Pictured is Brett Ritchie of the Niagara Icedogs who is the OHL Player of the Week. He was quiet in the middle of February with 3 scoreless games against Owen Sound, London and Mississauga. He then rattled off 5 goals and 3 assists in three games against Plymouth, Belleville and then Windsor . After a disappointing -35 rating in his rookie season he has posted a +35 rating so far this year. He is in action tonight at home vs. the Steelheads.
Niagara at Mississauga
The Icedogs have put on a surge of late after some very mediocre team hockey. Last weekend they were able to march into Belleville and get by the #1 Bulls in overtime 5-4. On Sunday they were able to skate around the desperate Spits by a 9-4 mark. Having clinched a playoff spot they have their sights set on the Sudbury Wolves’ #5 spot in the conference – trailing them by 5 points to start the day. Niagara leads Kingston and Mississauga by 7 points. After this game, Niagara will host Barrie and Brampton before they go on the road to finish their schedule at Sudbury and Barrie.
The Steelheads are in trouble near the bottom of the conference. As mentioned, they are tied with the Frontenacs for the #8 spot but both teams have a slim 4 points lead on the surging Peterborough Petes. Mississauga is in the midst of a horrible losing streak having won only 1 of their past 10 games to go with only one shootout loss. They will have to play without their top set up man – Riley Brace – he will return from his suspension tomorrow.
My prediction Niagara 5 Mississaga 2
Kingston at Peterborough
This is a very important match up in the battle for the 8th and final playoff spot in Eastern Conference. It is arguably more important for the home team, as they are 4 points back, and Kingston has 2 games in hand.
The Petes will have to battle without their captain, Derek Mathers, who was assessed a 4 game suspension for being the instigator in his 11th fight of the season. Mathers has been playing his best hockey in the OHL recently, and has nearly doubled his point total from a year ago.
The Petes lost twice last weekend, in Sudbury, 6-3 on Friday night, and 4-0 in the Soo on Sunday evening.
Kingston split their games last weekend with one win and a loss. They defeated the Bulls Friday night on home ice, in one of their most complete games since December. They were trailing 1-0 after the first, but continued to work hard and the tide changed early in the 2nd period. Kingston really put the pressure on the Bulls, and were able to outlast the #1 team for a 3-1 win. They were defeated 4-2 by the Oshawa Generals, on Sunday afternoon. The effort was there for the Fronts, but the Generals were relentless in their pursuit of the puck particularly in Kingston’s zone.
Kingston’s rookies have been carrying the offensive load of late, particularly Sam Bennett, and Spencer Watson. Watson has 22 goals and 42 points, and Bennett has 17 goals and 36 points. They have been without their linemate, Henri Ikonen, who hasn’t played since being hit by Hayden Hodgson of the Erie Otters, on February 24th. Hopefully, Henri will be able to play this weekend.
This is the 5th of 6 meetings between these Division rivals, with each team having won twice.
Kingston won the first two meetings of the season in October and November, and the Petes won twice in December. Peterborough was 16 points behind the Fronts in December, but have narrowed the gap to just 4.
My prediction Kingston 4 at Peterborough 3
Sault Ste Marie at Windsor
The Greyhounds had a split in last weekend’s homestand with wins over the Petes 4-0 and a loss bs. The Guelph Storm 6-3. After this game they will continue their 519 road trip with stops in at Guelph on Friday and Kitchener on Sunday. They will conclude their regular season with a homestand against 3 of the top 4 teams in the Western Conference. This will be Nick Cousins’ first game back from his recent suspension. He was in the lead for scoring in the league when he left, but now trails Sarault by 4 points and Trocheck by 2 points.
The Spits are 8 points behind the Spirit with 5 games remaining. Mathematically it may be possible for them to catch up to the Spirit, but the ‘writing is on the wall’. Their schedule for the rest of their season is probably the most stacked than another other team in the league. They will host London on Sunday which will give them plenty of time to rest up /practice. After hosting Owen Sound a week from today, they will embark on a home/home series against the hottest team in the league – the Plymouth Whalers. Kerby Rychel is #10 in league scoring only 2 points behind London’s Domi and Griffith. He has 2 goals and 4 assists in his last 4 games.
My prediction Sault Ste Marie 4 Windsor 3 (OT)
Sudbury at Barrie
This is the first of back to back nights that the Sudbury Wolves will face division leaders. Tonight they are in Barrie, and tomorrow night they're home to the Belleville Bulls. Sudbury is tied with the Brampton Battalion for 4th in the Eastern Conference, with 67 points. The Wolves have played one more game than the Battalion.
This will be the 8th and final meeting of the season between these Central Division rivals. The Wolves hold the edge in the season series 8 points to 7.
On March 1st, the Wolves moved into 4th place and officially clinched a playoff spot with a hard fought home ice win over the Peterborough Petes. The Wolves came out flying in the first period and in a stretch of just under 5 mins, jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Matthew Campagna scored the first two, and Dominik Kahun the third. Dominik Kubalik gave the Wolves a 4-0 lead in the 2nd. Despite a valiant effort by the Petes, the Wolves prevailed on home ice.
Two nights later, the Guelph Storm beat the Wolves 4-2. Brock McGinn scored twice on the powerplay, and Tyler Bertuzzi twice 5 on 5, and Garret Sparks was very good for Guelph in the win.
The Barrie Colts lead the Central Division, and are 2nd in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Bulls by 3 points, with 6 games left to play. They will host the Bulls on Saturday night, in a huge Conference showdown.
Mathias Niederberger stopped all 36 shots to shut out the Mississauga Steelheads 2-0, in the Colts' last game Friday night. Niederberger leads the OHL with a .933 save percentage. The German, overaged goalie has an impressive 32-11-2-1 record this season for the Colts. Barrie has no trouble scoring, either, as they have 6 players who average over a point a game, lead by Mark Scheifele with 68 points in just 40 games, or 1.7 points per game. Zach Hall leads the team, with 74 points in 58 games played, or 1.28 points per game.
My prediction Sudbury 2 at Barrie 4