Toronto, ON – Just five more weeks until the 2016 Ontario Hockey League playoffs with lots of exciting battles for position continuing this weekend with 26 games tonight through Sunday.
Here’s a look at what’s going on around the league:
AT THE RINKS:
Spitfires honour Mickey Renaud on Thursday: The Windsor Spitfires hold their annual Mickey Renaud Night on Thursday at home to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The Spitfires honour their former captain prior to puckdrop.
Wolves, Colts, 67’s, Battalion raise mental health awareness: The Sudbury Wolves (Friday), Barrie Colts, Ottawa 67’s (Saturday) and North Bay Battalion (Sunday) are teaming up with the Canadian Mental Health Association to raise mental health awareness this weekend. The four clubs will be promoting the #TalkToday program, presented by the OHL in partnership with CMHA Ontario.
Pink in the Rink in Hamilton on Saturday: The Hamilton Bulldogs host Pink in the Rink Night on Saturday! Wear your pink and help support the fight against cancer as the Bulldogs don special pink jerseys to celebrate the occasion. The game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off post-game with proceeds going toward the fight against cancer. There is also a pre-game Skate-a-thon from 4:00-5:00pm where fans can skate with Bulldogs president Steve Staios and mascot Bruiser. For full details please visithamiltonbulldogs.com.
Otters support ANNA Shelter, hold Dylan Strome bobblehead giveaway on Sunday: The Erie Otters are supporting ANNA Shelter on Sunday at home to the Kitchener Rangers. Fans can purchase discounted tickets with a portion of proceeds going to the shelter while also bringing donations to the game. Not to be overlooked, the first 500 kids age 12-and-under through the doors on Sunday will receive a Dylan Strome bobblehead! For full details on donation items and more, please visit ottershockey.com.
Storm, Battalion pay visit to backyard rinks: Both the Guelph Storm and North Bay Battalion paid visits to outdoor rinks in their communities as part of the Home Depot Backyard Rink Contest. Check out photos from the Storm and the Battalion from their visits this past week!
Vote on the Bulldogs’ new look: The top three finalists have been selected and now fans can have their say! Voting on the top three designs is ongoing and will run until March 1st. Voting ballots are available at all Bulldogs home games, the Bulldogs front office and online at www.hamiltonbulldogs.com/jerseycontest. Check out a visual of the top three finalists.
Spirit holding new and used equipment sale on Saturday: The Saginaw Spirit are holding a new and used equipment sale on Saturdayat the Dow Event Center in the northwest concourse of section 24. For full details on what’s available please visit saginawspirit.com.
Wolves hold annual hockey card autograph signing: The Sudbury Wolves will host their annual hockey card autograph session on Saturday February 20th from 2:00pm -3:00pm at the New Sudbury Centre (Food Court). Get out and meet your 2015-16 Sudbury Wolves and pick up a free set of 2015-16 Sudbury Wolves hockey cards!
COLTS’ KEVIN LABANC TAKES WEEKLY HONOURS:
San Jose Sharks prospect Kevin Labanc of the Barrie Colts is the CHL Player of the Week for the week ending February 14 after recording 11 points in three games including four goals and seven assists with a plus-minus rating of plus-6. Labanc earns the award for the third time this season after becoming the first player in the OHL to eclipse 100 points. His three multi-point performances helped the Colts extend their winning-streak to eight games securing their hold on second place in the league’s Eastern Conference standings with 70 points. A 20-year-old from Staten Island, New York, Labanc is playing in his third career OHL season with the Colts and currently ranks fourth in all-time franchise scoring with 245 points in 184 games. A sixth round pick of the Sharks in the 2014 NHL Draft, Labanc now has 103 points in 51 games for his second consecutive 100-point campaign and is second to only Conor Garland of the Moncton Wildcats (109 points in 50 games) in CHL scoring.
67’s’ LEO LAZAREV NAMED VAUGHN CHL GOALTENDER OF THE WEEK:
Leo Lazarev of the Ottawa 67’s is the Vaughn CHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending February 14 after posting a 2-0-0-0 record including a shutout victory with a goals-against-average of 0.50 and save percentage of .983. Lazarev made 57 saves and allowed just one goal in two games last week for the 67’s who are in the midst of a tight battle for playoff positioning in the OHL’s Eastern Conference currently in a three-way tie for fourth place and just two points shy of third. Born in Moscow, Russia, Lazarev was chosen by the 67’s in the second round of the 2014 OHL Priority Selection and is playing in his second season with the club. The 18-year-old carries a 21-13-0-0 record so far this season with a save percentage of .905 and a goals-against-average of 2.72 which ranks seventh in the OHL.
TIP TOP TAILORS OHL PLAYS OF THE WEEK – WEEK 20:
Mitchell Marner’s magical moves headline the 20th edition of the Tip Top Tailors OHL Plays of the Week! Be sure to vote for Marner in this week’s CHL Fan Choice vote at fanchoice.ca!
GETTING ON THE BOARD: FIRST OHL GOALS IN 2015-16:
Check out the players who have scored their first OHL goal in the past week! 142 different players have accomplished the milestone this season! Click on a player’s name below to watch his first OHL goal!
ROAD TO THE 2016 OHL CUP CONTINUES:
The 2016 OHL Cup is just four weeks away! Four ALLIANCE teams are battling for three OHL Cup berths as semi-final action continues this weekend. This week we take a closer look at what the ALLIANCE has to offer, a league that has supplied such recent high-end talent as Travis Konecny (Sarnia Sting), Lawson Crouse (Kingston Frontenacs) and Logan Stanley (Windsor Spitfires). FULL STORY
OHL COMMISSIONER DAVID BRANCH A DISTINGUISHED HONOUREE OF THE ORDER OF HOCKEY IN CANADA AND WHITBY SPORTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE:
OHL Commissioner and CHL President David Branch is among the Distinguished Honourees of The Order of Hockey in Canada. As president of the Canadian Hockey League since 1996 and commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League since 1979, Branch oversees the world’s largest development league encompassing the OHL, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. FULL STORY
Also announced this week, Branch is included in the Whitby Sports Hall of Fame’s 2016 induction class. He will join retired National Lacrosse League player Gavin Prout and former CFL linebacker Jason Pottinger at the induction ceremony on Saturday, April 30th.
Cousins scores first NHL goal: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds graduate Nick Cousins scored his first career NHL goal last Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres, adding an assist to help lead the Flyers to a 5-1 victory. Cousins added another goal on Tuesday night in New Jersey as the Flyers won 6-3. A native of Belleville, ON, Cousins has spent the last two seasons in the AHL and has 12 goals, 26 assists and 38 points in 38 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. The 22-year-old played four seasons with the Greyhounds from 2009-13, finishing eighth in all-time franchise scoring with 102 goals, 189 assists and 291 points in 264 career regular season games. Cousins, who competed in the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic last month in Syracuse, was Philadelphia’s third round (68th overall) pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Paul makes NHL debut with Ottawa: North Bay Battalion graduate Nick Paul made his NHL debut with the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. The 20-year-old native of Mississauga, ON, saw 10:54 of ice, recording a shot on goal as the Sens defeated the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in a shootout. Paul has appeared in 45 games with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators this season, recording six goals, 11 assists and 17 points. The 6’4″, 223Ib centreman played three OHL seasons between Brampton and North Bay, recording 140 points (75-65–140) in 191 regular season contests. He had 34 points (19-15–34) in 42 career postseason games. Paul was the OHL’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2015.
Friesen makes NHL debut with Vancouver: Niagara IceDogs graduate Alex Friesen made his NHL debut with the Vancouver Canuckson Monday. The native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, has appeared in 41 games with the AHL’s Utica Comets this season, recording eight goals, 10 assists and 18 points. Friesen, who graduated from the OHL following the 2012 season, has spent the last three seasons in the American Hockey League. The 25-year-old was Vancouver’s sixth round (172nd overall) pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and played 292 career regular season games in Niagara from 2007-12. The 5’10”, 186Ib. centreman compiled 91 goals, 153 assists and 244 regular season points over his OHL career.
McFarland makes NHL debut with Florida: Former first overall OHL Priority Selection pick John McFarland made his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers on Saturday. McFarland suited up in his first NHL game after having spent the past three seasons with the American Hockey League’s San Antonio Rampage. In 43 AHL games with the Portland Pirates this season, McFarland has collected 14 goals, eight assists and 22 points in 43 games. The Richmond Hill, ON, native played in 219 career regular season OHL games between Sudbury, Saginaw and Ottawa, recording 90 goals, 100 assists and 190 points. McFarland was the first overall pick of the 2008 OHL Priority Selection and was later selected in the second round (33rd overall) by Florida in the 2010 NHL Draft.
McCollum sets new Griffins record: OHL graduate Tom McCollum played in his 211th career AHL game with the Grand Rapids Griffinson Friday, passing fellow OHL alumnus Joey MacDonald for first on the Griffins’ all-time list. McCollum is currently second in franchise wins (93), 16 behind MacDonald and is currently 5-9-0-0 with a 2.79 goals-against average eand a .917 save percentage in 15 games this season. The 26-year-old native of Sanborn, New York has been with Grand Rapids since the 2009-10 season, winning a Calder Cup title in 2013 after being Detroit’s first round (30th overall) pick in the 2008 NHL Draft. McCollum played three OHL seasons between Guelph and Brampton, going 85-51-8-12 with a 2.33 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and 16 shutouts over 160 games.
Campbell named ECHL Goaltender of the Week: For the second time this season, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds graduate Jack Campbell has been named the ECHL’s Goaltender of the Week. The 24-year-old went 2-0-0 with one shutout, a 0.48 goals-against average and a .983 save percentage in two appearances last week. Campbell made 17 saves in a 3-1 victory over Utah on Friday and stopped all 40 shots he faced in a 1-0 shootout win at Utah on Saturday. A native of Port Huron, MI, Campbell played two OHL seasons between Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie from 2010-12, going 45-29-5-6 with a 3.62 goals-against average and an .890 save percentage. He was Dallas’ first round (11th overall) pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.
Gryphons defend title as OUA playoffs are underway: The OUA playoffs got underway on Wednesday as the quest for the 105th Queen’s Cup has begun. The reigning OUA champion Guelph Gryphons who featured 13 OHL graduates (Andrew D’Agostini, Daniel Broussard, Mac Nichol, Mark Raycroft, Steven Strong, Nick Trecapelli, Carlos Amestoy, Brett Appio, Michael Hasson, Andres Kopstals, Trevor Morbeck, Kyle Neuber, Scott Simmonds), begin their title defence with a first round matchup against last year’s bronze medal winning Windsor Lancers. For full OUA Men’s Hockey playoff details, visit oua.ca.
KEY WEEKEND MATCHUPS:
Barrie Colts (34-17-0-2) vs. London Knights (39-12-2-1)
Friday February 19th at London – Sportsnet Friday Night Hockey
Sportsnet Friday Night Hockey features two of the OHL’s top contenders as the Barrie Colts visit the London Knights. Led by OHL leading scorer Kevin Labanc, the Colts enter the weekend as winners of eight of their last 10 and have won three of their last four away from home. Speedy Calgary Flames prospect Andrew Mangiapane is currently second in the OHL with 41 goals in 45 games, with 24 of those tallies coming since January 1st. Currently the fourth-ranked team in the country, the London Knights trail the Erie Otters by four points in the Midwest Division. They boast three of the league’s top five scorers in Christian Dvorak (42-54–96), Mitchell Marner (34-55–89) and Matthew Tkachuk (22-59–81). London took the only meeting between the two clubs so far this season by a score of 6-3 back on December 10th.
Niagara IceDogs (27-20-3-3) vs. Ottawa 67’s (29-24-1-1)
Saturday February 20th at Ottawa
With the Eastern Conference currently in a logjam, two clubs knotted with 60 points on the season go head-to-head on Saturdayafternoon in the nation’s capital. The Niagara IceDogs pay a visit to the Ottawa 67’s in a big matchup with a possible impact on home ice advantage come playoff time. The 67’s have won four of their last five games and embark on a three-in-three set on Friday in Kingston before matchups against Niagara and Oshawa. Ottawa has won nine games during Dante Salituro’s current 13-game point streak. The IceDogs have taken wins in two of their three encounters with Ottawa this season. Veteran captain Anthony DiFruscia has points in five of his last contests.
Thursday, February 18
Erie at Flint – 7:00pm
Hamilton at Niagara – 7:00pm
Sudbury at North Bay – 7:00pm
Kingston at Peterborough – 7:05pm
Sault Ste. Marie at Windsor – 7:05pm
Friday, February 19
Kingston at Ottawa – 7:00pm
Peterborough at Sudbury – 7:00pm
Erie at Saginaw – 7:05pm
Flint at Sarnia – 7:05pm
Owen Sound at Guelph – 7:30pm
Oshawa at Kitchener – 7:30pm
Barrie at London – 7:30pm – Sportsnet Friday Night Hockey
North Bay at Mississauga – 7:30pm
Saturday, February 20
Niagara at Ottawa – 1:00pm
Windsor at Hamilton – 7:00pm
Sault Ste. Marie at Saginaw – 7:05pm
Oshawa at Barrie – 7:30pm
London at Flint – 7:30pm
Guelph at Owen Sound – 7:30pm
Sunday, February 21
Niagara at Kingston – 12:30pm – CHL on Sportsnet
Peterborough at North Bay – 2:00pm
Mississauga at Sudbury – 2:00pm
Sault Ste. Marie at Sarnia – 2:05pm
Hamilton at Windsor – 2:05pm
Kitchener at Erie – 5:00pm
Ottawa at Oshawa – 6:05pm
CATCH ALL OF THE ACTION ON OHL LIVE