Unfortunately, my Twitter account has been acting up a little, both online and on my Blackberry. Otherwise, I would have been Tweeting all last week about how excited I was for Sunday’s match between the Ottawa 67’s and Rangers in Kitchener, Ont.
Those two clubs have the best offences in the Ontario Hockey League and rank with the Portland Winterhawks, Moncton Wildcats and Lewiston Maineiacss as some of the most potent attacks in junior hockey today.
The Rangers have league-leading scorer Jason Akeson as their top forward. Unbelievably, this talented winger has gone undrafted the past two years, and went unsigned after a free agent tryout with the Anaheim Ducks.
Akeson’s 12 goals and has set up 34 others so far this season are undoubtedly making general managers across the National Hockey League regret not signing him.
Who’s trailing Akeson in the scoring race? Ryan Martindale of, you guessed it, the 67’s. He’s got 17 markers and 23 assists so far this season.
Martindale’s linemate Tyler Toffoli is leading the league in goals scored with 22. Kitchener’s Gabriel Landeskog is right behind him with 19.
In other words, Sunday’s game promised to have some offensive fireworks.
The game definitely did not disappoint, either.
Toffoli and Shane Prince – fourth in OHL scoring – scored in the shootout as the 67’s edged the Rangers 5-4. Toffoli also scored twice in regulation, Martindale had two assists and Prince had one.
Landeskog had a pair of goals and an assist, while Akeson padded his scoring lead with a goal and an assist.
Games like that are what make hockey great.
Friday, November 19th 2010
QMJHL: MOOSEHEADS KEEP STREAKS GOING WITH WIN OVER ROUYN-NORANDA
The Halifax Mooseheads started one streak and kept another alive Friday night.
Konrad Abeltshauser put away the winner 4:09 into the third period as Halifax shaded the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: SMITH-PELLY SCORES TWICE AS MAJORS EDGE ICEDOGS
Devante Smith-Pelly's second goal of the game midway into the third period lifted the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to a 2-1 victory over the Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League Friday night.
The winner came as Smith-Pelly broke in on the right wing, took a pass from centre Casey Cizikas and beat Niagara goaltender Mark Visentin from close range.
WHL: LAMOUREUX'S OT GOAL GIVES GIANTS COMEBACK WIN OVER PATS
Greg Lamoureux's goal 1:58 into overtime gave the Vancouver Giants a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over the Regina Pats in Western Hockey League action Friday night.
Brendan Gallagher led the Giants (13-8-3) with two goals and an assist and also drew the penalty that set the stage for Lamoureux's winner. Matt MacKay and Nathan Burns also tallied for Vancouver in a wildly entertaining game before a raucous crowd of 11,476 at the Pacific Coliseum.
Saturday, November 20th 2010
QMJHL: LEWISTON DOWN SHAWINIGAN FOR 10TH STRAIGHT VICTORY
The Lewiston Maineiacs continued to roll through their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League competition Saturday.
Olivier Dame-Malka scored in overtime as the Maineiacs edged the Shawinigan Cataractes 2-1 for their 10th straight win. Lewiston sits fourth overall in the QMJHL.
OHL: AGOZZINO SCORES FOUR TIMES AS NIAGARA DOWNS OTTAWA
Captain Andrew Agozzino led his Niagara IceDogs by example Saturday night.
Agozzino scored four times as Niagara dropped the Ottawa 67's 5-3 in Ontario Hockey League action.
WHL: WINTERHAWKS PUT THE FREEZE ON BLAZERS
Nino Niederreiter scored a pair of goals and Taylor Aronson had a goal and two assists to lead the Portland Winterhawks past the Kamloops Blazers 6-4 in Western Hockey League play on Saturday night.
The game turned ugly at the end of the second period with three fights breaking out after the horn had sounded.
Sunday, November 21st 2010
QMJHL: REMPARTS SNAP LEWISTON'S 10 GAME WIN STREAK
The Quebec Remparts knew they needed to beat the Lewiston Maineiacs to hold on to their lead in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's East Division.
Martin Lefebvre opened the scoring for Quebec and added two assists as the Remparts got a crucial 4-2 victory against the rival Maineiacs Sunday afternoon.
OHL: TOFFOLI LEADS 67'S PAST RANGERS
The Ontario Hockey League's most prolific offences were on full display Sunday afternoon.
Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli scored in the shootout to power the Ottawa 67's past the Kitchener Rangers 5-4 in a game that showcased some of the best forwards in the league.
News stories at the start of the Canadian Hockey League season – really, any sport’s year – tends to focus on team events.
After all, there are team previews, predictions and personnel moves to write about. On the other hand, there are no individual accomplishments that are worth reporting on.
Let’s face facts: the current scoring leader isn’t that impressive when there are a dozen players within two points.
This weekend saw many of those individual stories finally begin to develop.
Friday night was the beginning of the latest chapter in Kiril Kabanov’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League career as he debuted with the Lewiston Maineiacs, his third junior club in as many years.
On Sunday, Kitchener’s Jason Akeson and Ryan Murphy were put on centre stage as they continued to dominate the Ontario Hockey League’s scoring race, dishing out seven assists between the two of them as their Rangers easily handled the London Knights.
I wholly expect that, barring injury, Kabanov, Akeson and Murphy will be players that I write about all season.
Sure, there are still some team-oriented stories to write about, like Saturdayès story of the surprising losing skid of the top-ranked Quebec Remparts, but the development of individual storylines will help add a little diversity to my news stories.
Give the CHL a few more weeks and we’ll really see some of the individual characters start to shine in the QMJHL, OHL and Western Hockey League.
Friday, November 5th 2010
QMJHL: MAINEIACS DOWN FOREURS IN KABANOV'S DEBUT
The debut of Kiril Kabanov barely figured into the Lewiston Maineiac's impressive win streak on Friday night.
Olivier Dame-Malka scored twice, including the eventual winner, as Lewiston prevailed over the Val-d'Or Foreurs 5-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: SADIKOV STOPS 27 AS THE OTTERS BLANK ATTACK
Ramis Sadikov celebrated in style on Friday night.
The Erie Otters' second-year goaltender recorded his first Ontario Hockey League shutout in a 4-0 win against the Midwest Division-leading Owen Sound Attack.
WHL: ARONSON THE OVERTIME HERO AS WINTERHAWKS WIN OVER REBELS
Taylor Aronson scored 3:40 into overtime to give the Portland Winterhawks a 4-3 win over the Red Deer Rebels in Western Hockey League play on Friday night.
The Winterhawks spent most of the extra period in Red Deer's end of the ice, generating several chances.
Saturday, November 6th 2010
QMJHL: LEBLANC PP GOALS SENDS JUNIORS PAST REMPARTS
Suddenly, the Quebec Remparts don't look so hot.
Louis Leblanc's power-play goal early in the third period stood as the winner as the Montreal Juniors slipped by the Remparts 3-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Saturday night.
OHL: WEREK AND SARAULT SO HEROES AS FRONTENACS EDGE BULLS
The Kingston Frontenacs just won't let up on the Belleville Bulls this season.
Kingston continued to have the Belleville's number Saturday night, pulling out a 3-2 shootout win in Ontario Hockey League action.
WHL; ROWINSKI'S THREE POINTS SPARK WARRIORS TO WIN OVER PATS
Brendan Rowinski scored twice and added an assist for the Moose Jaw Warriors in their 5-3 win over the Regina Pats in Western Hockey League action Saturday night.
Moose Jaw scored five unanswered goals to register their fifth-straight win.
Sunday, November 7th 2010
QMJHL: O'BRIEN LEADS TITAN PAST SAGUENEENS
Zach O'Brien and David Gilbert did most of the heavy lifting for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan on Sunday afternoon.
O'Brien and Gilbert had shootout markers to lead the Titan past the Chicoutimi Sagueneens 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL: AKESON, MURPHY POWER KITCHENER PAST LONDON
Jason Akeson and Ryan Murphy are getting results through their unselfish play.
Akeson had four assists as the Kitchener Rangers had three unanswered goals to race past the London Knights 5-4 in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon.
Don’t call it a comeback, the Windsor Spitfires have been here for years.
The Spitfires reeled off four-straight wins to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and dump the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday afternoon and move on to the Ontario Hockey League championship.
They’ll be meeting the Barrie Colts for the John Ross Robertson Cup and the chance to repeat as the Memorial Cup champions.
There is a blend of confidence and desperation surrounding the Spitfires, as they have one of the most loaded rosters in junior hockey, but most of their key personnel like Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler are going to graduate to the National Hockey League.
Windsor was also supposed to easily dispose of Kitchener but struggled mightily against the surprising Rangers. This combination of hope and fear will make them a determined squad when they meet Barrie on Friday.
The Western Hockey League also followed the script, with the top-seeded Tri-City Americans besting the Vancouver Giants in six games and the Calgary Hitmen topping the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games.
It’s worth noting that Wheat Kings fans shouldn’t despair – as Brandon is hosting the Canadian Hockey League’s top tournament they’ll still get a shot at the Memorial Cup.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the only CHL division that hasn’t sorted out its final, with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Victoriaville Tigres still engaged in their semifinal series.
Whoever wins that team will go on to face the Moncton Wildcats for the QMJHL’s President’s Cup.
Moncton should be fresh after dealing with the Drummondville Voltigeurs in just five games.
Longtime readers will know that this is something of a disappointment to me. I had a great deal of faith in Drummondville and their goaltender Jake Allen, picking them to advance to the Memorial Cup.
Aside from that hiccup, everything else is playing out correctly in my early predictions. I’m pleased to say that the remaining teams really are the cream of the CHL crop. When action picks up again on Friday it should make for some exciting hockey.
Now things get interesting.
I made some predictions in this space last Wednesday, and, well, as far as prognostication goes I guess I shouldn’t quit my day job.
The biggest shock is that the Windsor Spitfires, favoured by me to win the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference, looks dead on arrival, already trailing the Kitchener Rangers 3-0 in their semifinal match-up.
Most shocking of all is that the third loss came on a heartbreaking goal when Kitchener’s Gabriel Landeskog dumped the puck into Windsor’s end where it bounced past Troy Passingham to stand as the winner.
(Check out of 3:54 of this video to see for yourself.)
It’s shocking to see last year’s Memorial Cup Champions, featuring a host of all-star talent including Taylor Hall and Cam Fowler, struggling like this. They're a stocked roster that most liked to win the John Ross Robertson cup.
If anything, this just opens the door for an easy Barrie Colts victory in the final, as they will surely finish off the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
Similarly, the Drummondville Voltigeurs, my favourites to win the Quebec Major Junior hockey League, are down 2-0 in their series with the Moncton Wildcats.
It gets worse for Drummondville too: the next two games of the season will be in New Brunswick, with Moncton having home ice advantage.
I thought that the stellar play of goaltender Jake Allen would be enough to sustain the Voltigeurs, but it looks like an all-New Brunswick final is the QMJHL’s destiny, with both Moncton and the Saint John Sea Dogs looking strong.
Meanwhile, both series in the Western Hockey League are all tied up at 1-1. The Calgary Hitmen and Brandon Wheat Kings will meet again on Tuesday night in Manitoba, while the Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants will hook up in British Columbia the same night.
I should note that I have some good news and some bad news. The Good: I have been moved to the pagination department for the duration of the summer and will return to the junior hockey beat in September. The Bad: This means that I will not be writing or editing Canadian Hockey League copy for the rest of the playoffs.
Fear not dear reader! I will still write about the goings-on in Canadian junior hockey every Monday. It's a drug; I'm addicted.
After admonishing Tri-City last week, the Americans stepped up and reeled off three wins to take their series against the Kelowna Rockets 4-1.
I doubt my post made it on to their locker room’s bulletin board, so you can save your thanks for some other day, residents of Kennewick, Wash.
The victory also helped fans of the Canadian Hockey League by moving them closer to the official semifinal pairings for all three leagues.
Out east, the Saint John Sea Dogs will be facing the Victoriaville Tigres and the Moncton Wildcats will tangle with the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
As I’ve said previously, I really like the Voltigeurs, and I expect that they’ll tame the Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League finals.
Here in Ontario, the Barrie Colts will play the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors starting tonight, and the Windsor Spitfires will lock up with the Kitchener Rangers on Thursday night.
No bold predictions here – just obvious ones. Barrie and Windsor will definitely handle their opponents, making for a classic pairing for the John Ross Robertson Cup and the Ontario Hockey League Championship. At the end of it all, I think it will be the Colts that go on to the Memorial Cup.
The Western Hockey League semifinals will be the most hotly contested across the nation, with the Calgary Hitmen staring down the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Eastern Conference final and the aforementioned Americans tangling with the Vancouver Giants.
It’s a shame that the Hitmen and Wheat Kings can’t meet in the league final. They are the two best teams remaining in these brackets, and it would’ve made it a more pure championship.
That said, I still like Calgary’s chances to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup when they meet with Tri-City.
Friday, April 9th 2010
QMJHL – Cornet scores in second OT as Rouyn-Noranda edges Moncton
It took nearly five full periods of play, but Philippe Cornet kept the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies' playoff hopes alive on Friday night.
Cornet scored 14:28 into double overtime as the Huskies eked out a 5-4 win over the Moncton Wildcats in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League post-season action. (See more...)
WHL – Tri-City wins series with OT victory over Kelowna
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Kruise Reddick scored at 5:37 of overtime to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets and a series win in Western Hockey League playoff action on Friday night.
Tri-City wins the series 4-1 and will play the winner of the Vancouver Giants-Spokane Chiefs pairing in the Western Conference final. (See more...)
Saturday, April 10th 2010
QMJHL – Bourque has winner as Moncton wins game, series vs. Huskies
MONCTON, N.B. - Gabriel Bourque and the Moncton Wildcats weren't too tired to finish their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League series on Saturday night.
Bourque had the eventual winner 14 seconds into the final period as Moncton finished off the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 3-1, taking their quarter-final series. (See more...)
OHL – Knights drop Rangers to force Game 7
KITCHENER, Ont. -- Jared Knight scored twice as the London Knights forced a seventh game in their series against the Kitchener Rangers with a 5-3 win in Ontario Hockey League playoff action on Saturday night.
The decisive Game 7 will be in London on Monday night. The winners of the Western Conference semifinal will face the Windsor Spitfires. (See more...)
Niederreiter’s two goals keeps Portland alive in WHL semis
VANCOUVER -- Nino Niederreiter scored twice and added an assist as the Portland Winterhawks avoided elimination from the Western Hockey League playoffs with a 5-4 victory over the Vancouver Giants on Saturday night.
Portland will host Game 6 on Tuesday. If necessary, Game 7 will also be held there on Thursday. (See more...)
Sunday, April 11th 2010
WHL – Foucault nets OT winner as Hitmen down Tigers, claim series
MEDICINE HAT, Alta. - Kris Foucault scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Calgary Hitmen edged the Medicine Hat Tigers 3-2 to end their Western Hockey League playoff series on Sunday night.
Calgary won the series 4-2 and will face the winner of the Brandon Wheat Kings-Saskatoon Blades pairing in the Eastern Conference final. (See more...)