consecutive games. Three consecutive second period goals were the difference in last night’s 6-4 home ice loss to the Generals. Jimmy Lodge had a hat trick in the losing cause – Eric Locke continues his hot streak with a three point game. After this game, they will have a rematch at Windsor on Monday. Next weekend their lineup is on the road against Kitchener, Owen Sound and London.
My prediction Windsor 3 Saginaw 5
Mississauga at Barrie
The Steelheads are going through a mediocre patch here with 4 wins in their last 10 games. They lead the Kingston Fronts by 4 points for the #7 spot in the Eastern Conference – and Mississauga only trails the faltering Icedogs by 3 points for the #6 spot. The Steelheads have a great promotion on for a pair of home tickets – Be a Fan Package – see their website for details. They will conclude their light weekend schedule when they host the Kingston Frontenacs on Monday.
The Colts’ lead atop the Eastern Conference has been chipped away to a mere 1 point. Barrie has 73 points and 6 wins in their last 10 games. The surging Belleville Bulls have 72 points and only 1 loss in their last 10 games. Mark Camara is on a suspension for his stick work but will be able to play in the final 8 games of the regular season. After this game, the team will travel to Brampton for Sunday’s match up and then venture to Belleville for a huge game!
My prediction Mississauga 2 Barrie 5
Niagara at Owen Sound
The Dogs venture up to the near north for one last visit this season. This will mark Stephen Shipley’s last visit to his old team as the remnant of one of Marty Williamson’s early trades with the Owen Sound Attack. Shipley has a career high 25 goals this season. The Icedogs last action was a win at Erie vs. the last place Otters. The Dogs were the better team on this night outshooting the opposition 32-18 and outscoring the Otters 6-3. The win gave the Icedogs a 3 point lead over the Steelheads for the #6 spot in the conference.
Owen Sound lost on home ice against the Guelph Storm on Wednesday 2-0 in a lacklustre effort. They would rebound on Friday night a Guelph with a better effort and would be rewarded with a 4-2 win. The game was 3-2 for most of the third period, but wouldn’t be ‘iced’ until 6 seconds left in the game when Catenacci would notch his 31st goal of the season with the Guelph net empty. Owen Sound creeps ahead of Kitchener to the #3 spot in the Western Conference (both teams have 72 points, but Owen Sound has the tiebreaker).
My prediction Niagara 2 Owen Sound 5