Although the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has been playing for weeks, this past weekend was the real start of the junior hockey season in Canada.
The Ontario Hockey League had two games on Thursday night and then nine games Friday, with every team playing by Saturday. The Western Hockey League started with a full slate on Friday.
In short, business picked up. That also means, of course, that it's time for the triumphant return of My Weekend in Junior Hockey.
To keep things interesting for my readers I tried to avoid some of the clichés of the first weekend of a sports season. Phrases like “home opener”, “kicked off” and “young season” were routinely eliminated.
Instead there was a variety of stories that looked at the struggles of Canadian Hockey League rosters as they try to fill the gaps left by players departing for the National Hockey League, or the epic amount of travel time when prospects are sent back to junior from pro training camps.
I also took a look the hottest start of the QMJHL season and the emergence of a new star in the East.
All in all, I’m pretty proud of these stories. They’re tight and have a a fairly wide range of topics beyond the final score. Hopefully every weekend this season goes so well.
Friday, Sept. 24 2010
QMJHL - Audy-Marchessault scores six points in Remparts’ rout
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault's coming out party isn't over just yet.
Audy-Marchessault had a hat trick and a six-point night as the Quebec Remparts trounced the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 12-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.
OHL – Jared Knight the hero as Knights top Whalers in shootout
Jared Knight had to take the long way to get to the game, but he still wound up the hero Friday night.
The aptly-named Knight had the shootout winner as the London Knights scratched out a 3-2 win over the Plymouth Whalers in Ontario Hockey League action.
WHL – Gallagher’s five-point night lifts Giants over Bruins
Brendan Gallagher scored twice and had three assists as the Vancouver Giants posted a 9-4 win over the Chilliwack Bruins in Western Hockey League play Friday night.
Jordan Martinook's first of the season came with less than three minutes remaining in the second. The 18-year-old forward tipped Neil Manning's point shot past Bruins starter Lucas Gore at the 17:41 mark of the second period.
Saturday, Sept. 25 2010
QMJHL – Voltigeurs outlast Sea Dogs to remain undefeated
The Drummondville Voltigeurs needed extra time to hold onto their perfect record.
Ondrej Palat and Alexandre Comtois scored in the shootout as Drummondville rallied to a 7-6 win over the Saint John Sea Dogs in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Saturday night.
OHL – Grubauer shuts out former team as Kingston tops Bulls
Philip Grubauer made an impression on his current and former team Saturday night.
Grubauer had a successful return to Belleville as the Kingston Frontenacs blanked the Bulls 3-0 in Ontario Hockey League action.
WHL – T’Birds take advantage of Winterhawks’ depleted roster
The first month of junior hockey is always rough on rosters as many players are trying out with NHL clubs, and the Portland Winterhawks are no different.
Burke Gallimore scored twice to help the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 4-1 win over the Winterhawks in Western Hockey League play Saturday night.
Sunday, Sept. 26 2010
QMJHL – Lefrancois strong as Oceanic earn win over Mooseheads
Skill met savagery as the Rimouski Oceanic won a physical game Sunday afternoon.
Felix Lefrancois scored twice and added an assist as the Oceanic cruised to a 9-2 win over the Halifax Mooseheads in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL – Spitfires soar in rematch of final, beat Barrie Colts
The Windsor Spitfires soared in a rematch of last season's Ontario Hockey League final.
Alexander Khokhlachev and Stephen Johnson both scored twice to pace the Windsor Spitfires to a 7-5 win over the Barrie Colts on Sunday afternoon.
WHL – Wheat Kings take down Pats, Americans beat Thunderbirds
REGINA -- Mark Stone and Brenden Walker both scored and had an assist to lead the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 3-1 victory over the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League Sunday afternoon.
Paul Ciarelli also scored for the Brandon (2-0-0) with his first of the year.
The Western Hockey League is the very picture of dichotomy. Its Eastern Conference is locked in a struggle for dominance, while the West’s playoff picture is quickly coming into focus.
In the Prairies the Saskatoon Blades and Brandon Wheat Kings both have 84 points, with Saskatoon given the advantage with two games in hand.
The Blades edge might be short lived as Brandon is rolling, earning points in the last 11 games.
The Calgary Hitmen are in charge of the Central Division with 82 points and are white hot with eight straight wins.
The Hitmen and Wheat Kings are hitting their stride at the right time of year, climbing the standings and taking momentum into hockey’s second season. They will decide who is the hottest team in the league Monday night as Brandon will visit Calgary.
The Wheat Kings will have to keep a close eye on Brandon Kozun, whose 29 goals and 54 assists has the most points in the WHL. Brandon will also have to watch out for Tyler Fiddler who had two goals Friday night against the Prince Albert Raiders.
Despite the success of the Blades, Hitmen and Wheat Kings, no team in the East has booked tickets to hockey’s second season just yet.
Compare that knot to the WHL’s Western Conference where the playoff picture is almost completely sorted out.
The Tri-City Americans, Vancouver Giants, Portland Winterhawks, Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs have all clinched postseason spots.
Further, on Saturday night Portland beat Prince George 3-1, eliminating the Cougars from contention. This means that of the 12 teams in the West, half already know how they’ll be spending the playoffs.
The Seattle Thunderbirds will probably join Prince George soon, as they haven’t won a game since Jan. 9 when they, of course, earned a 3-1win over the Cougars. Since then it’s been 10 regulation losses and three in overtime.
That leaves it up to the Kelowna Rockets, Kamloops Blazers and Chilliwack Bruins to claim the final three postseason berths.
Friday, Feb. 12 2010
QMJHL – Quesnel leads Val-d’Or to win over Montreal
Alexandre Quesnel put the Val-d'Or Foreurs on his shoulders Friday night.
He scored back-to-back goals to lift the Foreurs to a 3-2 win over the Montreal Junior in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. (See more...)
OHL – Generals get pounded by Majors as Brace scores twice
Riley Brace and the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors were happy to take advantage of the slumping Oshawa Generals.
Brace scored a pair of goals and added an assist to lift Mississauga to a 6-0 win over Oshawa in the Ontario Hockey League Friday night. (See more...)
WHL – Hitmen run streak to seven straight with win over Raiders
Tyler Fiddler and the Calgary Hitmen continue to roll.
Fiddler scored twice, including the winner, to lead Calgary to a 3-1 win over the Prince Albert Raiders in Western Hockey League action on Friday night. (See more...)
Lefrancois scored four times and had two assists to lead the Rimouski Oceanic to a 9-6 win over the Halifax Mooseheads in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
OHL – Whalers’ Seguin scores OT winner to beat Sting
When the Plymouth Whalers are in a tight game they know they can rely on Tyler Seguin.
Seguin scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Plymouth Whalers topped the Sarnia Sting 5-4 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Cougars eliminated from playoffs with loss to Winterhawks
It's no surprise to Western Hockey League fans: the Prince George Cougars won't be making the playoffs.
With a 3-1 effort the Portland Winterhawks officially knocked Prince George out of the WHL post-season Saturday night. (See more...)
QMJHL – Tigres drop Chicoutimi as Pulin earns 75th careers win
Kevin Poulin made history as the Victoriaville Tigres rolled to a win Sunday afternoon.
Poulin made 17 saves as Victoriaville dumped the Chicoutimi Sagueneens 7-1 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. (See more...)
OHL – Hodgson scores first two if season as Battalion down Petes
Cody Hodgson is getting back into the swing of things.
The Vancouver Canucks draft pick scored his first two goals of the season as the Brampton Battalion shut down the Peterborough Petes 4-0 on Sunday afternoon in Ontario Hockey League play. (See more...)
Friday Jan. 29, 2010
QMJHL – Retooled Wildcats win 12th game in a row
“The Moncton Wildcats continue to thrive after they retooled at the trade deadline.
Daniel Pettersson had back-to-back power-play goals as Moncton doubled the Acadie-Bathurst Titan 6-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.” (Read more...)
OHL – Cameron has hat trick as Colts blank Majors
“Bryan Cameron and the Barrie Colts continue to dominate Ontario Hockey League's Central Division.
Bryan Cameron scored three goals and Mavric Parks posted his second shutout of the season as the Barrie Colts triumphed over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors 4-0 Friday night.” (Read more...)
WHL – Silvertips down Winterhawks for 13th straight win
“Simply put, the Everett Silvertips haven't lost since 2009.
Zack Dailey scored twice, including the game-winner midway through the third period, as the Everett Silvertips downed the Portland Winterhawks 4-3 in Western Hockey League action Friday night." (Read more...)
Saturday, Jan. 30 2010
QMJHL – Huberdeau has career night, Saint John pounds Val-d’Or
“Jonathan Huberdeau had the biggest game of his junior career Saturday night.
The 16-year-old forward scored three goals and set up two as the Saint John Sea Dogs crushed the Val-d'Or Foreurs 11-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.” (Read more...)
OHL – Jenks and McRae lead way as Whalers down Knights
“Captain AJ Jenks and Phil McRae were instrumental Saturday as the Plymouth Whalers continue to roll.
Jenks' goal and two assists led the Whalers to a convincing 6-1 win over the London Knights in Ontario Hockey League play.” (Read more...)
WHL: Hulak has three points as Blades down Broncos
“The Saskatoon Blades and Derek Hulak made it look easy Saturday night.
The Saskatoon Blades, led by a three-point outing from Hulak, skated to a 7-4 win over the Swift Current Broncos in Western Hockey League action.” (Read more...)
Sunday, Jan. 31 2010
QMJHL – Acadie-Bathurst edges Val-d’Or in shootout
“Julien Tremblay and Bryce Milson wanted to see the Acadie-Bathurst Titan's slide come to an end.
Tremblay and Milson scored in the shootout as Acadie-Bathurst edged the Val-d'Or Foreurs 6-5 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Sunday afternoon.” (Read more...)
OHL – Shugg scores twice as Windsor Spitfires down Sarnia
“Justin Shugg helped push the Windsor Spitfires into the post-season Sunday afternoon.
Shugg scored twice as the Windsor Spitfires defeated the Sarnia Sting 4-1 in Ontario Hockey League play.” (Read more...)
The playoff pictures in the Canadian Hockey League really started to take shape last week.
In the Ontario Hockey League the Barrie Colts and Windsor Spitfires both clinched spots. As last year’s Memorial Cup champions the Spitfires have been favourites all year, but they’ve been slowed by injuries and suspensions to key players like Adam Henrique and Zack Kassian. Of course, the fact that their top line played for Team Canada in the World Juniors briefly mellowed their offence as well.
Those aren’t the only teams in the OHL though. The Ottawa 67’s, Plymouth Whalers, London Knights and Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors have looked pretty strong recently and should play their way into the postseason.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is similarly set, with the Saint John Sea Dogs and Moncton Wildcats the early favourites to win the President’s Cup. After Saint John’s historic 22-game win streak, the Sea Dogs have settled into a competitive rhythm. Now it’s Moncton that’s on a tear, winning 12 in a row, trying to play catch up to their consistent Atlantic division rivals.
The Central Division is where the action happens in the QMJHL, with the Victoriaville Tigres and Drummondville Voltigeurs side-by-side at the top of the table. Both are solid teams who’ve won six of their last 10 games, but with Drummondville earning two consecutive wins and Victoriaville dropping three straight, the division might sort itself out soon.
Like the Moncton Wildcats, the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips have been clawing their way to the top of the standings in 2010. In fact, they haven’t lost since 2009 having strung together 14 consecutive wins. However, they’re still trailing the Vancouver Giants and league-best Tri-City Americans in the West Conference standings.
In the East, the Saskatoon Blades, Medicine Hat Tigers and Brandon Wheat Kings have all established themselves as the class of the Conference.
All three will have to keep up the pace though, as the Kootenay Ice have gone 8-1-1 in their last 10 and the Calgary Hitmen shutout Tri-City 3-0 on Sunday.