**Editor’s note from Tom Hunter
This past week was one to be noted around the CHL. It was Teddy Bear Toss week. For those new to the tradition, fans are asked to bring teddy bears to the game to donate to charity. It’s a lot of fun, as the crowd is encouraged to toss the stuffed animals on the ice when the home team scores. Having been a part of a few of these, I can tell you that it’s a blast for the kids – and us who are young at heart – in attendance.
The bears are donated by each team to local toy drives and children’s hospitals and it’s a tradition that puts into perspective how much these junior teams mean to their communities.
If you weren’t in attendance for a Teddy Bear Toss game, but want to contribute to the team’s charity of choice, go to your team’s website for more details.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) December 8, 2016
We are almost halfway through December which means we are near the midway point of the OHL regular season. Let’s look at who has been hot over the past week, who hasn’t and what players are stepping up.
The Hot 3
Sault Ste.Marie Greyhounds – The Soo Greyhounds continue to play at an unreal level. Though they may not be “The best in the West”, they have been playing like they are over the last few weeks. Their only loss in their last 12 games has come at the hands of the Erie Otters but there is no staying perfect, right? To their credit, they did defeat the Otters a month ago today 6-3. A huge part of the success of the team has come from goal scoring. They have outscored opponents 51 to 22. Two wins in 3 road games
To their credit, they did defeat the Otters a month ago today 6-3. A huge part of the success of the team has come from goal scoring. They have outscored opponents 51 to 22. Two wins in 3 road games is pretty decent and the next 3 games will be all at home. Ducks prospect, Jack Kopacka had a great weekend, especially over the last 2 games. Saturday he put up 2 goals on 2 shots against Erie and last night he scored 4 goals against Hamilton. Pretty nice getting production with Zach Senyshyn and Blake Speers at Canada’s World Junior camp.
Ducks prospect, Jack Kopacka had a great weekend, especially over the last 2 games. Saturday he put up 2 goals on 2 shots against Erie and last night he scored 4 goals against Hamilton. Pretty nice getting production with Zach Senyshyn and Blake Speers at Canada’s World Junior camp.
Erie Otters – 8-2-0-0 in the last 10 games and coming off a win against the hottest team in the OHL, Erie is playing like the best team in the league. They have been really hot and scoring a ton of goals – I would expect to see them at the top of the CHL top-10 list this week. The only issue for this team has been losing weird games. In the last 10, their 2 losses came at the hands of Saginaw and Guelph. Too bad the Colts couldn’t have been one of those terrible teams to sneak up on the Otters – maybe they are too terrible? Erie has all the top scorers and is getting production through the lineup. 44 goals total in the last 10 games for the team. Raddysh (61 points) and DeBrincat (60 points) still sit at the top of the league for total points and have some breathing room with Ranger, Jeremy Bracco who sits in 3rd with 51 points.
Erie has the top scorers in the league and is getting production right through the lineup. 44 goals total in the last 10 games for the team. Taylor Raddysh (61 points) and DeBrincat (60 points) still sit at the top of the league for total points and have some breathing room over, Jeremy Bracco who sits in 3rd with 51 points.
The true test will be over the next few weeks while Raddysh, DeBrincat and Dylan Strome are away at the World Juniors.
Windsor Spitfires – The hosts of the upcoming 2017 Memorial Cup are really looking solid right now. They’re coming off a three-game road trip that saw them sweep North Bay, Sudbury and Barrie. Yes, not the stiffest of competition, but anytime you can go undefeated over a road trip is a big win. No doubt a huge factor has been draft eligible goalie Michael DiPietro who made 21 saves last night in North Bay. The shutout was his 3rd straight and has his shutout streak at 204:16. The wins allowed them to take over top spot in the West Division.
Aaron Luchuk and Cristiano DiGiacinto had a strong showing, especially Saturday when each put up a goal and 3 assists. The biggest tests moving forward will be if DiPietro can keep up his solid work. He is currently leading the league in GAA with 2.11 and his 0.922 SAV% is also a league best. The team’s only issue has been goal production. Windsor’s 102 goals has them in the middle of the league for total production which might not be enough to keep them a top contender. The team’s 73 goals against is a league best and no doubt if they don’t pick up more goals, goaltending will be a deciding factor in their success moving forward.
Honourable mention to the Peterborough Petes and Mississauga Steelheads: The Petes have been in the news for struggles off the ice so it is nice to see the team put up some wins while their future seems to be in a bit of jeopardy. They are undefeated in their last 5 games which has allowed them to climb their way into the second place spot in the East division.
The Steelheads are looking like they have turned a corner. On a four-game winning streak, the addition of Spencer Watson to the lineup has been huge.
Lets not get this section confused but the Saginaw Spirit have been playing much better recently. Yes, they are still not a team to expect a lot from sitting at the bottom of the division and second last in the Western Conference, but they have managed to go on a bit of a hot streak. They are on a 5-0-1-1 streak which is huge for a team who has only put together 12 total wins on the season. Will the team keep up this recent success? Probably not.. But felt it was worth mentioning that they have played above the standard they have set this year. Not the toughest games in this recent win streak but it is worth noting they beat Oshawa 6-3 last night. Maybe they are turning the page? (probably not..)
No Pucks Shall Pass
Michael DiPietro as mentioned earlier has been unreal. 3 games without allowing a goal is very impressive, even if you are not playing the hardest competition. Erie is up next and that will be a true test to see how long he can keep up this streak.
Not So Hot
Man, I hope one day to be able to talk about the Barrie Colts in a positive light on this page, but here we are – they’re still terrible. They lost 6-1 yesterday afternoon to the Owen Sound Attack in a game that could not have ended any sooner. They did manage to get a win over the Flint Firebirds for the second time this season, sweeping the season series but that is Flint – these wins are hardly brag-worthy. The win is coming off of two straight shootout losses including one at home during the team’s teddy bear toss game. Fans eventually gave up waiting for a Colts goal and threw their teddy bears. It was kinda depressing…
Niagara IceDogs have also been terrible. The Central Division is not a strong one. Like the Colts, they have won 2 games in their last 10. Right now it looks like it will be a battle between these two teams to find out who will be picking at the top of next year’s draft.