Pictured is the Pete’s Coach Jody Hull – he has managed to guide his team to within inches of a playoff spot. They start this weekend only 2 points behind the Kingston Frontenacs for the final slot in the Eastern Conference.
Mississauga at Niagara
The Steelheads can do themselves a huge favor in the coming days with some timely victories. They can move to within 1 point of Niagara with a regulation win tonight. These 2 teams will tangle again on March 7 back in Niagara. Their schedule does increase in difficulty with 6 of their final 12 games coming against teams that are in the top 4 of their conferences. Last time these teams met, was Feb 8 in Mississauga where the home side would win 4-2. The Steelheads powerplay was 3/5 and Spencer Martin was really good in the nets after a mediocre first period.
Two of the next 4 games for the Icedogs are against 2 teams that are behind them in the playoff race. The Steelheads are a slim 3 points behind and the Fronts are 5 points behind. Niagara is coming off two straight losses – most recently they were pushed around by a superior London Knights squad on Sunday afternoon. The 5-1 score was not truly indicative of the play, as London’s goaltender was marvelous and Niagara’s Festarini was just average. Brett Ritchie was hit firmly with a puck during that game, but didn’t miss any ice time and should be in action tonight.
My prediction Mississauga 2 Niagara 3
Oshawa at Peterborough
Four goals in the third period lead the Oshawa Generals to a 6-2 win on home ice over the Sudbury Wolves on Family Day. They won 2 of 3 over the weekend, but that wasn’t enough to keep pace with the red hot Belleville Bulls, who have leapfrogged them into the East Division lead. Oshawa is 8 points behind the Conference leading Bulls, and 5 points back of the Colts. With the two wins the Generals did clinch a playoff spot over the weekend.
Much has been made of Oshawa’s explosive offense, but coach D.J. Smith has been pleased with how his team has defended of late. They gave up just 19 shots on Saturday night to the Sting, and 18 to the Wolves on Monday afternoon.
Brett Findlay has helped to lead the Petes to within 4 points of a playoff spot, with 11 games left in their regular season. He is their leading scorer. Prior to Christmas, Findlay had eight goals and five assists in 35 games, and was ready to quit the last place Petes, and go home to the Soo. In the 22 games since Christmas he has 7 goals and 18 assists for the Petes. He credits new coach Jody Hull with turning around the attitude of the players, and getting them to play for each other. Since Hull took over as head coach, on Dec. 21st, the Petes are 12-7-0-3. Findlay and his linemates, Nick Czinder, and Jonatan Tanus have been the Petes’ best line. The goalkeeping tandum of Andrew D’Agostini, and Michael Giugovaz have played much better in the 2nd half of the season.
My prediction Oshawa 4 at Peterborough 2
Sault Ste Marie at Sarnia
The Greyhounds expect to face a very different team that they destroyed 8-0 last Wednesday in the Soo. They outshot Sarnia 49-25 en route to their first shut out of an opponent this season. Soo defenseman, Alex Gudbranson, expects the Sting to have a “chip on their shoulder” and play a solid 60 minute game. The Soo are in seventh place in the Conference, one point behind the Sting.
The Soo will be looking for consistency in their game, and will look to improve on their sloppy home ice effort on Saturday night. They gave up 7 goals against the Frontenacs. The Greyhounds are expected to start backup goalie, Justin Nichols in tonight’s game, as starter Matt Murray has been pulled in 3 of his last 5 starts, including on Saturday night, when he gave up 6 Kingston goals in 33 minutes.
The Sting’s magic number is down to 3. That is, any combination of Sting wins, and games where the Windsor Spitfires do not gain a point will clinch a playoff spot. Sarnia has 10 games remaining, and are in 6th place in the Western Conference, a point ahead of the Soo, and two points behind Guelph. Coach Beaulieu expects to face either London, Plymouth, or Kitchener in the first round of the playoffs. He likes his chances, if his team can practice clogging up the centre of the ice, and not give up as many shots. Because of the closeness of the standings, Beaulieu is treating this game as a “must win”. At the same time, he’d like to rest some of his key players at times during the remaining regular season games, and give some of his rookies some increased playing time. Mike Dipaolo skated with the team yesterday, and may be ready to go tonight. Defenseman, Taki Pantziris will not play.
The Soo’s Nick Cousins (93 points), coming off of OHL player of the week honours, leads Sarnia’s Charles Sarault (89 points) by 4 points for the OHL scoring title.
My prediction Sault Ste Marie 4 at Sarnia 3
Erie at Windsor
The Otters are interested in playing spoiler for their remaining games as they have no playoff possibilities this seasion. This will be a great game to catch as former Midget teammates Josh Ho-Sang (Spits) will be against the reigning Rookie point leader Connor McDavid (Otters). Interesting that Otters Owen Bassin has been critical of some of his players in that they appear disinterested in playing anymore. Look for the Connors to be active in tonight’s game to get their side playing better.
Windsor is teetering with their playoff hopes as they start this weekend 11 points behind the Saginaw Spirit for the final spot. They have not helped their cause at all by dropping their last 5 games and only winning 2 of their last 10. Their home record is 13-11-0-3 and they have given up 10 more goals than they have scored at the WFCU Centre. Their next contest is a home / home series against the surging Plymouth Whalers. After a 21 game absence, Ty Bilcke will return to the lineup to give some much needed grit after a few other recent injuries – including Sieloff and Bateman. Vail has been recruited back to the defence corps for this contest.
My prediction Erie 4 Windsor 2
Owen Sound at Barrie
Barrie is eager for a rematch with the Attack after their last contest didn’t go the way that the Colts would have liked. The Jan 30 contest saw the host Attack outplay the visiting Colts. Catenacci scored an early third period powerplay goal for the 3-1 advantage and then potted the empty net goal in the final minute to produce the final 4-1 score.
Both teams have qualified for the post season and are now playing for playoff positioning. Barrie recently lost the top spot to the red hot Belleville Bulls and now trail them by 3 points. The Attack continue to jostle with the Kitchener Rangers for the #3 spot and currently lead Kitchener by 2 points. These two teams will meet again on Feb 28 in Barrie.
My prediction Owen Sound 2 Barrie 5