Toronto, ON – Just two more weeks until the 2016 Ontario Hockey League playoffs! 14 teams have clinched but lots of exciting battles for position remain with 22 games tonight through Sunday.
Here’s a look at what’s going on around the league:
AT THE RINKS:
Selfie Jersey Night in Flint: The Flint Firebirds will be wearing special jerseys on Saturday night against the Kitchener Rangers. The selfie-themed uniforms will feature photos submitted by fans. Don’t miss out on this unique jersey night!
Guns N’ Hoses Challenge Saturday in Erie: The Otters host their 6th annual Guns and Hoses Challenge on Saturday prior to squaring off with the Guelph Storm. Fans can watch Erie County’s finest heroes battle it out on the Erie Insurance Arena ice for city supremacy! Members of Erie Police will take on Erie Firefighters on Saturday at 3:00pm, with a portion of proceeds from the game going toward the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Full Story
Hockey for the Homeless Night in Saginaw: The Saginaw Spirit take to the ice on Saturday for Hockey for the Homeless Night at home to the London Knights. Special jerseys will be auctioned off after the game to benefit Rescue Mission of Saginaw and Bay City, as well as the Saginaw Spirit Charitable Foundation.
Bulldogs unveil 2016-17 jerseys on Sunday: Be the first to see the Hamilton Bulldogs’ new look! The Bulldogs will be announcing the winner of their jersey design contest during their final regular season home game on Sunday. The winning design will be unveiled by their mascot Bruiser during the first intermission. Discounted Fan Appreciation Packs are available online for the game up until March 11th at 5:00pm.
Greyhounds wrap up ‘Connecting Our Community’ visits: The Soo Greyhounds wrapped up their tenth and final ‘Connecting Our Community’ program visit this past week, an initiative that includes the Greyhounds visiting various hospitals throughout the greater Sault Ste. Marie area. During their visits, Greyhounds players hand out stuffed animals and spend time with patients while also assisting volunteers and staff with other initiatives such as wayfinding. Photo Galleries
Otters name 20th anniversary team: The fans have spoken! The Erie Otters 20th anniversary team has been selected and the starting lineup consists of Connor McDavid, Connor Brown, Dane Fox, Chris Campoli, Travis Dermott and T.J. Aceti. Visit ottershockey.com for the rest of the roster!
Knights hold March Breakaway, team autograph session on Monday: The London Knights will hold their ‘March Breakaway’ on Monday at White Oaks Mall, a visit with fans that includes a scavenger hunt and a full-team autograph session. The event runs from1-3pm.
Skate with the Petes on Monday: The Peterborough Petes will be kicking off March break in style on Monday as they hit the ice for a skate with fans. The Petes will take to the ice from 12-1pm at the Peterborough Memorial Centre and invite fans of all ages to attend!
OHL ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF NEW WEB PLATFORM AND LEAGUE SITE:
The Ontario Hockey League in partnership with Stadium Digital has announced the launch of a newly designed website at ontariohockeyleague.com.
The revamped OHL site marks the beginning of a Canadian Hockey League wide network redesign that will see 66 other team, league, and special event websites unveiled in the coming weeks. Full Story
PETES’ HUNTER GARLENT TAKES WEEKLY HONOURS:
Hunter Garlent of the Peterborough Petes is the Pioneer Energy OHL Player of the Week for the week ending March 6 after scoring six goals and one assist for seven points in two games along with a plus-minus rating of plus-1. Garlent scored back-to-back hat-tricks and earned first star honours in both games played last week helping the Petes clinch a berth in the Eastern Conference OHL Playoffs. Full Story
COLTS’ KEVIN LABANC SIGNS WITH SHARKS:
Barrie Colts forward and OHL leading scorer Kevin Labanc has signed a three-year, entry-level NHL contract with the San Jose Sharks. The three-time CHL Player of the Week has set career highs in goals (38), assists (81), points (119) and plus/minus (+58) this season and has earned OHL Player of the Week honours four times. Full Story
TIP TOP TAILORS OHL PLAYS OF THE WEEK – WEEK 23:
Mitch Marner is back atop the Tip Top Tailors OHL Plays of the Week! After winning the CHL Fan Choice vote two weeks ago, he needs your votes again! Visit fanchoice.ca to watch this week’s top plays from across the CHL and cast your vote.
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! 145 different players have accomplished the milestone this season! Click on a player’s name below to watch his first OHL goal!
Scheifele nets first NHL hat-trick: Barrie Colts graduate Mark Scheifele recorded his first NHL hat-trick in a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. The 22-year-old has 21 goals, 21 assists and 42 points in 55 games with the Jets in his third full NHL season. A native of Kitchener, ON, Scheifele enjoyed three productive seasons with the Barrie Colts from 2010-13, amassing 84 goals, 133 assists and 217 career regular season points in 158 games. He was Winnipeg’s first round (7th overall) pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Kosmachuk makes NHL debut: Guelph Storm graduate Scott Kosmachuk made his NHL debut with the Winnipeg Jets in their 4-2 loss to Nashville on Tuesday. Kosmachuk has spent the season with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, recording 14 goals, 13 assists and 27 points in 59 contests. The 22-year-old played four seasons in Guelph after being the Storm’s second round pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection. Kosmachuk recorded 120 goals, 126 assists and 246 career regular season points in 271 games. He was Winnipeg’s third round (70th overall) pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.
Kostopoulos reaches rare milestone: London Knights graduate Tom Kostopoulos has become just the fourth player in hockey history to play 600 games in both the NHL and the AHL. The 37-year-old Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain accomplished the feat on Sunday, joining Dave Creighton, Jim Morrison and fellow OHL gradaute Shawn Thornton in the 600-club for both leagues. Kostopoulos came up in the Penguins organization after a three-year OHL career with the London Knights from 1996-99. The Mississauga native played 630 NHL games between 2001 and 2013 but has since returned to where he began in the AHL, with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Kostopoulos had 64 goals, 98 assists and 162 career points in 196 regular season OHL contests, reaching the OHL finals with the Knights in 1999. For more on his story, visit theahl.com.
Leighton becomes AHL’s new all-time shutouts leader: Windsor Spitfires graduate Michael Leighton surpassed goaltending great Johnny Bower for the most shutouts in AHL history on Saturday, making 35 saves in Rockford’s 5-0 blanking of the Lake Erie Monsters. Leighton’s 46th career shutout sees him improve to 29-6-8-3 with a 2.37 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage this season. The 34-year-old has played in 439 career regular season AHL contests with a record of 220-163-41 and was named AHL Goaltender of the Year in 2008. A native of Petrolia, ON, Leighton has also appeared in 105 career NHL contests, making it to the Stanley Cup finals with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. Leighton played in 124 career regular season OHL games with the Windsor Spitfires from 1998-2001, going 53-47-9 with a 3.30 goals-against average, .903 save percentage and three shutouts.
Palazzese signs with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: Sudbury Wolves graduate Franky Palazzese has signed a professional tryout contract with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The 22-year-old has appeared in 35 games with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers this season, going 19-14-1-1 with a 2.86 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage with four shutouts. Palazzese played parts of five OHL seasons between Kingston, Kitchener and Sudbury from 2009-14, going 71-69-7-19 with a 3.13 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and seven shutouts in 175 career regular season games. He finished second in OHL save percentage with a mark of .927 during the 2012-13 season.
Valiquette named ECHL Goaltender of the Week: Sudbury Wolves graduate Alain Valiquette has been named the ECHL Goaltender of the Week after going 2-0-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .978 save percentage in two games with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Valiquette, who was acquired in a trade with the Elmira Jackals on Thursday, made 46 saves in a 6-1 win on Saturday and turned aside 42 shots in a 4-1 victory on Sunday. The Sudbury, ON, native played the past four seasons at Laurentian University after graduating from the OHL. Valiquette played parts of five seasons in Sudbury from 2006-11, going 50-67-3-3 with a 3.94 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage in 142 career regular season games.
10 OHL graduates win AUS championship with St. Fx: Ten OHL graduates have won an AUS Championship with the St. Francis Xavier X-Men. The No. 4 ranked X-Men defeated the No. 1 ranked UNB Varsity Reds with a pair of wins to claim their first AUS title since 2004. The second and deciding game of the series featured a pair of goals from Owen Sound Attack graduate Nathan Chiarlitti along with goals from Peterborough Petes graduates Michael Clarke and Nathan Pancel. Saginaw Spirit grads Kristoff Kontos and Eric Locke both had assists in the win while other OHL alumni in Brandon Hope (Niagara IceDogs), Max Iafrate (Kitchener Rangers), Craig Duininck (Sudbury Wolves) and Zack MacQueen (Windsor Spitfires) were also part of the team. The X-Men will compete in the 2016 CIS University Cup in Halifax beginning Thursday March 17th.
Western defeats Guelph to advance to Queen’s Cup Final: The Western Mustangs are headed to their first Queen’s Cup Final since 2012 and have punched their ticket to the CIS Championship in Halifax. Kingston Frontenacs graduate Robert Polesello and former Mississauga Steelheads forward Spenser Cobbold both had goals for the Mustangs in their 5-1 victory over the Guelph Gryphons in Game 3 of their OUA semi-final series. The Mustangs will face the UQTR Patriotes in the OUA Championship on Saturday while Guelph faces Carleton for bronze. The winner of the bronze medal game will clinch a spot in the CIS Championship.
KEY WEEKEND MATCHUPS:
Sarnia Sting (37-18-5-2) vs. Windsor Spitfires (37-20-6-0)
Thursday March 10 at Windsor
The war for the West Division rages on as the Windsor Spitfires are hot on the heels of the Sarnia Sting entering a big Thursday night battle. The Sting got the better of Windsor by a score of 2-1 last Friday as goals from Nikita Korostelev and Sam Studnicka propelled them to victory. Sarnia has taken wins in three of their four meetings with Windsor this season and a win on Thursday would put the Spitfires three points back with Sarnia holding a game in hand. Windsor enters action coming off a 6-3 loss to Kingston on Sunday. Arizona Coyotes prospect Christian Fischer has points in eight straight games and leads the Spits in scoring with 36 goals, 49 assists and 85 points in 61 games.
North Bay Battalion (32-21-5-4) vs. Oshawa Generals (24-30-4-4)
Friday March 11 at Oshawa
The Oshawa Generals will have a pair of big points on the line Friday night at home to North Bay. The Gennies currently lead ninth place Hamilton by two points with two games in hand and will look to strengthen their grip on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Captain Anthony Cirelli has points in six straight games while goaltender Jeremy Brodeur has won three straight starts. The Battalion enter the weekend with a five point cushion over fourth place Niagara in the Eastern Conference. They’ve taken two of their three meetings against Oshawa this season. The two clubs have a recent history with one another having met in the OHL playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Niagara IceDogs (31-25-3-3) vs. Hamilton Bulldogs (23-33-8-0)
Sunday March 13 at Hamilton
Like Oshawa, the Hamilton Bulldogs have a big weekend ahead with matchups against Sudbury and Niagara. Trailing the Generals to enter the weekend, the Bulldogs need to make every game count from here on out. Hamilton forwards Matt Luff and Matthew Strome have been contributing regularly of late, with Luff coming off a red hot month of February to record five points through his first three March contests and Strome collecting points in five of his last six games. Niagara comes off a big 4-2 win over the Erie Otters on Sunday to face Flint, North Bay and Hamilton this weekend. They’re playing for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and currently hold a one point lead on fifth place Ottawa.
Thursday, March 10
Flint at Niagara – 7:00pm
North Bay at Peterborough – 7:05pm
Sault Ste. Marie at Saginaw – 7:05pm
Sarnia at Windsor – 7:05pm
Friday, March 11
Mississauga at Kingston – 7:00pm
Barrie at Sudbury – 7:00pm
Saginaw at Sarnia – 7:05pm
London at Sault Ste. Marie – 7:07pm
Erie at Guelph – 7:30pm
Owen Sound at Kitchener – 7:30pm
North Bay at Oshawa – 7:35pm
Saturday, March 12
Guelph at Erie – 7:00pm
Sudbury at Hamilton – 7:00pm
Ottawa at Kingston – 7:00pm
North Bay at Niagara – 7:00pm
London at Saginaw – 7:05pm
Peterborough at Barrie – 7:30pm
Kitchener at Flint – 7:30pm
Windsor at Owen Sound – 7:30pm
Sunday, March 13
Kitchener at Sault Ste. Marie – 2:07pm
Niagara at Hamilton – 3:00pm
Peterborough at Oshawa – 6:05pm
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