News From Around the OHL

League still gives shootout victory equal weight, which gives Erie an edge this year

Everyone will tell you championships are won as a team.

But along the way, you need some special people doing spectacular things. There is key individual performance rooted in collective success.

That’s why the London Knights — 4-3 winners over Erie before 9,046 Friday at Budweiser Gardens — head to Pennsylvania Saturday needing just one point to claim the OHL regular-season title.

“We needed to get this one to get to the next one,” power forward Max Jones, the two-goal hero, said. “We have to relax now, look forward and play the same game we did.

“We need to replicate it one more time.”

The Otters, who once held a huge lead in the standings over everyone else, need a regulation win on home ice to clinch top spot, by virtue of a tiebreaker, over London.

But the Knights are on a nine-game winning streak.

And when they have needed it, their big names have stepped up with memorable plays.

Take Jones, who started killing penalties as if he was on a personal mission.

He pinned the Otters behind their net on one — to appreciative cheers. Then, he stole the puck on another, roared down the ice and ripped home the go-ahead shorthanded goal, this time to a mighty roar.

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OHL’s outdated playoff format needs change

KITCHENER — The Ontario Hockey League has to be licking its chops.

The London Knights and Erie Otters are tied with three games to go in the season and finish the schedule with a home-and-home series that will likely decide first overall.

It’s shaping up to be one heck of a finish, a dream ending for the league.

There’s just one problem.

The team that doesn’t end up first will be the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

You can thank the OHL’s outdated post-season setup for that one.

For some reason, the league still insists on giving the second seed in each conference to a division champion regardless of record.

So in the Western Conference you’ll have the West Division winner getting a better path in the playoffs over a club that has outperformed it all season.

That means the Knights or Otters could lose home ice advantage if they make it to the second round despite owning the two best records in the league. No benefit of a Game 7 in their own barn and no gate receipts either.

It just doesn’t make sense.

The OHL prides itself on its willingness to change and often lives up to the billing. But when it comes to playoff seeding, it’s stuck in the Dark Ages.

It’s time to make the bold move of seeding playoff clubs one through 16 regardless of the conference. If that means two teams from the same conference meet in the championship then so be it.

Don’t you want your two best squads in the final anyway?

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Sarnia Sting brace for post-season battle with the Soo Greyhounds

Bring on the Greyhounds.

The Sarnia Sting finally discovered the identity of their first-round playoff opponent Friday night, and it’s the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. The Owen Sound Attack clinched sixth in the Western Conference with a victory over the Guelph Storm, which means the ‘Hounds are locked into the seventh seed and will take on the second-place Sting.

“We knew we were going to get the Soo or Owen Sound,” Sting defenceman Alex Black said. “We’ve played really well against (the Soo) this year so hopefully we can continue that. Hopefully it will be a good series.”

The best-of-seven series will start next Friday in Sarnia with Game 1 followed by a Game 2 matinee on Sunday, March 27.

“They’re a young, skilled team,” Sting defenceman Jakob Chychrun pointed out. “They play with the puck really well, they have a good breakout, they’ve played us well all year. It’s going to be a good match-up for us. Obviously you never want to look past the first round or anything, it’s going to be big for us to just focus on the game-to-game things we’re going to have to do to get past the Soo.”

The conference quarter-final will have a deeper meaning for Anthony Salinitri as the forward was traded from Sault Ste. Marie to Sarnia in January 2015 for long-time Sting blueliner Anthony DeAngelo.

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Tyanulin keeps scoring, Ottawa 67’s keep winning

With the Ontario Hockey League playoffs around the corner, Artur Tyanulin has picked a good time to get hot.

Tyanulin’s output wasn’t maybe what Ottawa expected when it took him seventh overall in the 2014 CHL import draft. But with eight goals in his last five games, two of them Friday night … well, the 67’s are tickled pink.

In their second-last game of the regular season, at the TD Place arena, the 67’s beat Hamilton 5-3, knocking the Bulldogs out of the OHL playoff hunt. It was Ottawa’s fifth straight win.

“(Tyanulin is) really feeling it, he’s playing with a ton of confidence. That’s the big thing, feeling like he’s invincible,” said assistant coach Mike Eastwood, who handled head coach duties with Jeff Brown on the road scouting the OHL Cup, featuring the top 20 minor midget AAA teams in the province. “Nathan Todd and Travis Barron have a lot to do with the success he’s having. They’ve really clicked in developing a lot of chemistry. He’s flying, scoring goals, making plays and being a real force out there. But that line, as a threesome, has been outstanding.”

Hamilton goalie Connor Hicks kept his team in the game early with a series of big stops.

The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard at 11:43 on a nice move by Adam Laishram to tuck the puck into the net. The 67’s tied it with Jacob Middleton’s shot along the ice finding the five hole.

A nice backhand pass by Todd set up Tyanulin to give the 67’s a 2-1 lead early in the second period.

It was Ottawa goalie Liam Herbst’s turn to shine as he turned aside several good opportunities, including a breakaway and a sequence of shots during an Ottawa penalty midway through the period.

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Resistance to elimination of fighting to be expected, says Barrie columnist

The gloves are coming off in the move to one day eliminate fighting in junior hockey.

The Canadian Hockey League, led by president and Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch, has already taken some big steps in curtailing fisticuffs in the junior ranks and the numbers clearly show fighting is already down significantly across the Western (WHL), Ontario (OHL) and Quebec (QMJHL) leagues.

But Branch made it clear last week when he told The Globe and Mail he wouldn’t mind seeing the rough stuff disappear from the game altogether.

“You know what. It’s crazy to say it this way, but I’ve not been afraid to express that view and opinion (that there needs to be less fighting),” Branch said regarding the controversial topic among hockey fans. “I believe that. In addition to working in the game, I love the game. I think we have the best game in the world based on its speed and its skill, and its physicality.

“But fighting, to me, detracts from our game We don’t need it. And attitudes are changing, which I feel is really a positive,” he added.

Changing long-ingrained traditions in a game they love is never easy for passionate fans. Just look at how many people burst out of their seats and cheer loudly when two players drop the gloves in a dustup.

But concerns over players safety are forcing leagues to re-evaluate fighting, especially with the increased awareness to brain injuries, specifically concussions.

Perhaps then it should be no surprise that Branch put the topic of fighting back on the agenda at the CHL’s annual meeting earlier this month.

Still, the move to further curtail fighting is certain to face resistance. Branch got a good deal of it when two years ago he added a rule in the OHL for a two-game suspension to any player that fought 10 times in a season. Another was aimed at stopping staged fights.

The goal to reduce fighting is clearly working.

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