The first half of the OHL season produced some surprises and changes but for the most part it gave fans an idea that anything can happen in the OHL. Here’s a team-by-team review of the first half of the OHL season. (Note: Teams are listed in order of the standings)
1. Barrie Colts (35 Games Played, 21-10-4-0 record, 46 points)
The Colts are rebounding from an off-season and have been playing well this year. The Colts have played well enough to put themselves in a position to bid for the Memorial Cup. Goaltender David Chant has the lowest Goals Against Average in the OHL with a 2.09 mark. He has come on in the latter part of the first half and could be a threat in the Colts goal come playoff time.
2. Peterborough Petes (37 Games Played, 16-12-5-4 record, 41 points)
The Petes entered the break having gone 2-6-2 in their last 10 games but suffered an overtime loss in North Bay to move 1 point ahead of Ottawa the East Division. Greg Chambers and Eric Staal have been key to the Petes success and have put up solid numbers in the first half. They will need to continue their solid play through the rest of the season.
3. Toronto St. Michael’s Majors (36 Games Played, 19-11-6-0 record, 44 points)
Goaltenders Peter Budaj and Andy Chiodo, despite being involved in trade talks almost all season, have put up solid numbers as the Majors continue to play good hockey. With Budaj holding the 2nd best GAA in the OHL at 2.37, goaltending will be the key to any second half suc Read more»
Tobias Stephan:2002 draft eligible Stephan who got a 17-save shutout in the first game against Finland played well in the game vs Canada as well despite finding the puck behind him 6 times. This was mainly due to a fatigued Swiss defense in the third period. Stephan prevented the Candians to go into double figures with some excellent saves. The EHC Chur goalie was especially quick with covering up rebounds and closed his legs in time to prevent 5-hole goals. He
wasn’t to be blamed for any of the Canadian goals in the game and Switzerland know they have a more than safe goalie in their net for the rest of the tournament.
Rene Back: This EHC Chur defenseman logged a lot of ice time on the first line and played well for the first two periods were he showed his capabilities
as a physically strong defenseman. Back was delivering hits allover the place and gave the Candians forwards a hard time setting up plays in the offensive zone
Beat Forster: The Phoenix Coyotes prospect showed himself as a physical presence as well along with Back on the Swiss first line defence. Forster won’t score many points but is steady on his feet and uses his body well.
Thibaut Monnet: Speedy forward that needs to add some strength. He is to become a top sniper in the Swiss league, but hasn’t been drafted. He didn’t have
a great game today, depsite scoring Switzerland’s only goal, mainly because of the physical power the Canadian defense had.
Andreas Camenzind: Captain of team Switzerland and he showed today that he deserved to be so. He showed lea Read more»
Switzerland is drawn into a group along with Canada, Finland, Russia and France. ´83-born Player Beat Forster plays on Switzerland´s top line which also holds New York Rangers´ prospect Sven Helfenstein. Severin Blindebacher is skating on the 2nd line and is paired up with 84-born Tim Ramholt of ZSC Lions. Both players were so kind to answer some questions right after the game vs Canada today.
HF: Switzerland had a big win over Finland on the first day. Did that surprise you?
B: In hockey everything is possible and we took our chances well and scored some important goals at the right time in the game. Our defense was also very solid which helped us getting this good result.
F: This was a big game for us so we were ready for it. Our solid defensive play helped us getting this result.
HF: What did you expect for today´s game vs Canada?
B: We tried to defend tightly and were hoping we could score some goals to get a good result from this game.
F: We hoped we could win this game so we would be top in our group, but we realized Canada is a very strong team, not only techincally but also physically.
HF: Switzerland lost 6-1 today, what you feel went wrong?
B: Our defense was not ready for this game and against a good team like Canada with top offensive players it will kill you. Read more»
Finnish coach Erkka Westerlund showed his players that he wasn’t fooling around. Top draft prospect Kari Lehtonen didn’t play real well against the Swiss , so Westerlund decided he wouldn’t play at all against Russia. So enter Juha Kuokkanen. Kuokkanen didn’t get much help from his Finnish teammates , but he got just enough to win 2-1. Finland’s powerplay which had a ton of chances couldn’t get anything done all night. Yet with 1:02 left in a tied third period , Jyri Marttinen beat Andrei Medvedev to give his team the lead for good. Marttinen got the feed from San Jose prospect Tero Maatta to beat Medvedev who belongs to the Calgary Flames. Russia opened the scoring when Los Angeles’ first round pick in the 2000 draft Alexander Frolov scored. Tampa property Alexander Polushin got the assist. Oddly enough, the Finns tied it on a early third period shorthanded goal from Jarkko Immonen. The game remained tied until Marttinen’s game winner with just over a minute left. Kuokkanen stopped 15 of 16 Finnish shots. Medvedev was exceptional as well stopping 33 of 35 that came his way. But in the end the penalties taken by the Russians ended up costing them the game.
2nd Per. RUS – Alexander Frolov (Alex Polushin) 33:30
3rd Per. FIN – Jarkko Immonen (Jussi Jokinen) SHG,42:54
FIN – Jyri Marttinen (Tero Maatta) PPG, 58:58
FIN – Juha Kuokkanen (16 Shots , 15 Saves) 1-0-0
RUS – Andrei Medvedev (35 Shots , 33 Saves) 1-1-0
Filip Novak, Defenseman, Czech Republic: From all accounts, Novak has played extremely well, although the team certainly isn’t. This year’s WJC is taking place in the Czech Republic, and the hosts are off to a surprising 0-2 start after winning back-to-back gold medals the last two years. The Czechs have been firing a ton of shots, but they have had bad luck when it comes time to put the puck in the net. So far, only Tomas Plekanec, a forward drafted in the 3rd round this past summer by Montreal, has been able to put the Czechs on the board. They suffered a 3-1 loss to team USA, and were shutout today 1-0 by Slovakia, largely in part to a brilliant 45 save performance from goaltender Peter Budaj, a draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche. Through the 2 games, Novak has no goals or points, and is a -1. He also has registered 8 shots on goal. The Czechs have 1 game remaining in the preliminary round, which is against Sweden on December 30th. Since Slovakia is already 2-0, even if the Czechs win and Slovakia loses, Slovakia will still be the top team in Group A. However, weird things have happened in the past once the medal rounds start, so there still may be hope for the Czech Republic to bring home a 3rd straight gold medal. However, they better turn things around fast.
Garth Murray, Center, Canada: Murray may be off to the best start out of all the Rangers’ prospects currently participating in this years WJC. Through 2 games, a 15-0 win over France and a 6-1 win over Switzerland, Murray is tied for fourth in scoring among all players in the tournament Read more»