Team leads OHL Midwest Division as halfway point nears
After struggling through their maiden season with only 8 wins in 68 games, the Brampton
Battalion have emerged in their sophomore season as one of the surprise teams, not only in the OHL but also in the entire
Canadian Hockey League.
Stan Butler’s squad currently stands atop the OHL Midwest Division with a 13-8-5-2 record (33 points) through 28 games. Their closest divisional pursuers are the Erie Otters, who have racked up 26 points in 24 games.
The season started on a positive note with home ice wins over the highly-regarded Barrie Colts and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and a 2-1 road victory over their rivals from Mississauga. Brampton and Erie battled to a scoreless draw on October 3, which gave goaltender David Chant the distinction of being the first Battalion netminder to record a shutout.
The Sarnia Sting won a 4-3 overtime decision over Brampton on October 7, but from there the team embarked on a club-record nine game unbeaten streak. Included in this run were home wins over St. Mike’s, Mississauga, Owen Sound, and Guelph and road victories over Plymouth, Erie, Sudbury and Owen Sound. The team also skated to a hard-fought 2-2 tie against the Greyhounds in the Soo before losing 1-0 in overtime on Halloween to the North Bay Centennials.
During this run the team made their first appearance in the Canadian Hockey League Top 10. They debuted during the week of October 18 at number 10, before advancing the next week to number 6 and rising as high as number 3. The Battalion spent a total of six weeks in the top 10 and are currently ranked 14th in the country.
Since then, the team has enjoyed mixed success, compiling a 2-6-3 record in the month of November. The month started ominously, with a lopsided 7-3 loss to the Petes in Peterborough, and the team blew a three goal lead to the St. Michael’s Majors at the Air Canada Centre and had to settle for a 4-4 tie. That was followed by a lackluster performance during a 4-1 loss to the surprising Windsor Spitfires. The Battalion rebounded to blank the Kingston Frontenacs 2-0, but the team fell victim the next night to a third period outburst by the Oshawa Generals and lost 5-1.
Brampton has only managed a win and two ties in their last six games. The win, a 5-3 decision over the London Knights on the 21st came after a wild 7-7 tie on the 19th at home against the Owen Sound Platers that saw the Battalion blow two 3-goal leads. Aside from that game, goals have been hard to come by during this stretch for Brampton, as they have only managed a total of three goals in losses to Kitchener, Plymouth and Ottawa.
Offensively, the team continues to be lead by Raffi Torres, who notched 35 goals as a rookie last year and currently leads the team in scoring with 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists). Torres has been ranked as the top OHL prospect in the initial NHL Central Scouting Bureau rankings of CHL prospects for next June’s NHL Entry Draft. Torres’ linemate Lukas Havel is second with 22 points (13 goals, 9 assists), while centre Jeff Bateman is third with 20 points (4 goals, 16 assists).
The defence corps has been playing well and has also chipped in with eight goals, but perhaps the team’s real strength this season has been in goal.
David Chant has picked up nine wins (with one shutout) and owns a 2.43 goals-against-average. For much of the season he led the OHL in the latter category. But Scott Della Vedova may have been the team’s biggest surprise this year. Della Vedova only managed one win last season and sported a goals-against-average over six, but this season he has backstopped the team to four wins, has picked up two shutouts and owns a 2.06 goals-against-average, which currently leads the league. As a tandem, Chant and Della Vedova have combined for a 2.38 goals-against-average and a save percentage of .914.
The Battalion continues to enjoy mixed success on special teams. They are currently ranked sixth in the OHL in penalty killing, having surrendered 16 goals in 96 short-handed situations, but are last in the OHL in power play efficiency having managed only 17 goals in 120 chances with the man advantage. The power play has been particularly anemic on the road, with the team scoring only 4 goals in 51 opportunities.
BATTALION NOTES: In addition to Torres, the team also has two other players ranked in the CSB OHL top 10: defenceman Rostislav Klesla is ranked fourth and fellow blueliner Tyler Hanchuck is ranked ninth….Goaltender David Chant made history during week 3, as he became the first Brampton player to be named OHL Player of the Week….Raffi Torres leads the team in plus/minus at +12….Lukas Havel leads the team with three power play goals, while rookie Chris Cook has notched the team’s only short-handed marker….Jay McClement, Brampton’s first pick in last June’s OHL Priority Selection, leads all Battalion rookies with 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists)….Rostislav Klesla leads all Brampton defenceman in scoring with 13 points (3 goals, 10 assists)….Kurt MacSweyn has recently replaced Jeff Bateman between Raffi Torres and Lukas Havel. Other line combinations: Bateman with Scott Thompson and Matt Reynolds and Jay McClement centreing Richard Kearns and Aaron VanLeusen. Matt Grennier, Chris Cook, Mike Rice, Blair McLaughlin, Chris Rowan and Tyler Dukelow have all seen time on the fourth line in various combinations….MacSweyn has also emerged as the team’s best faceoff man….European import Klesla has racked up 63 penalty minutes to lead the team, five more than Jason Maleyko….The Battalion were relatively injury-free last year, but have been hit by the injury bug during the first two months of the season. Tyler Hanchuck (concussion) and Aaron VanLeusen (leg) were both injured during a 4-1 win in Owen Sound on October 30 but both have returned during the past week. Matt Grennier missed a handful of games with a leg injury suffered in the St. Mike’s game on November 6 and several other players have also missed time due to a variety of ailments….The team honoured several local veterans during their Remembrance Day home game against Kingston and, in conjunction with Peel Regional Police, held a Teddy Bear toss following the second period of their game with Plymouth on November 25….Mike Griffin is the team’s new President having succeeded Greg MacNamara, who left in October to assume a position with the Toronto Blue Jays ….